Yesterday evening I attended Raleigh’s first Start Up Crawl downtown. In a nutshell, it was intended to connect like-minded entrepreneurs and showcase the city’s rapidly expanding innovation scene. As someone who is practically magnetic toward novelty, I thought I might like it.
And I did. In my freelancing life I don’t get much day-to-day exposure to the outside world. Most of the time it is me, my distressed pink desk, and my water bottle all day long. With the exception of occasional email stressors, I can easily maintain a sense of security as I do my work. I set the pace, design the environment, and choose the individuals I want to interact with during the day and in my play time throughout the work week. They’re usually my friends and family.
Last night was a different ball game. It was like jumping from a safe, immobile, cozy platform into another universe. One that is fast-paced, exciting, collaborative and quietly competitive, and, for those who can see it, an incubator of stress for the insecure. It was fun but scary. Amidst the free food, whirlwinds of conversation, questions about “what” I do and “who” I am, listening to several fascinating individuals talk about their projects – and several others spew off a long string of achievements no one asked for – I could really feel the tug to put on a show and design a facade of myself than what is the true Natalie.
Man, that pressure. It makes me sad to watch people in our world cave to it because I have yielded to it in the past. Why is it so tempting in America to put our identities in work/career? My chest tightens at the thought of being enslaved to that again, because it is one of those identities that quietly sneaks behind the walls of your heart to tear down precious things we should not sacrifice: relationships, security, balance, peace, and so much more. When I put all my stock into the basket of my job, I experienced stress that became physically and mentally evident. I sacrificed relationships God had given me to work – or worry about work. I lost sleep because I was worried I would never climb the hill and my work would never be enough to qualify me in my own eyes or the eyes of other people.
I felt that environment so much last night. As a disclaimer, I am not opposed to innovation or hard work one iota. God commands us to create and develop His world, and use our skills for His world. The entrepreneurs who are bravely taking the step to create something valuable for our society impress me unlike many people can. They work hard and it shows.
What I’m really trying to say is that I am so thankful that God has given me vision about how He wants me to work that has freed me from the impossible demands that the American workforce – and myself – place on me. Since launching out and doing my own thing in freelance I have sought out answers to my questions about work. It’s my hope that these things will give someone out there the freedom to work well in Christ, and I write them out because I need to be reminded of the frequently to oppose the cyclic and heralded messages that you are worth as much as you do.
- We are created to work. I believe that I am made in the image of God, because the bible tells me so. God began the earth with work. He is a creator God, and if I am made in His image, then therein it makes sense that I have an innate longing to work and create.
- All work is good. Yes, all work! The plumber is equal to the Apple CEO is equal to the homemaker. None is greater in worth or stature because a) Christ is my only worth and b) even the world recognizes that individuals are uniquely gifted and skilled. I am now of the camp that just becomes a CEOs skill set may position him well for that job, the janitor’s work at his company is no less important. What would we do without clerks? Cleaners? Hairdressers? Every job that society might consider ‘second rate’? Each serves a purpose that you likely profit from. Each is good and worthy.
- It is my responsibility to identify my gifts and skills from God, and use them in a setting that somehow benefits the world (culture and people) for His glory. This is the freedom from our churchy assumption that “the missionary” is doing more important work than “the 9-5er.” God has essentially revolutionized my view of the fallen world. He cares about it! He created it! Jobs that, much like God, use imagination, creativity, skills, our hands, (all jobs do!) to create and bring order and betterment to the world are good! This really opened up my possibilities when it came to considering what jobs were ‘right’ for me.
- I don’t have to ‘be’ somebody in the work world. Did you read that? Read it again. Ladder achievement, secular accolade, and outside approval don’t make me worthy. Those things would be great, but because Jesus did the “work under the work” for me on the cross by dying for my sin, making me completely righteous and worthy and holy, there is no need for me to use work as an avenue to achieve a worthiness or righteousness of my own because I already have perfection in the eyes of God. What freedom! This view has taken many weeks and much internalizing to settle into my conscience. The beauty here is that, because Christ makes me worthy, I am free to work diligently and purposefully for the Lord with whatever skill set I have been given in this world.
What do you think? Do you struggle with pressure at work? Most people who invest in and care about their jobs do. I’m curious to hear how you cope!