Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Who Not What

Kary Oberbrunner writes, "times of testing instill character development. Pain doesn't have to be purposeless. While enduring Laban's treachery, Jacob learned much about himself, his sin, and his need to make things right with his older brother, Esau" (p. 112, Your Secret Name).

We can all point to the silver linings of difficult times in our lives. We invariably do not want to repeat them but are grateful for the lessons learned and the growth occurred.

Fresh out of social work graduate school, I wasn't particularly worried about finding a job.  When I returned from almost a month serving in Thailand the beginning of August 2004, I had a great schedule lined up. First, serve as a bridesmaid in my best friend's wedding. Second, take my licensed social worker exam. Third, apply and interview for jobs. Fourth, accept a job offer and move wherever it might be.

The wedding went beautifully.  I passed my LSW.  Nothing else went according to my plans.

A promising second interview in Florida? Hopes dashed when a hurricane struck and the company lost funding for my job.

Application after application. Lack of response. Lack of interviews.

Still, I just knew that I was not destined to stay in Illinois so I kept my job search broad, looking everywhere but my hometown.  I went back to my job at the bookstore and babysat on the side, certain this was a temporary setback.

I visited my best friend and her new husband in Nashville.  Upon my return, I announced that I would be moving there, as soon as I could line up a job. Again, nothing turned out as I planned.

I became a nanny for awhile and started to doubt that I was supposed to be a social worker.  I started applying for jobs outside of my field.
"Since nothing seemed to be "working out" the way I'd pictured, I started to doubt my ability to interpret God's leading." -p. 122
May 2005 rolled around. I had graduated a year prior and was no closer to finding a social work position.  When I met new people, I struggled in telling them what I did for a living and, in that struggle, realized how much of my identity was caught up in what I did, not who I was. 

My frustrations with myself about this fruitless job search turned into frustrations with God.  All the while, God chipped away at what I thought I should do, where I should live, and who I should be.

As Kary's prayers changed from "show me the money" to "show me your will" (p. 123), my prayers changed from "bring me a job" to "bring me contentment despite circumstances" and "may You be glorified through this time." 

It was still a few months later that God's providence was revealed.  I was offered a hospice position in my hometown. It was His perfect timing and not a moment sooner. My first day was the day after I returned from a mission trip in Ecuador.  A year later, my great-aunt would require my organization's care, and the year after that, my grandmother would as well.  I believe that God led me to that job for such a time as this. 

I never imagined my family members would experience my work in such a personal way.  If I'd found a job out of state, I would have missed out on so much. 

I still have moments where I wonder if I misunderstood God's will or that I question the purpose in the pain.  However, I choose to remember how God has led in the past.  My first job search was such a cautionary tale that when I decided to move to Nashville, for real this time, I fully expected to move and not have a job right away.  That God blessed me with my dream job four days before I moved continues to seem an over-the-top expression of His love for me.

Even now when I look the future, I am trying to focus on who I am, not what I am doing.  I am trying to focus on how my life can bring God glory.  I am trying to remain open to His next surprise, His next expression of love.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click over to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, your purchase will help support this site.  Thank you!

This post is part of the Your Secret Name Read-Along hosted by the ever-lovely Marla Taviano.


  1. learning to wait on His timing can be a chore, but its always best.

  2. Wow, Leigh. That's super-cool about being able to help your great-aunt and grandmother. I love cool stories about how God's timing trumps ours. Hugs to you today!!

  3. This kind of conundrum seems to be so common in people in their 20s and 30s. I don't know if it's because our generation questions more or perhaps we're more intentional (or more neurotic). Over the past few years, I've agonized over what it is to "follow God's will" and been convinced that one wrong step will mess everything up.

    But what I've learned is that the truth (at least the truth the way I see it) is that God's will isn't a set plan. We aren't puppets and I don't think He's interested in being our puppet master. I've discovered that His will is best discerned through our own hearts. In the places where He provides delight, hope and light...we follow in those places. We do the best we can with our circumstances, as you did, and we trust that His grace is big enough for all of our steps, "right" and otherwise.

    As human beings with free will, we can absolutely "take things in our own hands" and make decisions without waiting on God. But I've found that it only makes me unhappy, unsettled and realizing that whatever it is I've taken on is way too big for me to handle. We do our best as we wait, trusting that in whatever mystical way He operates, He is writing our story WITH us, not just for us.

    I am so glad to see that you have trusted in the bigness of His grace and have seen its fruit in your life. :)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.