Career and the Cross

Jonathan (Yale, ‘03) was involved in Cru as a student. The following excerpts are from an article, “Career and the Cross” which he wrote for fellow Yale Cru alumni.

A year ago, I had a pretty cool job in special operations. On the best days, it was like a movie. I learned how to shoot and drive fast and pick locks. I traveled the world like a secret agent. My teammates were the toughest guys in the military with the country’s most urgent counterterrorism missions.

If humans were wired to find fulfillment in work, I would have had it. But I didn’t.

I had come to believe that a good job should fulfill me. It should be an effortless match of labors to my unique personality and gifts, a full expression of my individuality. It should challenge me to the point of stimulation but not discomfort. To find the right career was to find my place in the world, fixing me in both the social and cosmic order.

By this logic, I left the military and volunteered with doctors in Africa and America, hoping to find medicine a more comfortable fit. It wasn’t. Worst of all, most of the doctors I met were unfulfilled. If God were calling me to medicine, surely He’d have painted a prettier picture.

I now see that chasing comfort in career is a dangerous proposition. It took some tough words from a Christian doctor to correct my thinking. He pushed me to Luke 9:22-24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” This promise of suffering was less equivocal than I’d remembered.

Maybe instead of expecting a comfortable job that makes me feel good about myself, I should be expecting a crucifying one that makes me feel utterly and desperately dependent on God.

That doctor confided his greatest fear for young professionals: regret. He had known many Christians who’d begun their careers with lofty ambitions to live boldly for Christ. But slowly, the creeping encroachments of professional and domestic comfort had weighed them down. By middle age they felt disappointed, seeing their comforts as the shackles they were; but they were too invested to let it all go.

I see myself in this and it fills me with dread. No professional failing would be as eternally catastrophic as a slow spiritual death; but spiritual death is the inevitable consequence of letting career become a god.

That’s why I was unfulfilled in special operations. I had let it displace God from His rightful place at the center of all things. I compressed Him into one part of my life to make room for adventure. But if we have a compressible religion, something has gone wrong. Jesus is irreducible.

If you’ve felt your faith and job satisfaction flagging simultaneously, consider the possibility that your career, like mine, occupies an unsurrendered corner of your life. Let’s step out of the rat race and take up our real cross.

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