by Tiffany C. Chaney
Like most of us these days, I can say that my career path hasn’t been a straight line. I’ve moved across state lines for work five times – twice even across the country!
Looking back at all these twists and turns in my professional journey, I can see now that God has been at work through them all. Here are a few of the lessons God has taught me along the way.
Don’t settle for the comfortable
Early in my career, I was invited to apply for an internship that would expose me to the inner workings of a large health system. It would be a big step in my field, but I was comfortable where I was.
I liked my work in a much smaller health system. I liked my co-workers and they liked me. My work was valued and the pay was good. I decided that I would rather not rock the boat; things were fine just the way they were. I was comfortable.
God, however, doesn’t have a problem rocking boats. God kept nudging me about that internship until I finally applied and was accepted. The experience led to a full scholarship for graduate school, a residency after graduate school, a job after residency, and relationships with people I still work with today. Thankfully, God did not let me settle for the comfortable.
Patience is a virtue
A few years later, I started looking around for the next step in my career path. Much to my delight, I was offered a position with a consulting firm – but there was a catch. They didn’t have a start date for me.
In the weeks since my first interview with the consulting firm, they had begun merging with another company. They knew they would need more consultants and wanted me to join them, but they didn’t know when they’d be able to bring in new staff.
So I waited. And waited. It felt like forever, but was probably more like a month. I tried to be patient and not worry about it. I prayed and I waited, and I finally gave up. Just when I had settled back into being content with the job I had, the consulting firm called me with a start date – and it was time to pack up and move again!
Don’t be afraid; only believe
“Do not fear, only believe.” This is what Jesus says to Jairus in Mark 5:36 just before he heals the man’s daughter. His words resonated with me in November 2005, soon after this was the appointed text. That was the day a former supervisor called me up out of the blue.
She wanted me to come to her new employer and start up a new department. I would create this new business development department from the ground up, including my own position.
Wow! What an exciting opportunity! But it would also mean another interstate move, this time to a city where I had never lived before. I was just starting to feel at home where I was. Was God really calling me to start all over again? Yes.
So I did. Every time I began to worry, I repeated the words of Jesus: “Fear not, only believe.” Believing settled the places in my spirit that fear tried to stir, every step of the way.
God’s plan is better than mine
The timing of my call to seminary wasn’t exactly convenient. From the day of my first visit to the first day of classes, I had 140 days to sell my house.
It was 2009 and the housing market hadn’t recovered from its swoon – a tough time to try to sell a house. Several people suggested I try renting it out rather than selling, but I had made up my mind I didn’t want to worry about a house from 1,100 miles away.
The start of classes drew nearer and nearer. In late June, I finally put my house on the rental market, and I found a good tenant less than a month before the semester opened.
Now, years later, I have moved back into that house because God has surprised me yet again – I’ve been called back to serve in the city I thought I’d left forever.
God had a plan all along and it was certainly different than mine!
Prayer in the midst of disappointment
In seminary, my finances made a tough choice necessary. I had to put off my internship. My classmates took their internships in the third year of the program, but I decided to finish my coursework and defer my internship until after graduating. To deal with my disappointment, I prayed. I prayed for the people God would call me to serve at the appointed time. For a year, I prayed every day for unknown people in an unknown place.
Finally, I ended up doing my internship in Dorchester, Mass., where I developed a mission congregation called The Intersection.
One Sunday during worship, I realized that these were the people and the place that I had been praying for, well before I knew who and where they were. There is something holy about praying for the people God is calling you to serve without yet knowing who and where they are. Those prayers for the people of Dorchester, a place I had not yet heard of, sustained me in my disappointment and brought me great joy when I saw them fulfilled.
Interest or vision
The most recent turn in my career path has been the toughest, for a variety of reasons. One reason is that I had two great opportunities in two different parts of the country. I felt that either would be a fulfilling next step in my journey. How to choose?
I prayed, I talked with colleagues and friends, I made lists, I made sub-lists of those lists. While I found both opportunities interesting, ultimately, it came down to this: God had given me a clear and compelling vision for one of the opportunities and I needed to explore it.
It has been quite a journey since I started working professionally when I was eighteen years old, eighteen years ago. There have been ups and downs, wild twists and turns, many lessons learned. One thing remained true the entire journey – God is with me. Once I finally realized this truth, I stopped worrying so much about what happens next and started to open my eyes to see God at work in every little step of the way.
1. Which lesson resonates with you the most? How has your experience been similar or different?
2. What faith practices or scripture texts sustain you on your journey?
3. Who are the trusted friends, mentors and colleagues whom God has placed in your life to aid in your discernment? Call them and thank them for their role in your journey.
Creator God, you have infused into me spiritual gifts and inspired creativity. Help me trust you to lead me to the people and places where you want me to live out your mission in the world. Rock me out of my comfortable places, give me patience when my plans don’t come about, remind me to believe when I am fearful, help me to realize that your plan is the best one, sustain me when I am disappointed, and fill me with vision that I cannot help but to pursue! Amen.
The Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney is pastor and mission developer of Gathered by Grace, a newly formed worshiping community in Montgomery, Ala.