Last year, I went back to work after a six and a half year break. During those years, I freelanced for a while, in a completely different field and I enjoyed it for that season. I sometimes wondered what it would be like to get back into work in my field, and if I would ever have the courage to step back in if the Lord opened that door again. In September 2019, I started working at a hospital with children with special needs. Though my re-entry into ‘professional life’ was only as a part time volunteer, I was still a nervous wreck!
I work at the National Children’s Hospital for 3 mornings a week, 4.5 hours each day, in the rehabilitation department. My work is in a completely foreign language, which I have yet to acquire fluency in. This poses a lot of challenges for me, as I live in a country where community is important and small talk is a big part of work. I am thankful for the staff that have welcomed and befriended me and the parents that trust me even when I can’t placate their fears or respond to their questions. Because of my long break from work, I have a lot to reading up to do and there are times when I doubt my abilities.
My work is especially intimidating because of the language and cultural challenges I face each day and because of our differences in the style and approach to rehabilitation of children. But to be honest, I’d have been equally scared even if I were starting a new job in the city I lived in earlier, in my home language and culture. Re-entry to work scares me because I am just so aware of all the things I am lacking. And yet, because of that very reason, it has drawn me into a deeper dependence on God than I have ever had before.
I’m sure many stay–at-home mums who are preparing to get back into work experience the same feelings. Maybe you’re scared you’re not good at what you used to do anymore. Maybe your fear of getting back out there makes you wonder if that phase is closed for you forever. Maybe God is calling you to a different ministry or role and that is wonderful. But for those who are afraid to step out because you’re battling fear and self-doubt, let me share a few lessons I have learned and am learning every day. These lessons could be applicable for a new job or a new phase in life or even if you’ve been doing the same thing for years – either at work or at home.
1. Faithfulness – One day at a time
There are days I struggle to get myself to step out of the house and face work. But God has been showing me that I need to be faithful to what He is asking me to do each day, and that He will give me the grace for it. I have found that it is easier for me to ask Him for grace, one day at a time, and sometimes even one child at a time. He has sustained me through these months and I am so grateful that His grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made perfect in my weakness.
2. My worth is not in what I do or accomplish
Sometimes, I am misled to believe that my worth as a person is directly connected to my abilities and successes as a professional. Just a few minutes on Facebook, scrolling through people’s accomplishments, is enough to get me down.
But as a child of God, I know that my accomplishments do not define me. I need to constantly remind myself that my worth is in Him, as His child, and that cannot change. He wants me to work at whatever He has for me, as unto Him, (Col 3:23) and that means to be committed, faithful, and give my best.
I remember early in October, I was struggling with challenges at work and feeling discouraged. As I walked from the bus stop to the hospital, I came across a song I had heard before but not really paid attention to - ‘My worth is not in what I own’ by Kristin and Keith Getty.
My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross
My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross
What a beautiful reminder of what our worth is based on.
As I worshipped Him and went to work that day, reminded of who I am, I was able to face struggles and challenges with a different attitude. I had peace and contentment, knowing I was where He wanted me to be, doing what He wanted me to, no matter how difficult the task was. It has taken the pressure off work – knowing that I am not loved less or more depending on the outcome of my work. And when I feel my circumstances are going to drown me with disappointment and negativity, I look to Him and remember who He is, and who I am in Him. Especially in the struggles of a new job or phase, this reminder helps me fix my eye on Him and live for Him.
3. God gives us our talents and abilities
There is no journey which is devoid of failures and struggles. And that is true even as we step out into work again, especially after a long break. I had to remind myself to allow myself time to re-adjust and re-learn, to expect difficulties, and to persevere. I had to remind myself to thank Him for some of the most valuable lessons I was learning through those struggles. And at all times, I had to remind myself to look to God for He is the One who gives us our abilities, talents, gifts, wisdom, and all we need to do what He has called us to do.
But I was also reminded that, when I did have successes, to remember that it is He who enabled me and to give Him glory. There is no place for pride because we are who we are because of Him and because of what we receive from Him. For what do we have that we did not receive and if we receive it, how can we boast as though we did not? (1 Cor 4:7)
4. Fruitfulness – in Him
Looking again at the life and teachings of Jesus Christ while on this earth, I am reminded of how different God’s thoughts and ways are from those of the world. Fruitfulness or success according to the world may be very different from what He looks at as success. He is concerned with us becoming like Him and not with what heights we achieve on the ladder of success. At work, fruitfulness in Him may look different for each of us. It may mean integrity in difficult situations. It may mean looking out for those who are likely to be ignored, sidelined, or mistreated. It may mean being a peacemaker or being persecuted for His name sake. It may mean honouring, submitting to, and not speaking ill of those in authority. So I want to remind myself to work as unto Him, for fruitfulness in Him. And I can only do this by abiding in Him, for without Him we can bear no fruit.
It’s been about six months since those super scary first few weeks. I am still leaning on Him for strength, wisdom, grace, and faithfulness in my work, for as long as He has called me to stay there. I cling to Him at work, asking Him to make me His hands, His heart, and His voice to these families and the children who are struggling.
I ask Him to help me know how to calm the children and make them feel loved without having the language to put them at ease. I ask Him for grace to make it through each hour, for wisdom to know what to do. I ask Him to give me one child I can somehow communicate with, or one family I can bond with. And I am so grateful that He is with me in this phase of re-entry into work, for without Him, I truly can do nothing.