Recently I attended a high school graduation and ran into friends I hadn’t seen in many years. I had to answer the dreaded question, “What are you doing these days?” at least fifteen times in the space of an hour. Each time I gave a slightly different answer.
“I’m a freelance writer.”
“I’m a private English tutor.”
“I’m doing Spanish translation work.”
“I’m caring for my grandmother.”
All of those things are true. But none of them would qualify as consistent, nine-to-five, full-time employment. The fact is that I haven’t had what most people would call a “real job” for the past two years.
In those moments of uncomfortable silence when I don’t have a ready response for people’s questions, I struggle with feelings of insecurity and worthlessness. I feel like I need to justify my life, proving my value by the things I produce, or by the dollar amounts on my paycheck.
We are a culture that categorizes individuals by their occupation. But when I met people in Asia, they would identify themselves not by their jobs, but by their connections to others. “I’m Jenny’s mother.” “I’m Teacher Wang’s grandson.” “I’m your landlord’s nephew.” Their occupations were not as important as their “guanxi,” or relationships.
My Heavenly Father tells me that my value lies not in what I do, but in whose I am. “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:15, NAS).
Ultimately, I am a daughter of the King. My identity lies in my relationship to Him. He says I am precious and loved (Isaiah 43:4), and that He has a wonderful future in store for me (Jeremiah 29:11). And He’s the only One I have to answer to.