8 Years Later, Faithfulness, and Work That Matters

We were scared, but sometimes you jump praying that a safety net will magically appear should you need it.

Yes, we’ll take that job in Tennessee.

Yes, we’ll pack up our house in one month, find a new place to live, and trust we’ll find a way to cover the mortgage on that Minnesota house we knew we couldn’t sell.

December of 2011. It was our last month in Winsted, MN. I remember rooms full of moving boxes we would collect daily from Glenn’s SuperValu. Our 3 kids were 6,5, and 2. That meant endless runny noses and juggling nap times. And that month, it was the month each of them got sick or ended up needing stitches.

Pink eye. Strep throat. Stomach flu.

Shortly after Christmas, at just the right time, my mother-in-law volunteered to take the kids for the final days we had planned to pack up the house. Before she could change her mind, we buckled the kids in their car seats and drove to the half-way point between our houses. God bless Nana.

Over the next several days, we packed everything except for suitcases full of clothes, an air mattress, and Max (the puggle we had adopted that summer). Saturday morning the moving truck arrived. We watched as grown men played Tetris with our boxes and furniture until it all fit just right. There was no turning back now.

We were deliriously tired and emotional, but we were so excited! For the first time, Nathan would be paid to do work he loved. We would be joining a place that was changing lives and where we had an opportunity to make a good living. His new employer used (still does) the tagline, “Work That Matters.” We were giddy with anticipation to be a part of this mission.

Giddy and scared. One thing that comforted us was that after over a decade of work at a local Christian college, we were moving toward another place we believed to be about serving God.

(from the year we moved, 2012)

December 2019.

We’re living in Thompsons Station, Tennessee. Our house isn’t full of moving boxes like that December 8 years ago. Though, we did move recently. The kids are 14, 13, and 10.

2/3rds of them succumbed to sickness recently. Fever. Flu type B.

And just like in 2011, the year 2019 saw our family make some big career decisions. We were scared, but sometimes you jump praying the safety net will magically appear should you need it.

Yes, we’ll resign from our job without a new one lined up.

Yes, we’ll make another job change 6 months later.

There was something familiar about this leap, but this time we jumped with a certain confidence you get from practice. We had exercised these faith muscles before. We knew something we didn’t know fully when we first traveled to Tennessee: The uncertain outcome and the knowledge of our desperate need for Jesus were gifts.

When you live in a way that acknowledges your need for a savior, you pay attention to Jesus in a way you miss when you forget your need.

Working for a Christian organization made us feel like we were doing ministry. We assumed we were serving Jesus by being there. It was, after all, “work that matters.”

8 years later, our understanding of work that matters and faithfulness has grown. Providing for yourself and your family matters. A paycheck that allows you to buy groceries or give to someone who has a need matters.  In God’s economy, work that matters can be sacred or secular.

The downside of a ministry job is that it can be easy to shift into auto-pilot assuming loyalty to a Christian organization is the same as serving Jesus. It isn’t the same thing. When we mistake following Jesus with devotion to one cause, church, job, or leader, we can find ourselves compromising our convictions. It’s a subtle shift. It looks like elevating a ministry over the Master and gifts over the Giver.

In 2019, we unclenched our fingers and held Nathan’s career with an open hand.  God showed us that faithfulness to Him meant leaving the Christian organization for an unknown job. In all I’ve observed in the going or staying, it seems God sometimes moves our place to remind us of the immovable Person.

“Wherever we move, we may be sure of this: God always moves us toward himself.”– Jen Pollock Michel, Keeping Place; Reflections on the Meaning of Home.

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