Field Notes From A Prayer Warrior

The perfect job…

-“The perfect job is a myth. No job is perfect, and no career path is without its challenges and setbacks. Even if you land your ‘dream job,’ you’ll likely find that it’s not exactly what you imagined it to be.”

–John Lovig, linkedin.com

-What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.

–Ecclesiastes 3: 9-13

-Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

–Proverbs 3: 5-6

These last couple years, about 25% of the prayer requests I’ve received, both through personal contacts and through the church ministry, have been job-related: guidance and peace in current job, direction to a new job, successful search for a job after college or downsizing. In face-to-face encounters I assure them, “The Lord will provide the right job, in the right place, at the right time.” In response, some people nod in agreement; others give me the stink eye of skepticism.

So, fine.

I’ll share an example from my own history…although I’d rather not.

Wait…on second thought…

As it places me in an unflattering light that I totally deserve, and gives all the glory to God…

I shall enthusiastically proceed.

April, 1991…

I was a freshly-minted college graduate, New Jersey teaching certificate in one hand, letters of recommendation in the other. I approached the printer with a mixture of trepidation and exhilaration, as it churned out a pile of resumes.

Ninety in total.

After mailing them out (whew!), I set to networking and finding gainful employment…otherwise known as substitute teaching. I was on call at six different districts, because, well, “go big or go home.” I waited for those calls and interviews to start pouring in.

And waited.

The months marched on, yielding the occasional long-term gig or tutoring position…but nothing in the realm of full-time.

August 1992…

“Okay, school opening’s almost here again. Time to limber up for another scintillating year as a classroom placeholder!”

And then…two calls. Urgent calls. Leading to two interviews…and two offers.

I had three days to decide.

School #1: A Christian prep school nestled in the bucolic hills of Pennsylvania. Chapel every Wednesday. Picture a co-ed Dead Poet’s Society.

School #2: Huge public middle school. Dedicated administration and staff. Chaotic, but in a good way…energetic and energizing. Still…can you say hormones? And drama? Scary.

“Lord, here they are. Which one?”

Immediately…

“The middle school.”

“Oh. Wow. No hesitation there. Okay.”

I took off on a walk…picked up the conversation again…

“Uh, could I just describe the options one more time…maybe do a pros-and-cons chart with You?”

“Shelbo, I gave you my answer.”

“Lord, ” I stammered, “these kids are huge. They’re like a foot taller than me.”

“Practically everyone is taller than you.”

“I’m from the farm. These are city kids. They’re gonna eat me alive!”

“Hoo, boy, next you’re going to call them Philistines. Or Goliaths. And are you saying they’re going to eat you alive with Me next to you?”

“They’ll make fun of my Midwest accent.”

Hello…even other Midwesterners make fun of your accent.”

Sigh.

“Alright, You made Your point.”

God rolled His eyes. “Woah, try to contain your excitement on being given an opportunity to display My power and provision! You’re showing up all My angels and saints with that unbridled rejoicing.”

“I’ll get there. With Your help.”

By the end of the first quarter, I went from “never middle school, you people are crazy” to “Middle schoolers are AWESOME! I can’t imagine teaching any other level.”

And it was a rose-strewn path from that point forward.

Yeah…uh huh.

A rose-strewn path with the requisite thorns.

But how negligible they were, amidst the blessing of His continual presence and supervision…doing His work through my work…

For twenty-five years.

The right job, in the right place, at the right time.

Romans 8:28–And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

So, naturally, come retirement, I was eager for another calling…

Eager to the point of being a little…demanding and impatient.

“Lord, I think I’m ready to step into the mission field. Like Mother Teresa. It seems like…the next logical rung in this ladder of service. What do You think? Brilliant, right?”

“You’re not Mother Teresa. And Mother Teresa isn’t you.”

Ouch.

Then He added…

“Is this about truly seeking My will, or looking for confirmation for yours?”

Ugh.

I felt the golden warmth of His smile on me.

“First, Shelbo, Mother Teresa once said, ‘Find your own Calcutta.’ Second, there’s work to be done right here in Sioux Falls. Trust Me to direct your path. I’ll keep you in the loop. I promise.”

“Love You, God!”

“Love you more!”

His plan. The best plan…for my day…

For my life.

Part of that is accepting His counsel in the work arena…in the assignment and the deployment…with the knowledge that no job is perfect.

Except one.

Matthew 28: 19-20–“…Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

With me always.

The perfect Boss.

The perfect job for this imperfect servant.

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