July 14, 2013

Learning Words

It is a good Sunday morning. It is lovely outside, warm and humid. Perhaps we will have a thunderstorm this afternoon? Oh, that would be sweet! It has been very hot here in AZ, and the monsoon moisture has made its way up from Mexico. Now we just need the right combination of climatic events and we will get our much needed rain. Normally, the monsoon starts around the middle of July. The weather people say it starts towards the end of June, but that just means the weather conditions are "ripe" for monsoonal rains. The actual rain and stormy condition seems to start showing up around this point in the month. Regardless, it will be a nice change from our very hot and very sunny weather.

Job / Career and Occupation / Profession

Now that God has provided a path for me to follow in regard to my current "work" situation, I am thinking what this new position (Instructional Assistant at GCU) means for me and how it will move me forward in my career. I use these words --job, work, career, occupation, profession -- interchangeably, which is not really correct. These words are often synonymous with our work, the daily work we do to bring in pay/income to support our families. In reality, they actually refer to different things, and are used specifically to denote progression or an eventual course over time.

I did a little word study today to help me understand what I believe the Lord has been saying to me about the "job" I do each day. I go to a job, and I get paid for doing certain tasks associated with that job. Every two weeks, I get a paycheck for the previous two weeks of completed tasks. This job has a title, and this title has several levels for advancement, should I choose to apply myself toward promotion. I have been confused about the job, the title, the path and the progression because I know that God has called me to do a very specific work that is 100% ministry focused. It is difficult for me to grasp the difference, so the Lord has graciously helped me to better understand the concepts and how they relate to this stage in my life.


Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something.
  • A job; employment: looking for work.
  • A trade, profession, or other means of livelihood
  • A vocation (see below)

A regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited or qualified.
  • An inclination, as if in response to a summons, to undertake a certain kind of work, especially a religious career; a calling
  • A path or progress through life or history
  • A profession or occupation chosen as one's life's work
You can see how confusing these terms are, and how we often use them within the same context. I struggle with using these words correctly because of the fact that my calling (vocation) is not the same thing as my (job). The Lord uses the term "work" to signify His Work or Ministry (Kingdom work - the work we are all called to do as part of His Kingdom). More specifically, we are all called to participate in His Kingdom work (evangelize, minister, disciple), but there is also specific work that is assign to each of us based on the gifting of the Holy Spirit of God (Eph 4:11).

So in my literal and very black and white mind, I think WORK is God's Work, and JOB is human activity that is rewarded with pay. It is clear when I say it that way. However, when the Lord tells me that I am not to have a career, then I get confused. What does this mean to me?

Well, I see now that CAREER is a path or progressive course (a accumulation of many JOBs over the course of a lifetime that fall under one particular occupation). My father's occupation was as Engineer. He worked for many companies over the course of his professional life, and retired eventually in 2000. He was a professional Engineer, and he had a long and very good career as such.

I have worked in a number of odd jobs. I have worked:
  • Retail Sales
  • Administrative Office Support
  • Technical Support
  • Customer Support
  • Graphic Design
  • Web Design
  • Recruiting/Sales in Higher Education
  • Analyst in Print Production
I have not worked in one profession so as to lead to a life-long CAREER. I have chosen jobs that were made available to me and paid me a salary so I could earn a living.

If anything, I have had a CAREER in ministry, though in a paraprofessional way.
  • Children's Ministry Teacher/Leader
  • Children's Ministry Director
Yes, until 2009, I served in Children's Ministry for my church. I started when I was 16, and I took a break from service when I was 47 (so 31 years of faithful service to children). This is the only thing I can count as a progressive history of my life's work. I served families and children in ministry.

Now I am a full-time graduate student. I returned to school at age 47 and completed my Masters degree with the hope of teaching Adjunct at the Community College. This was my plan, to have a JOB that provided more freedom for me to pursue the Lord's WORK, and to be able to pursue over the remaining years of my professional life.

Now in thinking this through, and in considering what I believe is the Lord's calling on my life, I can see exactly what I am to do. There is no professional CAREER because I am 50, and I have approximately 18 years left to work in jobs. This can be a second career so to speak (teaching), but it will not be a full career because I am too old for that to happen now. If I were in my 20's and graduating with my PhD, then yes, I could consider a CAREER in teaching (college-level) because I would have approximately 25-35 years to pursue that course of occupation.

However, since I am 50, and changing focus, I can see now that my life's work, my calling is ministry. It is the only thing I will have done (at the end) that would be classified as a full CAREER. 
  • Ministry - Children's (past, age 16-47)
  • Ministry - Technical (current, age 50->)
  • Ministry - Teaching (pursuing, age 50->)
  • Ministry - Training (eventual, age 68->)
My life has been made up of jobs that suited the need of the moment. Now, I am changing focus and looking to work as a professional educator (to have a profession). I will potentially be able to teach college for 16-17 years (ages 51-68). With mandatory retirement, I will be forced out, and then will transition to full-time missions and ministry through my remaining years on this earth.

I realize now that what was bothering me the most was the fact that I seemed to be continuing the pattern of random jobs, and not really doing ONE thing consistently. I understand that this has been the pattern of my life, and that while there is nothing wrong with doing what I did, there simply was no cohesive path or career. 

I guess I am more concerned now that I am older, and with my education, having it look like I am actually pursuing something of value. I certainly see no issue with continuing to work in jobs - any job that suited my need. It just seems that our culture looks down on people who job-hop. I know I have experienced this with my job interviews. There is no consistency, and prospective employers question your loyalty and integrity.

I am pleased that I will work in education now. It is a good fit for me, and it aligns with the Lord's plan for me. I have wanted to get back into higher education for a while, but I didn't want to work as an assistant or an advisor. I wanted to be faculty, and I wanted to be a professional educator. 

In truth, my education has been a hindrance for me. In higher education, you are either support personnel or you are faculty. Most schools classify you as "classified (hourly) or professional (salary)" or Faculty. In the first group, having a MA is OK, though at most, a BA degree is all that is needed. Some positions require a Masters (for example, to be a counselor). However, having a PhD generally presumes a teaching background, and while there are positions of higher administration, it is generally required to have substantial experience teaching and leading faculty (I have neither). 

In business/corporate work, education is not really valued unless it is for a top executive position (usually a MBA) or a professional credential (as in CPA or JD). My MA has been a hindrance, even internally within my company. I get asked "what is someone like you doing applying for this position?" They simply don't understand why a Masters graduate would apply for an Administrative Assistant role. They are really asking, "What's wrong with you?" and thinking "She must have issues or a bad attitude or be a poor worker."

I think now I can rest and no longer worry about the JOB. It will be a while before I can work Adjunct, but I am now on that path, and I will have opportunities for more teaching positions. I think between now and 2017 (my expected graduation), I can gain enough experience to change my CV from Professional to Teaching (a CV is used in education and normally you list all your teaching and/or research experience ahead of any professional or non-teaching experience).

In conclusion, I understand that my CAREER is the Lord's work. The JOBs I have done over the course of my life are varied, and meet specific needs. There has been no consistent job, but a series of jobs that provided income for my family. Now, I am going to be a professional educator, and the next 15-17 years will be focused toward that goal. In the end, however, my CAREER life will be made up of many different experiences. The only thing outside of this last role will be the years served in ministry.  I am OK with this fact. It is OK to know that I spent my life serving the Lord and following after His heart. I am at peace with the progression, and I know that God will provide opportunities for income and a place for me to be settled.

My tasks now are to complete my PhD; to complete my language courses; to continue my cultural studies (music, art appreciation, travel); and to provide through the Lord's hand, for my family (my elderly parents an my college-age son).

The JOB I do will provide income for me, and it will be focused and aligned with my tasks above, but it is not the end goal. It is a consistent and steady focus for my professional work, that will be more accommodating to the Lord's desires for me. I will have a flexible schedule, time off at the holidays, summers off, etc. I will be able to travel, and enjoy more opportunities, and in general, be far more relaxed and less stressed. I am blessed with this outcome, and while I know that for a time, I will be without the steady income and security of health benefits, I am trusting Him to provide and meet every need. He will not let me down. He is faithful, and He will provide for me (His NAME is Jehovah-Jireh!)

God be praised today and forevermore. He is good. He is so very good to me.

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