Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce…Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it; for its welfare will determine your welfare. – Jeremiah 29:5-7
Seems basic. Let me give you the context. God had Israelites exiled to Babylon. Exiled – they did not want to be there or leave Jerusalem. What were they supposed to do there? Sit around? Mope? No! Build homes and plan to stay. Don’t just simply exist. Do what they can where God sent them.
My career recently shifted. I’ve been a high school social science teacher for several years in an urban high school (the #1 high school in KS actually). I’ve LOVED this. I work with highly motivated, but highly disadvantaged, students. I loved teaching, but really it all came down to my love for the students I work(ed) with. This past spring I was asked to apply for a new position at my school. This position would take me out of the classroom and I would instead be working with teachers on specific issues, direct professional development in the building, and other jobs that fall into these categories. In essence, my focus would shift from students to teachers. After much prayer, it became clear that God wanted me to apply.
I did. I secretly hoped that this was all just a push for building obedience. I was kind of hoping I wouldn’t get the job and would get to keep the job I loved. After all, I obeyed what God was telling me and applied. Not so much. I started my new position mid July.
The beginning of the school year was a real struggle for me emotionally. I got the handle of my job pretty quickly, but I was having a hard time accepting my new role. Without direct contact with kids, I felt lost and like I had no emotional center. As a teacher, I had direct emotional feedback daily. I knew I was making a difference. I knew if I was absent kids would be disappointed. This was feeding my soul. With my new job, this wasn’t true. I felt no immediate emotional “food.”
I kept going. I knew this is what God wanted, but it was NOT what I wanted. I then made two huge realization: the disservice my previous job had done to my relationship with God and my struggle with obedience.
As for the first, I was getting my emotional and spiritual affirmation from the acts I was performing and from the difference I was making in kids’ lives. It was not coming from my relationship with God. This hasn’t been possible this fall. I’ve had to get my emotional and spiritual satisfaction from my relationship with God. He is what I have relied upon throughout this.
I also realized that obedience is more than simply following through. Yes, I was going through the motions I was supposed to: I applied and I accepted the job I knew he wanted for me. However, I did not have a good attitude in my heart. Wow is it harder to obey when you don’t want/like something! Let alone to do it with a good attitude.
About 3 weeks ago, I was really feeling like I didn’t want to do my job and it didn’t really matter anyways. At this point, as I was reading through the book of Jeremiah, I came across the verses at the top. It was like they were written in bold faced print with blinking arrows pointing to them. The Israelites didn’t want to be in Babylon, but what did God tell them to do? Plant gardens. Make a place for themselves. I realized God put me in the position for a reason and I cannot dwindle it away. I need to work for peace and prosperity where God has sent me. I pray for His guidance in it. We are going through major changes this year; I get to help direct these changes to some extent, which I wouldn’t be able to do in my old job. So, I need to pray for guidance that these changes do lead to the peace and prosperity of the students, staff, building, and community.
Sometimes, God calls us to do things we don’t want to do. My new position is not a bad one. I work with the same people in the same building. It even led to a small raise, but I still didn’t want to do it. However, we don’t know what’s in God’s plan. We simply have to follow him. Wherever He sends us, we need to work for peace and prosperity in that place, which you cannot do effectively with a bad attitude or resentment. I guess the moment I get comfortable, I’ll know it’s time for God to move me again to start a new garden.