I tucked the envelope under the stack of folders in my arm. It came in the company mail with my name on it. I knew what was in it—a gift certificate from headquarters to a fast-food restaurant that didn’t even have a branch within 300 miles. A weak attempt to thank me for my work. At least they tried. I think everyone got one.
At first, I shrugged it off, wondering if I could re-gift it to an unsuspecting nephew. But then I started overthinking, struggling with the implications. What were they really trying to say? I thought about the weeks—and months that went by without a single word of encouragement. In times like these, I catch myself slogging through my duties, mere chores in the labor of life. That’s not higher calling living. But it’s my reality.
It’s times like these that I listen to the voices of doubt. “Hey you. You’re a fraud, a fake, a shyster.” The voice sounds like my own. It is my own, an echo of every fear within me. I’ve heard it before—plenty of times.
I replayed the tape of my mistake last year that took a team to undo. And the time six years ago when I was told to shape up—or ship out. Maybe the voice was right. Maybe I was a phony. In no time flat the bold decisive middle manager was reduced to a bumbling corporate paperweight.
I took the envelope and flung it awkwardly toward the trash can. It missed, joining the paper wrapper from the sandwich that didn’t quite make it into the canister either.
Story of my life.
This stuttering realization of my own inadequacy seems to hit me when I least expect it. I rush to a meeting, scanning messages on my cell phone, and furtively look around to see the company I’m with. No one is there but that pesky voice. Ducking into the bathroom, I catch my own gaze in the mirror. Tired. Empty. Am I alone?
I scroll through my inboxes, screaming with deadlines and information then look away. The folders on my desk are morphing, blending in a single hump of dysfunction.
I shouldn’t feel inadequate. I have a family, a church, a group of friends that fill my time. I think I matter to people. But work is different. I wonder if they could fill my job with just anybody, that maybe my salary could be cut in half by a fresh face or even eliminated by an eager intern.
What I’ve learned is how insidious this sensation is, robbing me of my passion. It strangles my heart. It makes me forget who I really am. I fill my life with endless pursuits that simply reset my melancholy, only to be litigated in my mind. The recognition never seems to come and I try to pretend like it doesn’t matter. But it does.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
The busier we are—at work or at home—we desperately need the strength of an infinite God who knows us better than we know ourselves. We need to hear from him. Martin Luther simply stated, “Bless us, O. Lord, yea, even curse us—but please be not silent.”
To be honest, I was the one who chose isolation over God. I was the one that placed my entire worthiness within the confines of a career. I have to make a change.
So I start the process, a pathway of progress. I write down my frustrations and my sorrows. One piece of paper at a time, I sort them out into three piles: Deal with Now, File, or Throw away. I lay my hands upon these piles. I hear his voice call to me from the deep. “Cast all your cares upon me.”
I then scoop all those frustrations into a single pile and wad them into a massive ball. Crumpled and now powerless over me, I close my eyes and heave it toward the cylinder. The past pain arcs slowly toward the ceiling and drops into the waste basket.
There’s no missing this time.
David Rupert is a Golden-based writer who has more than 2,000 articles on faith, culture and vocation published in a variety of publications. He is the community editor for the Denver Institute blog. Most recently he was content editor at the High Calling, helping Christians connect their faith to the workplace. He regularly writes for Patheos.