This past weekend I taught a class about how different personalities impact work environments and relationships.
After the class was over both days, I had individuals stay to ask me “coincidentally” the same two questions.
1. “What happens when my identity is wrapped up in my job?”
2. “How do I fix my relationship with my spouse because we feel like roommates?”
The reality is, the problem created in question two arises because of the problem created by question one. And the problem in question one occurs because we are searching for our identity in the wrong thing.
In this instance, I was talking with two volunteer firefighters. Firefighting is a calling that can easily consume your identity. It makes you feel needed and important. It gives you the opportunity to serve and care for others. It provides an adrenaline rush coupled with a camaraderie or brotherhood that is hard to explain to those who’ve never done it.
But I have never been a firefighter, and I too fell prey to the same problems.
After nine years of marriage, I reached a point where I no longer knew who my husband was. I was so addicted to my job I worked 60+ hours a week and got paid a salary for 40 of them. I spent at least 2 nights a week in a hotel, and when I was home, my phone went off all the time. From March-October, I was gone nearly every Saturday teaching classes to first responders. I missed most of the first seven years of my daughter’s life chasing the “American Dream”, serving others, and neglecting my family.
As I pondered why both questions were asked on two separate days by two very different individuals, I realized a portion of the class focused on setting boundaries in our professional lives. Some personalities struggle more with boundaries than others.
If you know me, you know I don’t believe in coincidences. I know the reason God opened a door for me to teach those two classes was because He knew my path needed to cross with those individuals.
Had I been invited to teach that class in the summer of 2021, my answer to their questions would’ve been very different. I would have empathized with them and encouraged them to make more time for their family, all while not heeding my own advice.
But in 2022 something changed. After spending the prior fall learning how to put God first, family second, and everything else third in my life through the ReEngage class at Trinity Baptist Church, I made the decision to get baptized that January.
Galatians 2:20 (NIV) reads, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
As part of my journey to deciding to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior, I had to identify all of the idols I had in my life. I also had to identify the root cause of most of my sin.
Proverbs 16:18 (NIV) reads, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
I took great pride in my job. I took great pride in being able to solve problems for people. I loved that I would work all day, then take recruiting calls at 9 p.m., answer the phone at 2 a.m. to help someone through a tough moment, and meet for exit interviews at 5 a.m. in an attempt to get people to stay. I enjoyed taking on new responsibilities and teaching classes when asked to teach them.
I was the quintessential “people pleaser”.
Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV) reminds us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
About six months after being baptized, my work world crumbled. The title I had worked so hard for changed. The role I had defined myself by was taken away. The project I had dedicated about six months of my life to was shelved. I didn’t see at the time how God was making more time for me to be with family. My pride got in the way.
I was devastated because I felt I had lost my identity. The reality was, I was just starting to find it.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) reads, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
My new identity was in Christ.
Matthew 7:24, 26 (NIV) reads, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”
I had spent the first 40 years of my life building everything upon sand. The problem with sand is it crumbles.
But God doesn’t crumble.
At the end of the conversation, one of the firefighters said to me, “But if I leave all of the roles I am involved in, I won’t be anyone in the community.”
First, I told him not to give up every role. I encouraged him to remain a volunteer firefighter (but on one department, not two).
Second, I told him that while the community and department need him, his family needs him more. One day he will hang up his gear for the last time, but he will never hang up his title as husband and dad.
Third, I told him that if he puts God first, family second, and everything else third, life will fall into place more than he can imagine.
Finally, I answered his concern, “When you change your identity, you will be a child of God, and there is no greater community or title you’ll ever have than that.”
While both firefighters believed in God, both recognized their identity crisis had caused problems in their personal lives. They asked me how long it would take to fix it.
The answer to that question varies by person. It only takes a minute to decide to put God first, family second, and everything else third.
For me, it’s been 22 months since I made the decision to put God first. It’s been 14 months since I walked away from the title that defined me. And if I am honest, it’s been two months since I truly accepted my calling wasn’t that position. That has come as I have grown in a deeper understanding of who Christ is and what it means to be Christlike.
If your identity is anything other than being a child of God, and you’re struggling with how to fix the things broken around you because of that, breakfast or lunch is on me! Let’s talk!