By Kathryn B. Zorn
“Enjoy the journey.” One of my previous employers used to tell me this quite often. Over the years, that statement has given me much guidance and grief. I used to spend most of my time striving for “the next thing.” That “thing” could be a change in life circumstances by way of a new job or relationship. Sometimes that next thing could involve trying to discern what we are called to do long term. We can sometimes get so caught up in striving after what we think God is leading us towards that we miss what God is leading us in. Think about it, when is the last time that you asked the question, “What is God calling me to do?” How often do we seek to go and save the world but miss the people in front of us? I am not saying that pursuing a dream is wrong, nor am I saying that striving to get a better job or preparing yourself to be a better person in the future is foolish. Those things are incredibly wise. However, if we are expending all our energy on the future to the point of missing out on the present, there is a problem.
As I prepared to enter graduate school, I began to wrestle with my calling as well. I am a recent graduate and newlywed. My husband is about to study for the PhD entrance exam, and I was hungry to begin my own academic journey once again. I wanted to follow my calling. Unfortunately, I was not really sure what that was. To make matters worse, none of my plans were working out. Honestly, that probably sums up most of our lives right now. COVID has turned the whole world upside down. Many of us are wondering how to move forward when nothing feels normal. We’ve lost jobs, family members, or we are just barely making it. We are lonelier and more confused than ever.
Some of us are not only questioning what we are supposed to do, but we may even be questioning who we are. We may be allowing present circumstances to change how we view ourselves. Once we lose sense of our identity we become even more lost on what to do.
That was my story. I spent several months trying to discern God’s will only to be left frustrated. Eventually, I ended up asking two questions of Him: Who am I and what am I supposed to do? The answers I received changed everything, and I hope they will help you too.
1. Who am I?
As a philosophy junkie, I was tempted to go on a rant on metaphysical identity. I’ll spare you that discussion and instead point you to a simple answer found in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
What Paul is telling us is that if you have a personal relationship with Christ you have the same identity. You are the righteousness of Christ; you are a new creation. You are not who you once were; you are now an ambassador for Christ. You have been given the message of the Gospel and the ministry of reconciliation. This is the new unchanging identity that all believers have, and it will never be taken away regardless of our educational, marital, or economic status. Your identity is not found in what you do or where you are; it is found in your relationship with Christ. You are His and He is yours. Your identity must be rooted in the gospel. If it isn’t, it doesn’t really matter what things you acquire or what calling you pursue. It will never be enough. At that point, whoever you are striving to be or whatever you are finding your identity in, it will be your idol.
So, who are you? Do you know who you are? Are you allowing where you are to define you? Are you missing opportunities to live out your identity with those around you because you aren’t where you want to be? We are called to be good stewards of our things and positions. Even Jesus says that we must be faithful in the little things if we are going to be faithful in the big things. No matter where you are, remember who you are — or rather, remember whose you are. Because when you know who you are, you start understanding who you are supposed to be.
2. What am I supposed to do?
This question seems less abstract but is not quite as straightforward as you may think. For this, the Lord led me to 1 Peter 2-3. I won’t write the entire two chapters here but recommend that you go and read them for yourself at this point. However, if I have to choose one part as the primary example, it would be 1 Peter 2:12.
Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.
After reminding the reader of their identity in God, Peter goes on to discuss how to live, or “be” in relation to that identity. He discusses various spheres of life and gives instructions on how the readers should live. There doesn’t seem to be much focus on what they should do so much as how they should be. That idea of being is rooted in the reader knowing their identity. From there, they can live out their calling.
We spend so much time focusing on what we do or feel we are supposed to do that we lose sight of who we are and who God designed us to be. There is a difference between doing and being. You may not work in the profession you want. Maybe you just graduated from school expecting to start using your MDiv in a local church, but you find yourself in the same job you have always held. Maybe you wanted to work in full-time ministry or hold a “Christian job,” but you’re working a “normal” job. Maybe you planned to be married right now or have kids, or maybe you thought marriage would be different, but things haven’t panned out like you expected.
In these moments, we are entirely focused on what we’re doing. But remember who you are, and start living out who you are supposed to be. Be the kind of person that works unto the Lord and not unto man by going beyond expectations even when no one is looking. Be the kind of person who takes time to get to know and minister to your co-workers. Be the kind of person who spends their time chasing holiness and making the most of your single years. Be the kind of person who seeks to grow where you are instead of trying to escape where you are. When we spend our time trying to be the right person, we are probably doing the right things.
The year 2020 has not gone like any of us expected. Most of us are not doing what we thought we would be doing, but we must not forget who we are and who we are called to be. If you are in a job that you don’t want and it doesn’t even have anything to do with your degree, be faithful; be diligent. If you can’t get hired as a missionary, live life on mission in your home and neighborhood. If you haven’t landed that big-time pastor job, you can still encourage people where you are. If you haven’t attained a counseling or teaching job, you can still counsel or teach people in your community.
Jim Elliot once said, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Remember who you are, and live out that identity where you are. Dream. Plan. Seek to grow. But don’t spend your present life striving for the next one. I have a philosophy degree but work as an executive assistant. I have no authority in my job, but I have a lot of influence; we all do. We must seek to be faithful with where we are and seek to pour ourselves into the present. All the while, we must remember that we are ambassadors for Christ and called to live a holy life. Enjoy the journey because where you are is where you are called…for now or forever.