Tuesday, February 10, 2015

a self portrait and success



A question was posed in my church home group last night: “What is success?”

My mind went immediately to John 17:4, a few words from Jesus’ prayer for His disciples before He went to Gethsemane:

I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”

This wasn’t quoted, but in some form or another, it was the same answer that we settled upon: success is using our short lives to glorify God in whatever way we have been given.

But I wonder sometimes if this neat textbook answer is something I say and not something I actually believe.

When I get the dreaded “What do you do?” question, I answer with the socially acceptable and, ouch, self-glorifying list of what I actually get paid to do (however short it may be). “I’m a gymnastics coach and a ballet teacher,” I say, despite the truth that I have no background in gymnastics or ballet and am only minimally trained in the beginner skills that I teach my 3-10 year old students. I get paid to teach basic gymnastics and ballet for a few hours a week, but that is not what I am and it is not primarily what I do.

If pressed, my second response will be, “And the rest of the time I’m a stay-at-home wife.” This is less socially acceptable and thus it feels self-defeating. Whether or not they really do, I feel people look down on me… because I have allowed myself to believe this is a lesser occupation than something one goes to school for, dresses up every day for, and gets paid for.

And it will never enter my mind to say, “I’m a photographer and a writer,” because somewhere in my life I came to the conclusion that to acknowledge my actual talents and gifts was vain and conceited and sinful, and thus I have never given myself the right to self-identify with them. But is it really “glorifying Him on earth” to pretend the way He made us doesn’t matter or doesn’t exist? Is it better to define myself by what gains me a few dollars than by what God formed me to do?

Anyway, all this rambling to say… I think I’m wrong to believe that paid work is most important no matter what it is, that the role God has given me in life is lesser than a professional occupation, and that it’s un-Christian to believe that He really did give me unique talents and gifts and abilities to use for His glory. Not that it’s wrong to get paid for what He made us to do—of people who are that lucky I’d say “More power to you!”

I am a wife—I get the privilege of caring for a little universe under God and the husband He gave me. I am a photographer—I get to help people see themselves and their lives through the eyes of someone who knows they are beautiful. I am a writer—I get to take the Word of God and search it for wisdom we can apply to our lives daily. Gymnastics and ballet I do on the side. But I hope I could say that I’m truly successful in all of it.


  1. I have a similar hierarchy of responses . . . when people ask what I'm doing after CGCC, I usually say "I don't know . . . I might get a job," because I'm ashamed of wanting to go into the fashion business since, like you, I feel like people look down on me for it -- though fashion isn't nearly as "good" or "Christian" a job as being a stay-at-home wife. . . . That sounded weird, but I couldn't figure out the right words to express myself.

    dance a real

  2. You're just great, Hallis 😘



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