Contradictions

I hate putting things away. When I was a toddler, my mother let me entertain myself by emptying the kitchen cupboard where she stored canned goods. I’d pull everything out onto the floor, crawl inside the cupboard, and lose interest (I’m guessing) in approximately seven seconds. As I walked away, my mom would ask, “Can you put the cans back?” “No,” I’d say, and keep walking. She’d let me go, and I often joke with her this is why I became an adult who would rather spend an hour washing dirty dishes than ten minutes returning clean ones to their shelves.

But paradoxically, I also get edgy when things are not in their proper places. I’ve made co-workers move boxes out of my line of vision, will spend ten minutes arranging my desk chair after vacuuming, and once got down on my hands and knees to pick up dozens of ping pong balls from my boss’s office after he’d been pranked, and no one but me was at all distracted from their work due to the plastic chaos strewn throughout the room beside us.

I have always been an embodiment of contradictions, and this is just one area where that quality rears its well-groomed but frizzy head. Another is in my work life. In my years of project management, I was labeled things like analytical. Technical. Left-brained. The non-creative part of the team. I often had to remind others (and myself) that this wasn’t entirely true. I was also imaginative. Idea-laden. Right-brained. Creative (a writer, for heaven’s sake!). But if you do one thing for long enough, people drop you into a box, and they’re not typically inclined to listen when you try to argue your way out.

Three weeks ago, I bid farewell to my agency job, where I’d worked for over three years. It was the longest I’d stayed at any one company and the first time I took an honest-to-God day job with health insurance and PTO and all those other grown-up things. It was also the first time I’d found a group of people with whom I genuinely belonged. Leaving was an unbearably difficult but necessary decision. I didn’t quit out of despair or desperation. I quit because God told me to go.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all, they are meant to make you useful in His hands… Oh, I can’t deal with that person. Why not? God gave you ample opportunity to soak before Him on that line, and you barged off because it seemed stupid to spend time in that way.” This passage played on a loop in my head for the better part of a year because, for most of that time, I wanted to quit my job. I loved my team, but the work bled me lifeless, and yet, I stayed because I was convicted that it was where God needed me to be.

Whenever people asked if I liked my job, I didn’t know what to tell them, mostly because I wanted to say, “You’re asking the wrong question.” Don’t ask me if I like my job. Ask me if I’m where God has placed me. Ask me if He gives me daily insights into why He calls me to remain. Ask me if I love the people I work with more than I ever thought I could love a community. Ask me if, in spite of daily if not hourly failures, I still feel myself becoming more and more the person God would have me be. If you had asked me these questions, you would have gotten a “yes” to every single one.

That fact did not change when I decided to leave. What changed was God’s instruction. One day, a series of events began unfolding, and soon after, His message went from “stay” to “run.” And so, I ran. I hemmed and hawed and discussed and paused and cried and clawed the walls of my left-brained box, but ultimately, I ran because I have learned the hard way what happens when I don’t listen to God. Because I know by now that my life is not my own, but His, and just as it is good and right to endure suffering when He asks this of us, it is equally good and right to take His hand when He comes to lift us out of our predicament.

In so many ways, that job did not make a lick of sense for someone as idealistic, creative, controlling, and consistency-craving as I am. I get too drained, need too much space and quiet, and spend too much time thinking about Rilke and Lewis to be engulfed in a world that, no matter how I tried, I could never fully embrace. But I was also good at that job. I have a shockingly receptive memory, alarming attention to detail, a deep-seated desire to help whoever needs it, and the ability to keep more thoughts in my head and more balls in the air than seems humanly possible.

I believe our gifts are given to us by God, which can only mean, in some strange way, that so are our faults. Or maybe, God permits our faults, so He can teach us to work through them and ultimately overcome them. I am better in a thousand ways for having had that job. I would never go back—would never have chosen it in the first place, but I needed it. I may never be purely analytical, but now I know I’m capable of grasping technical complexities and working under far greater strain than I ever thought possible. Now I know where the canned goods belong and that I am, indeed, able to put them there, even if I’d rather be the one scattering them across the floor.

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