If your job ended today and the paychecks stopped coming, what part of your job would you continue to do for free? I’ve been faced with this question for the last few days, having finished at Crossroads, but not yet having started at Gordon Conwell. Even in unemployment, the days still seem to fill themselves, so it’s taken some amount of intentionality to prioritize the things I value.
In between chores and moving logistics, I’ve found myself continuing to do two things in particular. My very first day out of the office, I met with a few students and have continued to this week. I also started blogging, which doesn’t employ the public speaking aspects of preaching, but is an attempt to communicate God’s Word to others for life change. These are the things I loved doing as a youth pastor and the things I hope to keep doing whether I find an opportunity to be paid for them or not.
I recommend asking, “If my job ended today, which elements of it would I keep doing?” It might be helping people find the products they need, creating systems and processes, beautifying the world, or caring for others. It might be any one of a thousand things that would never even cross my mind. Indeed, based on Paul’s letter to the Romans, we should expect to be surprised by one another’s interests and abilities:
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them”
Considering the variety and peculiarity of the universe God made, it should be no surprise that we enjoy and excel at completely different things. We have different interests, skills, and styles–what a boring world it would be if we didn’t! Most of us can agree, on an abstract level, that diversity is a blessing.
Yet, none of us get to live completely on that abstract level. We live in a space- and time-bound reality where many of us don’t like our jobs. Most can think of something they’d rather do and all have aspects of their work that they dislike. This is why I believe it’s good to know what you’d keep doing, aside from your current arrangement with your employer, simply because of who God made you to be.
Four reasons we should ask, “What would I keep doing for free?”
1. You may be able to focus more on your strengths in your current job. Perhaps not right away, but if you act with character and humility, your employer may be open to shaping your role over time.
2. If you focus on your strengths, you will bless your employer. In a “what-first” mentality, we decide what we want done and then find someone to do it according our specifications. Great organizations need to learn when to employ a “who-first” mentality, taking stock of who they have and then figuring out what they can do best.
3. If you can’t use your strengths in your job, now or ever, you may need question it. God has placed you where he has placed you and though it may be time to set your sights in another direction, you may be here for a while. Nonetheless, it’s worth asking if you should set a new course, explore some new options, and get some wise counsel to help you make good plans.
4. If you can’t switch jobs or re-shape your job, you can still find space outside of your workday. None of us have extra time; we’re all spending 24 hours a day on something. You, however, will never free yourself to make the impact you want to make in the world if you don’t ask critical questions about what you value and start sacrificing the things you don’t.