Most of my time being a writer is pushing people away to guard my time. It’s a tough existence to justify, but I’m essentially working two full time jobs until writing can earn enough to quit the other. At our church’s Christmas program last Sunday, with one of my 1st graders sitting on my lap, I thought about a missionary who was struggling in the mission field. The godly advice that snapped them out of their funk was a few simple words, “It’s not about you.”
I have to laugh thinking of giving this advice to a writer, but it’s true, so listen: “It’s not about you.”
In fact, this advice should be freeing. If what you are doing is about you, then you won’t be fulfilled. I don’t believe you can be. Even the most recluse writer, after writing the world’s greatest novel, could not truly enjoy what he wrote unless he had someone else to share his joy. I suppose there are self-centered people out there who believe they could, but I doubt it.
It kind of makes you wonder why people are so fascinated with post-apocalyptic fiction. Do we really want the world at our fingertips without anyone to enjoy it? The other day I was in Wal-Mart thinking how cool it would be to collect supplies and dodge potential zombies lurking down the next isle. Would I really enjoy that if I took those supplies back to a mansion I had all to myself? No.
This doesn’t mean we should not focus on harnessing our God-given talents. Just make sure you are not doing it for yourself. The reward will be so much greater.
And now back to our regularly scheduled program. I had a few post ideas in mind for this week, and then I received a somber email about a friend losing her job. Earlier this week, another friend said that his new commission-only job paid him $6 a day for the first two days of the week. Both of these friends are the sole bread-winners of their family.
In the spirit of “It’s not about you,” I’ve decided to share a quick story about the last time I lost my job. Hopefully it will be an encouragement to you as an example of when hard news comes at the worst time.
In the fall of my third year of seminary, I left my job as a janitor to work in for an auto insurance company doing customer service. The job paid four and a half dollars more an hour, and with my school payments and desire to marry my girlfriend, I felt I needed to take it. The job was easy in the training period because I’m an excellent student. When I was thrown in with the sharks–taking live calls–it quickly became the worst job of my life.
I fought depression all day long–about the only time I was happy was going down the stairs to my car, because, by mid-drive home, I was already worrying about going back. This was also the same time I renewed my commitment to writing, and would win my first NaNoWriMo en route to finishing my first novel within the year. The Lord sustained me, but it was hard.
My senior sermon, on Colossians 3:17, was an illustration in being thankful in tough situations–even though I lost that battle most of the time. Regardless, it was the verse, and book, I needed to immerse myself in during that trial.
Then, a few weeks after I graduated seminary,three particularly difficult days at work ended with a call that started with, “Hi, thanks for calling — this is Tim. How can I help you?”
“Stop *$%^$#@#$ sending me these $(&%(*$*# bills!”
*Initiate increased blood pressure*
“Okay sir. The swearing is going to stop.” (first mistake)
“Stop talking. Transfer me to your supervisor.”
This wasn’t the worst call I ever had, nor the hardest path to a solution. But, for some reason that eluded me at the moment, and for some time afterwards, I decided not to deal with that man’s problem. (“It’s not about you” would have been a good thought to have at that moment.)
The next morning I told my boss what I did, along with a nice little rant about the impracticability of the rehearsed sheet of prompts we were supposed to read before hanging up on someone that was being belligerent. After lunch I was escorted down to HR and shown a piece of paper I signed six months earlier that said if I ever hung up on someone I would be fired.
Oh, yeah, that paper. (Like I had any choice when I signed it, boss.)
I apologized and left with a clear conscience, but the drive home was very emotional. I was getting married in two months, not to mention I just graduated with a degree that says I’m supposed to be a mature adult.
The next month was full of prayer, soul-searching, job-hunting, and questions. What was I going to do to support my family? One month to go and I still didn’t have a job. My savings paid for my expenses (thank God), and Rachel essentially paid for our honeymoon to Cozumel.
Then on June 1st, I saw an ad for a security job. I thought, this might be something I’d actually enjoy–if I can read and write while I’m doing it, otherwise it will be like watching paint dry. Well, I was offered the job right away, even before they told me what I’d make. Boy was that a humbling moment.
It is now two and a half years later and I love my job. I write, edit,
read all day and enjoy waking up–even if it’s 3:30am. I recently turned down a higher paying job because this works with my back, and even if my writing does take off, I can still do this job, and I’m building a network through all the people I’m getting to know at work. Most of them know I’m a writer and will likely support me once I start selling.
Did I mention that by God’s grace we bought a house, and have lived in abundance since we got married?
So, I hope this post was encouraging to K, F, and anyone else out there not sure what good could come from losing their job. Mine was a pretty tough time in my eyes, but in God’s, it was perfect.
“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:16