Two (or More) Jobs

1I have more than one job. I serve on a church staff, and I work at a nonprofit, community-based organization. (I also write, speak, etc., but let’s set that aside for the sake of this post).

I sometimes think of them as my inside and outside jobs. There are a lot similarities. Both are service, other-oriented. Both involve a lot of communication and relationships.

But because I’ve worked in ministry off and on through the years, I see some differences, too. Anyone who has worked in a church knows there is a danger of developing an “inside” perspective. We can get so caught up with the day-to-day operations and programs of the church that we neglect the impact we’re supposed to have on the community and world. Or we leave that for another staff member or committee to cover. We get used to certain terminology. Most our friends are within the church. Even though it’s not usually intentional, we begin to isolate ourselves from the outside world, which means we can’t have as much influence on others, and we don’t get frequent reality checks of what the world is up to. We can easily slip into an “us” and “them” mentality.

My outside job keeps me in check. And I love it! I get to come in contact with such a variety of people with different perspectives, interests, and backgrounds. I get to hear their stories, concerns, and even their assumptions about “you Christians.” Sometimes the harsh reality of what people think about Christians is difficult to hear, but I can also understand why people think some of the negative stuff about Christians. I can’t prove them wrong with words, but maybe I can begin to chip away at some of those assumptions by living consistently, replacing hypocrisy with authenticity, judgment with compassion, and elitism with humility.

You don’t have to work an inside and outside job to see it. Any of us can and should see the differences  yet begin to live in a way that chips away at the harsh generalizations (that go both ways). We don’t have to get defensive or see each other as opposition. We can acknowledge we have differences but adamantly look for common ground.

We all have two (or more) jobs. But how well are we doing at both?

My Life As Protagonist

A protagonist is the leading character of a story. I’m the protagonist of my life.

Or am I?

It’s a logical assumption for me. It’s my life. I see how I affect others and how they affect me. From my perspective, it seems I’m the main character. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not self-centered or inflated because of it. I don’t believe the world revolves around me. I’m just saying it seems as if I’m the protagonist in my story.

My assumption has been challenged.

I was recently studying the book of Jonah. You probably know the basics of the story. God told Jonah, a man of faith, to go to the Ninevites to teach them the difference between their wicked ways and God’s way. Jonah didn’t want to go. He avoided God’s instructions and fled to Tarshish instead. At least, he tried. God stirred a violent storm, which caused quite a commotion on the ship.

The sailors were afraid, and each man cried to his own god. They began throwing the cargo from the ship into the sea to make the ship lighter. But Jonah had gone down far inside the ship to lie down, and he fell fast asleep.The captain of the ship came and said, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray to your god! Maybe your god will pay attention to us, and we won’t die!”

Then the men said to each other, “Let’s throw lots to see who caused these troubles to happen to us.” When they threw lots, the lot showed that the trouble had happened because of Jonah.Then they said to him, “Tell us, who caused our trouble? What is your job? Where do you come from? What is your country? Who are your people?”

Then Jonah said to them, “I am a Hebrew. I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”

The men were very afraid, and they asked Jonah, “What terrible thing did you do?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord because he had told them.) Since the wind and the waves of the sea were becoming much stronger, they said to him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

Jonah said to them, “Pick me up, and throw me into the sea, and then it will calm down. I know it is my fault that this great storm has come on you.” Instead, the men tried to row the ship back to the land, but they could not, because the sea was becoming more stormy.

So the men cried to the Lord, “Lord, please don’t let us die because of this man’s life; please don’t think we are guilty of killing an innocent person. Lord, you have caused all this to happen; you wanted it this way.” So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea became calm. Then they began to fear the Lord very much; they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made promises to him. (Jonah 1:5-16)

You might know the rest of what happened. Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and taken to the depths of the sea for the opportunity to fully trust God. Jonah eventually went to Nineveh, and preached God’s instructions. The Ninevites were saved from destruction, and Jonah sulked – proof that even when we’re obedient to God, we’re not always happy with the results. Jonah was obedient, but he still seemed to prefer to have done things his own way. I can relate.

Back to the scene on the ship. We think this is a story about Jonah. After all, the entire book of the Bible is named after him! However, even in Jonah’s disobedience, God strategically uses his life to draw others close. Look at the impact Jonah’s disobedience had on the captain and sailors of the ship!

Jonah’s story isn’t about Jonah. It’s about God.

My story isn’t about me. It’s about God.

God is the protagonist of your story.

You might think your story is insignificant, confusing, painful, beautiful, inspiring, tragic, or dysfunctional. What about when you realize your story is God’s story? Does it change the way you see it?

God is invested in your life. He created you with purpose. That doesn’t mean your life with go smoothly. It doesn’t mean it will be easy. God gives us choices. He weaves our responses throughout the storyline, entwining our lives with others throughout every phase of our lives.

Jonah gives us a glimpse of how a life of faith, decisions of disobedience and obedience, and responses to outcomes impact circles of people around us – those we know well and those we encounter briefly. We think we’re the source of the ripples radiating from our lives when it’s actually God.

Who is God? Only the Lord. Who is the Rock? Only our God. (2 Samuel 22:32)

Appreciate your God’s story today.