A year ago, in the midst of a global pandemic, I did something I hadn’t done in almost thirty years: I returned to a traditional, nine-to-five(ish) job. Family and friends were largely supportive, though a few didn’t understand my decision. Why would a fifty-seven-year-old woman who didn’t “have” to work full time (thanks to my husband’s job and my part-time income) be willing to give up the freedom and flexibility that came with her work as a writer?
Their concerns were valid. I’d wrestled with similar questions for years.
Before writing For All Who Wander, I had toyed with the idea of going back to work. Our youngest was in college and our older two had established careers. I led and attended Bible studies and volunteered with a high school ministry. I wrote every day and led a writing critique group. I was able to say yes to freelance opportunities or to serve others. My days were planned with intention and purpose, but I still had time on my hands — something unheard of when my children were younger.
From all appearances, life was good, and yet, I was secretly struggling. Why couldn’t I just be thankful for what I had? What was wrong with me? My discontent ignited a snarling cycle of guilt as I considered how I must be failing God. If I were grateful enough and trusted Him, how could I feel this way?
Nevertheless, it was becoming increasingly difficult to write, and my overall lack of productivity was alarming to me. Despite purposeful effort to be with others, I was lonely.
I longed for more structure to my days and daydreamed about being part of a team working for a greater good. This desire to return to work didn’t make complete sense to me, especially compared to family and friends who were eager for retirement. I wondered if it was God-given or straight from the flesh.
At times I felt crazy. I certainly wasn’t thriving. In extreme moments, I felt like I was dying on the vine. I tried to share my heart with those closest to me but found it difficult to express myself fully. Even when opening up, I withheld the magnitude of my frustration and feelings of worthlessness.
After I turned in my book manuscript, I began applying for jobs. Ideally, I wanted to work at a retirement community. My last full-time job at a Life Plan Community had been one I’d adored. Regardless, I pursued a communications or marketing-related position.
To my surprise, I received an offer right away. I cried when I had to turn it down because the pay was shockingly generous but the time off was meager. Work-life balance was more important to me than salary.
Still, the offer seeded hope that I was employable. At my age (I hate qualifying myself this way, but it’s a thing.), I knew some companies would overlook me. I had confidence in my skills and experience and believed my part-time jobs, volunteerism, and entrepreneurial work as a writer would serve the right role well. But would anyone else see past my age and thirty-year sabbatical? That offer gave me hope.
I prayed for the wisdom to follow Jesus. I’ve been awesome at jumping ahead, but that’s never ended well. I begged God to give me His desires for my heart, to protect me from conjuring them myself.
Over the next eighteen months, I applied for several jobs. Sometimes I’d receive a swift rejection; more often, I wouldn’t hear anything at all. One day, I mustered all my courage and walked into a retirement community to personally deliver my resume. The short story? Bad idea. Another time, I endured three intense interviews for a dream position, only to come in second.
Though I continued to meet disappointment, this desire never wavered. On the way to yet another interview, I prayed: Lord, please! If this isn’t what you have for me, help me let go and show me Your way!
Truthfully, it was more of a demand than a request. And yet, God is ever gracious, even when we’re bratty. He calmed my anxiousness and spoke to my heart, reminding me of a passage I’d recently read —
Delight yourself in theLord,and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
Psalm 37:4-5 (ESV)
It was as if God’s truth was hiding in plain sight. He loves us beyond comprehension, and He wants only the best for us. I could know that the desires of my heart were His desires for me because I was delighting in, following, and trusting in Him. So many times in the past, I’ve relied on my own strength, abilities, ingenuity, and resources, and asked God to bless what I was doing. This was different because I was seeking Him first. God had used those feelings of discontent and longing to draw me closer. How astounding that God can use waiting and rejection to prepare us for His calling! Sometimes the only perspective that enables us to see God’s hand in our lives is hindsight.
Against the odds (a story for another time), I received an offer from a retirement community I initially received a rejection. Last week, I celebrated my first anniversary, and I love my job so much I haven’t worked a day since I started.
When what I wanted equaled God’s desire, the difference meant everything. I was right on track, right where I was supposed to be.
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