I can be such an idiot sometimes. I feel like I have to re-learn the same lessons over and over. Maybe that’s you too, because the more I grow older the more I see all people needing reminded far more than we need educated.
I used to work at a computer store in the bay area. I prided myself on being a part of a small and ultra specialized group of people that lived on the cutting edge of computer hardware and software. It was the early 2000’s and to live in the bay area in that time and place was to be a part of the movement- it wasn’t just a job, we really felt like we were leading the charge in changing the world. From old and busted to new and online was everything! We were cord cutting before it was cool, streaming before there were hulu and netflix. We were living the digital lifestyle before iphones were a dream. And it wasn’t just about stuff but about change. We wanted to see the world more connected, more informed. We knew that if we could get the internet in every pocket nothing would ever be the same.
So obviously, if this was my mindset, I didn’t just sell phones, I didn’t just sell computers- I knew this wasn’t a job, it’s who I was. It was at the very core of my being. Sure I was also a christian, a husband, a person, but all of those were just side descriptors to my life.
That’s why when I got arrested for stealing computer parts, I didn’t even consider it out of character. If you believed in the ideas truly that information should be free, and that objects are just the ramifications of ideas in the real world, it wasn’t self contradictory to steal computer parts for my own use, but it was rather the logical outflowing of my identity. Because how could I do that all on old tech?
I spent my time in jail pondering WHO I was far more than what I’d done. I recall that at one point one of my lawyers asked “why’d you do it? You made enough money you could have bought it all anyway?” And I really didn’t even have an answer. It’d never crossed my mind.
It took some time, but I came to the conclusion that my view of who I was turned out to be mistaken. I wasn’t a revolutionary changing the world. I was a guy who looked in the mirror and didn’t see reality. I thought I was a part of some cause, but instead I was a person who just used things others believed in genuinely so that I could justify doing whatever my selfish heart wanted in the first place. I genuinely did believe in that cause, but any cause was secondary to using that cause to satisfy my selfish desires.
I had to come face to face with my real identity – who I am. I’m not just a computer guy, I’m a child of Jesus, adopted into his family, and loved by him before the world began. I’m a selfish person, struggling to subjugate my whims to the commands of my king. WHO I AM is not a computer store manager, it’s a child of the King.
Now here I am, 15 years later, and I work at a church. Talk about causes I believe in! I know, I believe, and I am all-in for the knowledge that Jesus is who he claimed to be- the way, the truth, the life. I’m banking on Him and Him alone for any chance I’ve got- not just in this life but in the next.
But I am also still an incredibly selfish person. I’m still tempted to make a cause my identity rather than facing who I really am. I can start thinking I’m doing pretty swell, because I can check of the christiany type items we’re supposed to aim for. I’m talking about God constantly with others, I read and reference the bible often with others. But when no one is looking, when it’s the silence at the end of the day, and when judged by my inner monologue, how all-in am I?
I think I’m becoming less selfish, but I sit on the edge of a cliff in needing to be validated by others. I’m so insecure that the affirmations of others count far more for me than they aught to.
I’m working a job I truly love again for the first time since the computer company. One that I can be proud of, believe in not just what I’m doing, but the goals and aspirations of the organization. But I find myself thinking that’s WHO I AM. I’m Jim, the church IT guy. The online ministry guy. I know the right answers to say that it’s not my identity, it’s not who I am. But to say it, and to dwell in that truth are two completely different things.
I preach to my small group guys in high school that your job isn’t what defines you, that your chosen political party can’t define you. But I define myself by what I am or am not just as much as aim for them not to.
This week I’ve had meetings with my SCUBA shop team, and my Church Team, and in both I find they think they need me far more than they actually need me. I could stop doing what I’m doing and things would be fine. They don’t need me, for sure not in the long term.
So here I am, judging myself by my work, by what I do for dollars. Knowing at the same time, that what I’m doing could be replaced easily. Falling into the same trap as before, but with a new label, and better motives.
I need reminded, hopefully not through radical circumstances this time, that God is the core of who I am made to be. Not my job, not the list of tasks I accomplish, not how many people are fond of what I do. God. God is enough. Not me, not what He has me do. Just Him. That is enough.
God would you help me in this season, to remember well what you have shown me, what you have taught me. Would I love others so well, that my daily shrinking or expanding role or paycheck or respect should play no part in my contentment, because I should never have been content because of those things to start with. I should be content in the best and worst of days because of YOU and you alone. That you love me, and that you chose me. Would that be enough, always that and only that.