The past two days have been long and exhausting. Actually, the entire week has. I am part of a ministry team which hosted a big event tonight, and there was a lot of work involved as we prepared for that. On top of that, I am trying to get way ahead on everything because in a couple of weeks I will be going to Kentucky — for two weeks. I’m doing all I can to make sure no one even notices I’m gone, because everything is done. (Don’t worry…I don’t expect anyone to actually not notice that I’m gone. This is not a secret trip.)
Late yesterday evening I met with two of my fellow ministry team members at Walmart, to get everything we needed for tonight. As I walked in, my past and my present collided a bit. Preparing to exit as I entered was a former co-worker from the banking days. Just so you know…I love this woman. We were officers together, and very much went through the fire together. She is someone I value greatly, and we were forever bonded by some of our shared experiences. The only difference is that once we made it through the hottest part of the fire, I walked away while she stayed to rebuild what had been destroyed. I have great respect for her – for that and a million other reasons.
Anyway, she and I got to talking. I haven’t seen her nearly enough in the past eleven months or so – after seeing her nearly every day for thirteen years. We covered the personal stuff, and then the conversation naturally transitioned to bank talk. When I think about the banking days, I think of it generically and it barely affects me at all. But once in a while, when I think about the specifics, and I think about the way I felt for the last two or three years of that career, I can’t help but feel it again. Momentarily, I feel the weight on my shoulders. I feel the dark cloud. I feel the dread. But then I shake it all off and thank the Lord that all of that negativity is my past, and not my present.
I finished talking about banking and then I went to work, preparing for tonight’s event. And all of that weight and darkness and dread was a distant memory. And then I realized something.
Before this realization, if you’d asked me why I was so miserable in my banking job, I could have given you a ton of little reasons, but the big one would have been, “It just wasn’t where I needed to be anymore. I was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.” Or something like that. And I believe that’s true. But now I realize that I spent years going against who I am. Not by doing anything unethical or anything like that, but by trying to make myself not care. I had to fire people, and take abuse from customers, and schmooze. Sometimes people deserve to be fired, and sometimes customers need to vent, and sometimes you just have to laugh at jokes which aren’t funny. I get that. But so that I could live with myself, I had to convince myself I didn’t care. But I did care. So much. But at a certain point, caring makes you a weak leader in that corporate world. Compassion is one thing, but losing sleep over it is another entirely. For way too long, I had myself convinced that it was just business. I cared, but rarely did I lose sleep. At some point, I lost the ability to fool myself. I began losing a lot of sleep.
Now, I get to care for a living. This evening’s event wasn’t really part of my “job” – we were part of this ministry team long before I joined the church staff – but it was representative of my job. At least to me. It was a lot of work, but there was value in every task. There were frustrating moments, but they still somehow radiated with joy. This is my career now! Value. Joy. Dare I say it? Fun! Making a difference. Being a part – however small – of the ways God is at work.
I’m just feeling so overwhelmingly blessed. Before, I worked so hard. And for what? To move up the ladder, so that I could work even harder? Now, well…I still work so hard. Tonight, I’m exhausted. And I’m not really exhausted because of the work. I’m exhausted because I am emotionally drained. I’m exhausted because I care so stinkin’ much!
And I’m going to sleep like a baby.