“What if I am meant to do this forever?” my husband asked me over the phone one October evening nearly two years ago. He was in Washington, D.C., for a national convention with his medical equipment company, and I was in Little Rock, Arkansas, home alone and 16 weeks pregnant with twins.
“Remember in seminary how professors used to tell us, ‘If you can do anything besides full-time pastoral work, do it’? What if this is what I should be doing?” he said, as a pit of anxiety sank deep into my stomach.
This was not the plan.
We had been in Little Rock for more than a year, having moved to plant a church with another couple from seminary. Because of the nature of a church plant, my husband took a corporate job. He was bivocational with the intent of going on church staff once we settled our school debt and the church could pay him.
In that first year and a half of working, though, he started noticing something about himself and his job. Others noticed it, too. He liked sales, and sales seemed to like him. His “day job”—which started as a means to a ministerial end—had suddenly become the end in itself.
Hearing that the trajectory of our lives might change, though, was unsettling for me. When he asked, “What if I am meant to do this forever?” all I heard was, “You will forever be alone with twins while I travel with my job.” I panicked. This was not how I envisioned my life.
“Ministry” was my idol.
When I became a Christian in college, “ministry” became my life’s ambition. Content to rid myself of every last vestige of the world, I planned on marrying a man in ministry, too. I had that mindset when I enrolled in seminary. The work I did outside of school didn’t matter; it was simply funding my journey to the real destination—work that mattered to the kingdom. When my husband and I got married two years into my seminary education, I knew I was safe in my goals.
When the news hit me a few years later that we were staring down a different path, I was mad and confused. I questioned everything we ever thought we stood for. I never thought I would be married to a salesman. In my limited understanding, business and career outside of a local church could never truly honor God as much as the work that happens in a pulpit on Sunday morning or in a counseling session with a broken believer. While I would never say these things aloud, I secretly judged Christians who were unwilling to make the tough sacrifices that vocational ministry requires.
All work has value.
In this short period of time, however, I have learned that all work has value and, therefore, matters to the kingdom. When God created Adam and Eve, he gave them a garden to cultivate. Since we bear his image, we are given the task of working hard for his glory and our joy.
There is no division between sacred and secular in God’s economy. I think this is what Paul means when he tells the Ephesians and the Corinthians that their work ought not to be done for their own benefit, but for the service of others and the glory of God (Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-24). All of our work is ultimately for Christ. There we find the true value of every endeavor we attempt. In the same way, our work benefits the greater community. We need each other to function as a community.
I have seen first-hand, for example, how my husband’s work images God and benefits his image-bearers. My husband may not be the surgeon who wields the scalpel with precision to remove the life-threatening tumor from a patient, but he is the one who puts life-saving and pain-relieving equipment in that doctor’s hands. His role in the healthcare industry advances the dignity of God’s image-bearers when they are suffering and confused. My husband may never know their names, but God uses him to care for them. There is no meaningless job in God’s kingdom.
Everyday work is beautiful.
I wish I had ears to hear this perspective when my husband called me that October evening two years ago. Unfortunately, when the “ministry” was my idol, I missed the beauty of everyday work. Thankfully, God did not let me cling to my idol.
Today, we hold our life plan loosely. We like to say that, for now, we sense that God is calling my husband to work in his current profession and to serve as a lay leader in our local church. But that could change. And for once in my life, I’m okay with that possibility because I see the expansive work of redemption that God is doing through all of his people and through all of their work.