The level of confidence with which the words burst forth surprised even me: “I’m a nurse!”
In the seriousness of the moment, the words hung in the air as heavily as the humidity of the nearby ocean. I didn’t know how else to rapidly prove my qualification to intervene in this situation. The child’s mother stepped back, allowing me to assess the injury of her son. A large metal frame had fallen on his foot, and after blurting out three short words, I was entrusted with his care.
Job Titles Can Steal and Enslave
With my job title comes a level of worldly authority and respect greater than any other “title” I’ve ever held. However, with the title also comes responsibility, and in attempting to bear this responsibility on my own, I quickly became enslaved to my employment—to bettering my name, my résumé, and my reputation. If my identity is rooted in being “a nurse,” the way I respond in difficult situations becomes a direct reflection not only of my job title but of how I believe others perceive it.
However, when I allow the gospel to transform the way I interact with the world as an employee, I find my identity not in my career but in Christ.
In the summer blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick, Captain Pete Mitchell says, “It isn’t what you are, it’s who you are.”
The film, set in a naval aviation academy, emphasizes that after years of service, Mitchell is still a captain, meaning he hasn’t advanced his title as so many others his age have. But he’s content in his role—he doesn’t allow his job title to be his ever-growing and all-consuming identity. He lets his personality come through in the work he does (and loves), refusing to be limited by his world-given title.
As young adults in a secular workplace, we must also push the limits, doing our job with excellence no matter what job title we attain and allowing the gospel to permeate even the darkest situations we encounter. Your life’s identity isn’t found in what you do or how much you make, but in how you do it and in what you make much of.
While the very definition of a “career” is the “pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement,” that’s not what we’re biblically called to. The world’s message to “find yourself” is an empty pursuit.
Your life’s identity isn’t found in what you do or how much you make, but in how you do it and in what you make much of.
The gospel teaches that every person has been created with inherent value and an eternal identity. While the way of the world is to steal, kill, and destroy that identity, John teaches that when we claim Christ as our name, we won’t just find life but abundant life (John 10:10).
As author Joel Busby writes, “We’re not meant to define ourselves, discover ourselves, express ourselves, or design our identities according to our own creative genius.” Instead, we’re called into a beautiful identity as image-bearers of our Creator.
Freedom in God-Given Identities
Throughout the biblical narrative, we see people like Esther and Job boldly stepping into their God-given identities—even in astonishingly difficult situations. Esther, in the palace, steps courageously into her identity as a child of God (risking her identity as the “queen”) to save her people from massacre (Est. 5:1). Job clings to the hope that God is sufficient for him, and no matter the affliction he sees, he chooses to worship God (Job 1:20), finding his identity not in his prosperity but in the One who gives life abundantly.
In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller writes, “Your professional status is a result of grace.” If we don’t use our employment to live in light of the gospel, we’re wasting our time—and our work is simply a means to empty frustration as it eats away at our identities. But when we allow the gospel to transform the way we interact with the world as employees, Keller says,
All the other things in your work life—your influence, your resumé, and the benefits they bring you—become just things. You can risk them, spend them, and even lose them. You are free.
And so, whether you’re a bewildered nurse (like me) or a frightened queen (like Esther), there’s a beautiful freedom in the place of employment God has brought you into. If you’re entering the workplace as a young adult, be reminded that you’re not a child of slavery but of freedom (Gal. 4:31). Like Esther, you’ve come to your position of employment “for such a time as this” (Est. 4:14).
Don’t give yourself to the identity thief that is your employment. You were created for more than a job title—you were given a job to do, and that is to glorify God, enjoying the inherent, eternal identity he gave to you when he formed you in your mother’s womb. Go therefore and let the gospel transform your life as a young adult employee. But don’t just claim it. Go and proclaim it: the gospel makes a radical difference.