Calling, Self-Confidence, and The Endless Job Hunt

Jeremiah 1:6-8 (NRSV)
6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
7 But the Lord said to me,
     “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
     for you shall go to all whom I send
          you,
     and you shall speak whatever I
     command you.
     8 Do not be afraid of them,
     for I am with you to deliver you,
                                               says the Lord.”

I’ve been searching for work for about 4 months now. I’ve interviewed for a handful of different positions, some in ministry and the non-profit world. Some employers have declined my employment and others are seemingly dangling hope of a job in front of me for weeks on end. When I left school, I had a strong confidence in my calling and a real sense of the direction I thought my life might take. Now, 4 months later, I find myself constantly calling into question my abilities, my vision, and my worth, among other things.

In a culture that is so career and success driven, its hard not to fall into the despair of not matching up. Today’s job market is not kind. Much of what I’ve experienced has been a deafening silence; endless resumes and applications sent out into the sea of nothingness and in return, silence.

If you would have asked me 4 months ago if I equated jobs or careers with vocation or calling, I would have said, “absolutely not!” But what I’m finding is that this season of job hunting isn’t just waging war on my practical side of needing to pay bills, establish a career, etc…, but in reality is seeking to devastate my deep-rooted sense of calling. It is challenging every ounce of confidence I thought I had before now. And in that sense, I am realizing how easily I begin to throw my hands in the air and resign myself to the thought that “perhaps this isn’t really what I’m meant to be doing.”

I read this short passage from Jeremiah this morning and was struck by two things. In these few verses Jeremiah is throwing his hands in the air and being dismissive of his calling, mostly because he feels inadequate. The Lord does not let Jeremiah off the hook for dismissing himself. I haven’t found myself saying, “I’m only a boy” anytime recently, but I certainly have had my fair share of self-dismissive statements lately. “I’m not qualified.” “I’m not engaging enough.” “I didn’t retain enough from school.” “Blah blah blah.” Then in a moment of desperation I’m reminded of how hard I’ve worked, how I’ve tried to faithfully follow where I felt God leading me, how costly that has been and how much grace and mercy I’ve received in the process.

There is a second part to this interaction between Jeremiah and the Lord: the Lord reminds Jeremiah that ultimately the work set before him is not about his own abilities, courage, or even willingness. Jeremiah is reminded of his calling, which is to put his trust in the Lord and faithfully proclaim the word of the Lord.

Ouch.

This is the place where I am struggling at the moment: how to faithfully live into my call when it is not attached to any specific job or role. Jeremiah’s conversation with the Lord begs the question in my own life: how am I faithfully living out my call right now, in the midst of transition? I have caught myself many times calling the shots. When I get a job, then I’ll do the real work of pastoring, teaching, and leading. When I feel settled in my own life, then I will step out and help my neighbors and the vulnerable in my community.

Today, instead, I am inspired by the Lord’s simple urging of Jeremiah to go where the Lord guides him, speak what the Lord provides him, and fear not.