A few weeks ago, I wrote a little recap about the last year. But there was one change, one massive shift to my life personally, that I left out. I didn’t share it because it felt silly and selfish to draw attention to what, in the grand scheme of things, is only a minor dot on the timeline of my life.
I quit my job.
I realize this sounds simple and perhaps trite considering that The Pilot and I are now living in Okinawa, Japan on a seemingly wild and fun-filled three year adventure. But the fact is, it’s really not that simple. And while I’m grateful for the opportunity to live abroad, there is something still extremely normal and familiar about our life overseas.
He still works a lot. He’s still gone often. I still use many of the same recipes for dinner. We’re still surrounded by Americans because we live on base. For all intents and purposes, our life on the surface looks and feels very much the same. And for The Pilot, life in the fleet operates much like it ever did. His job remains unchanged. Only the environment and course rules (cheesy aviation joke) are different. He’s still flying. His skill set is still useful. His career trajectory is intact. His purpose is clear.
My seven year career? Over for now.
My skills and experience? I’m not sure where they belong or how they serve me where I am just yet.
My purpose? I really am at a loss for what it is at the moment.
My identity? This… This seems to have taken the biggest blow. As it turns out, I had (unknowingly) built a very fragile identity based on the size and name of the organization I worked for, the people I knew, and the career I mistook for meaning.
So when I left that job in order to follow my husband half way across the world, it was like pulling the bottom piece out of the Jenga tower. Everything I had built my self-worth upon– my job, busyness, professional performance, salary, not feeling like I fit the mold of the typical Marine wife (which I took a lot of pride in)– suddenly started to wobble until all of those things I thought made me, Me, were effectively taken away.
It’s not that the job, money or professional performance were intrinsically bad things to enjoy or pursue. The problem came when I made them ultimate. The issue was that I allowed created things to give me more significance, more personal fulfillment, and more value than my Creator. My accomplishments became my standard of measure for success. My “productivity” became a standard of measure for what made me worthy. And the only way to attain and sustain feeling worthy was to strive continuously.
It wasn’t until we moved to Okinawa, where there was absolutely no demand on my time, that I began to realize I had achieved everything I thought would deliver a sense of “making it.” My work for a Christian organization, a strong marriage, solid friendships, and financial freedom were all things that I could say I had the privilege of experiencing and yet I was remarkably discontent.
I don’t think I have felt as much spiritual restlessness as I have since moving overseas. I’ve never felt smaller or more obscure in my life. And it’s taken nearly six months to figure out why.
The only thing I brought with me, was me. My job, my income, my “tribe” of likeminded friends who worked for large ministries, all the things I thought gave me street cred did not, could not, would not fit in my suitcase. All the things that offered me comfort and solace when surrounded by other Marine wives (whom I found intimidating) no longer served me.
I had nothing to hide behind, talk about, or lean against to differentiate myself from those around me. The instant we landed on island, I felt myself become one of many. And the loneliness was overwhelming.
What if who I am isn’t as exciting as what I did?
That question was my indication that how I viewed myself was seriously flawed. I knew that it was seriously flawed because it was in direct opposition to how God sees me.
I am not what I do. I am not what I produce. I am not who I know. I am not how much money I make. I am not how busy I am, how many calls, emails, or tweets I receive.
I am made in His image. His fingerprint is on my spirit. And He loves me because I am His. I know that I bring nothing to the table in this relationship. My strivings, my accomplishments, my abilities equate to nothing in light of who He is and what He has done to save my soul.
I’ll be totally honest with you. I believe the above. I know it to be true. And I preach it to myself often. But my head knowledge does not always align itself with my feelings. My head knows what my heart finds difficult to accept. I trust that it will not always be this way. One day, the weight of this truth will finally break through and I will live a lot more free.
In the meantime, this one thing I keep coming back to: His grace.
By His grace, I have tasted things that I did not deserve. I enjoyed praise and promotions and I was given a small taste of what the world’s deems as successful. Through this restlessness and discomfort of being stripped of what I thought made me valuable, I can now see how that success was a mere facade. An attractive yet false image of what it means to be truly alive with purpose, hope and joy.
What the world gives, it can also take away. But the life God gives us, the promises of His Word, the world can never diminish or derail.