Saturday, September 24, 2011

Why I Don't Work at a Church, Part Two

Take a moment and catch up on the backstory here.

When we left Cincinnati and moved to Lexington/Wilmore, I didn't have a job. It terrified me. I'd put my resume in with all of the local temp agencies, hoping to find some technical writing work (falling back on the Las Vegas skillset). Two days after we got here, I got a call saying there was a local business needing a short-term receptionist who could also do some technical writing. No chance of long-term placement, no benefits, lousy pay, just an interview on Friday if I wanted it.

Receptionist? Really? This is what you have for me, God?

So I went to the interview and got it. I worked hard there for a month. And at the end of the month, when the real receptionist (office manager, actually) came back, I was offered a permanent role with the company. The people were good, I liked the work, and I had no other offers. Not a hard choice: I took the job.

But taking the job meant I was doing something I figured I'd never do again: working outside the local church. That was harder than I expected, for a couple of reasons. The first is what I explained in Part One: two men I respect had judged me unfit to work in paid, vocational, full-time ministry with their particular local body. That was a kick in the teeth.

The second, though, was something I'd never really admitted to myself, or even fully realized. I drew a tremendous amount of value from my work as a pastor. Not the paid gig I'd enjoyed for five years, necessarily, but the actual pastoral role I've had for the past decade and a half. "I'm a valuable person because I do useful things for God!"

If you'd asked me flat-out, I'd have denied it and believed I was telling the truth. I know my value comes from my identity as God's child, not from what I can produce! I'm not a utilitarian! I read Search for Significance when I was sixteen!

I might get it intellectually, but in my gut it's so easy to believe that my worth as a person comes from my accomplishments, my relationships, my successes. It's a lie from the pit of Hell, and I do not exaggerate.

Let's sidebar from my therapy session for a moment, and let me get preachy.


You have intrinsic value, and it has nothing to do with your accomplishments. Or, for that matter, your failures.

Your virtues do not make you more valuable. Your vices do not make you less so.

Getting a better job, making more money, finding "the one," losing your job, going broke, losing "the one"... these things are irrelevant to your worth.

You are valuable because you are God's child. Doing well at life may make your Father proud, but it will not make him love you more or value you more. And the value he places on you is the only one that matters. Whose appraisal do you trust more than his?


Somehow, in my time "working for God," I'd forgotten how to live this way. And I'm convinced that this lesson is the primary one God has in mind for me to learn before he invites me back in the game. I'm not working at a church just because I blew two interviews, but also for my own protection. Until I get my worth from the right place, doing good will be bad for my soul.

So it's something I'm working hard to learn. Not that I've already attained this, but it's a start. We'll be here two more years at a minimum, and only in the past few weeks have I really started accepting that this might be the plan for the whole time. However long it takes to learn the lesson, I guess.

Only way to find out is to walk it out.


amymck said...

oh Micah, you are still doing God's work, don't ever doubt it for a second. Your blog alone is enough to bring me the wisdom I often need to hear when I need to hear it. So grateful for the www so that I can benefit from your leadership even when you are not physically here.

aligwhit said...

Wow...thanks so much for being willing to be so transparent. You are a blessing to everyone who knows you (well or not so well). I just really appreciate what I've always seen in you...bold humility. Even when we've had "hard" conversations, you've responded with humility and treated me with respect. I'm thankful for how God used you in my life while I was under your leadership. We were a great team.

BUT I want you to know that you're not the only one learning this lesson. I'm currently back in a job (with about half the pay) that I did as a 21 yr old. I work in a group home (and NOT as a therapist) and b/c it's Christian and therefore non-profit, they can get by w/ having me work 80 hrs/wk, while only being paid for 40. Do I like it? No, but I love my girls. It's hard as all get out and I'm realizing more and more that I'm not 21 anymore, BUT I see what God's doing.

You see, last year, I also began to learn my lesson as God's valued daughter and now, He's testing my belief there. I get kicked down on a pretty regular basis, but He's asking me to believe what HE says about about a tough test. So thank you for writing this. We're going to pass this test pray for me and I'll pray for you, big brother. You'll always be my big brother :-)