I can’t tell you how disappointing it was when, at age 22, I finally made the decision to pursue a “secular” career instead of going into the ministry. Rather than embracing a bold confidence in the choice, I had this sinking feeling that I was somehow letting God down.
The pathetic part is, I prayed, fasted, and tried every which way to make myself want to work in ministry - but it just didn’t click. There was this nagging intuition telling me it wasn’t meant to be, despite the gravitational pull coming from a loyal and supportive circle of super-spiritual friends who shared my undying passion for setting the world on fire for Christ.
Unfortunately, I had very little exposure to what this so-called world might actually have to offer, aside from being set on fire. It was difficult to fathom the God I thought I knew ever slumming down his holy presence into the midst of those distasteful secular settings. As far as I knew, the world outside of ministry offered only, well, “worldly” career choices – choices that certainly would not meet God’s standards of approval.
The truth is, I had spent very little time investigating this premise, because these things were of absolutely no value to my Christian subculture bubble, with its over-emphasis on evangelism and missions and basically converting everyone to our 20th-century suburban white American middle-class version of the gospel.
So naturally, I was a bit off-balance after making that fateful decision to venture off into a secular profession, careening towards a career in the salacious world of consumers and competition and, I don't know, whatever else those ungodly people did out there. I felt guilty, isolated, uncertain, and totally unprepared.
In my darkest moments, I imagined God floating around my head talking trash about me to his top-ranking angels, making vague scriptural references as to how I wasn’t measuring up. “That J.B. Wood, I had big plans for him. If only he had stayed in the good soil!” The angels nod knowingly, jotting something down in their legal pads.
Nonetheless, I instinctively knew it was right, even though I couldn’t envision where the arc of my career might take me. I just had to get started. Somewhere. It was a mustard seed of hope, a stubborn determination, as if God would eventually roll His eyes and let out a big sigh, saying, "Oh, alright! Sheesh!" I knew he'd help me figure it out along the way.
So off I went to the Big City, leaving behind my church, my family and my on-fire super-spiritual friends. Looking back, I would say this was one of the biggest acts of faith I had ever undertaken in the entirety of my small, sheltered life.
Fast forward 30 years. I discovered a rich, dynamic, creative career in business that I never would have imagined had I not ventured into the dreaded secular world. The varied work experiences also uncovered a wide range of skills and interests that might have otherwise been left dormant, untapped and invisible. I also crossed paths with many big-hearted men and women who guided and mentored me along the way. Most importantly, I began to appreciate the significance of work in its contribution to God's kingdom here on earth.
It took a couple of decades, but I eventually reconciled my career aspirations with my theology of work. Rather than tapping his fingers on the table with a critical glare, I now see God swooping to my side in the conference calls, the sales meetings, the Board presentations, flashing an enthusiastic thumbs-up and a wink. “Keep bein’ awesome!” he says.
TheHighCalling.org seeks to create opportunities for Christian leaders to encounter God through new media tools for the transformation of daily life, work, and our world. Christian leaders are in all aspects and activities of daily life—including home, community, leisure, as well as occupation.
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