“So what are you doing with yourself at the moment?”
It’s a question I get in one form or another quite often at the moment. It’s always well-meant, and yet it never fails to hit me right in that most exposed spot: my self-worth. My natural response to this is to give an anxious rundown of exactly everything I’ve been doing with my time, trying to validate myself by proving that I am busy (honestly!) and not unoccupied… and therefore have worth.
Because I find myself in a slightly strange position. I am newly married and working part-time for my church (both of which I love), but so far my search for a job to fill the rest of the time has been fruitless. And so I am ‘unemployed’ three days a week – easily filling that time with things but also asking that same question: what am I doing with myself?
Well actually this has all been part of a bigger journey that I’ve been on for a few years now. A journey of learning to find my identity in being, and not in doing.
My life post-university has taken a slightly different path from what I (and probably others) expected. I had always been a ‘doer’: a high achiever, the proverbial ‘Good Girl’. I genuinely loved Jesus, but without realising it I’d built an identity based entirely on doing – and not just doing – but doing well. Performance, productivity and perfection were my goals. This continued into university, where I graduated at the top of my class, helped run the Christian Union and served my church. My ‘identity’ was working well and I planned to go from university into some kind of profession. Not necessarily a high-flying career, but a job where I could continue to meet those three targets and would therefore be ‘worthwhile’.
However, instead I found God drawing me towards the internship at my church, for one year at first, and then for a second. And it was during this time that God began to wake me up to the utter deficiency of the identity I’d created.
I was no longer ‘achieving’ – not in the world’s eyes anyway. I had no answer to the question “what do you do?” that anyone outside church circles could understand. Most people – even within the church – had no idea how I spent my time, and probably assumed I wasn’t doing anything much. I was, but of course the problem with my three ‘P’ goals is that they are mostly measured by what other people think. So I had a bit of an identity crisis. Who was I if not the achieving ‘doer’ I thought I was?
But even as my man-made, ultimately useless ‘identity’ was stripped away, God was speaking to me about my true identity. As a Christian, I am in Christ. And therefore my identity is an adopted child of God. It’s right there in John 1:12: “To those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God.” My identity is not in what I’m doing or not doing. It’s in what Jesus has done and who he is – and that is a rock-solid foundation that doesn’t change. I just need to be. To be his daughter.
After my internship, I was offered two days a week on staff at the church, which I gladly accepted after much prayer. And that really brings me to where I am now.
I feel incredibly blessed: we are happily married, have a lovely flat, and my husband’s job means that there is no financial urgency about my job hunt. I am content that God has a plan for me, am trusting in Him, and am certainly not bored!
But somewhere at the back of my mind is that accusatory voice saying I’m being lazy, or self-indulgent, or wasting opportunities… or that I have less worth than my full-time friends. It’s this voice that brings out my self-justifying response whenever people ask what I am doing.
But there is a stronger voice. The voice that had the power to bring the stars into being. The voice that gently and lovingly led me to where I am now and tells me that who I am is His child. The voice that will give me the courage next time someone asks me that question – “what are you doing?” – to answer, “I’m learning to be.”