For college students, hearing the question, “What’s your major?” is as common as late night cramming and a diet of cheap food. Everyone wants to know. For me, I felt my brief answer revealed some of my strengths, interests, and potential career paths. The answer was a convenient way to let someone know who I was.
After graduation, the question inevitably changes to, “What do you do?” As I spent my first few years trying to navigate new jobs, entry level positions, and unemployment, my answer sounded startlingly bleak. In a time of difficult transition, my identity began to feel hazy.
The Red-Eye-Shift Baker
Two weeks after graduating, I had found a job to pay rent, working early hours in a bakery. But I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in the long term or where God wanted me to go. I prayed for direction and diligently applied for jobs.
One day during the peak of my job-hunting frustration, I was cleaning an enormous industrial metal bowl used for mixing bread dough. As I tipped it to the side, I lost control and the bowl toppled over on top of my foot.
With the sudden shooting pain, my anger with God shot to the surface. “I’m done!” I exploded. “I want out!” I was tired of waiting on God, not knowing what would come next. American author James Baldwin once wrote, “An identity is questioned only when it is menaced,” and I was wondering if my faith was enough to carry me through.
After two years, I quit my job to focus on finding a better fit. Unfortunately, the economy was having its own troubles and open positions were scarce. I remember avoiding calls from the alumni department at my university, who would ask about my job title, salary, and whether or not I was working in my field of major for their statistical reports. I had been a good student in college, but I felt I was failing Life 101. I let my unemployment begin to define who I was, and I wasn’t happy with the result.
A Firm Foundation
Thankfully, my church began a series of sermons that reminded me of how God sees me. When doubt and fear creep in, my confidence comes from being a child of God, adopted into a heavenly family. No job, circumstance, or relationship can alter the fact that my salvation comes from Jesus’ death on the cross.
If my identity came from the job I held, the threat of change would topple me. If my foundation was in my own skill and talent, I would constantly fear failure. Instead, as a new creation, my identity rests in God, whom the Bible depicts as a mighty fortress, and Jesus as the chief cornerstone.
As Christians, we often learn these truths when we first decide to follow Jesus. But when times of uncertainty threaten to overwhelm us, we’re given the opportunity to act on who we are in Christ. We can even celebrate the long wait for our circumstances to change, knowing God may be trying to show us how he sees us—unblemished and beautiful.
Despite my anger that day in the bakery, I knew that God had been faithful to me in the past, and that he delights to give good things. I was still waiting and unsure of my next step, but my wait was not unprecedented.
In the Bible, after promising him descendants like the stars, God made Abraham wait until old-age for a son, and then asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. David was anointed as the next king of Israel, but then returned to care for his sheep, perfecting his sling-shot aim. God had good things lined up, but first he made those he loved go through painfully trying times or small, mundane tasks.
Waiting gave Abraham stronger faith and gave David wisdom to lead his future flock. As I waited for my career change, God began to remind me of the reasons why I wanted Jesus in my life when I was child, why I chose to follow God rather than people in high school, and why I pursued ways to serve God in college. I was re-learning the basics of my relationship with God, my identity as his child growing deeper.
I don’t think I always celebrate my time of waiting very well. I still have moments of anxiety, doubt, and cynicism. But I realize that although my circumstances may move slowly, God is still teaching me to see myself the way he sees me. And that is worth celebrating.