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  • Writer's pictureJim Donaher

Well, This Will Be Different...

Starting a new career after 6 decades on planet earth.

I have been under- or unemployed for the past 30 months. Two and a half years without a place to go each morning, a place to leave each evening.

But I gotta say, my lawn has never looked better.

I am, if it hasn't been obvious before, a person of growing faith in God. I have used this window that He opened up for me to pray and to really think about who I am and what I am purposed for in this life.

In looking for work, I found that whenever I read a post for a job similar to those I've done in the past, it almost made me physically ill. Not that those jobs aren't good - they were. But like my high school basketball uniform, these jobs no longer fit me.

It has become clear to me that those jobs had their seasons and their purposes. When our kids were growing up, with all the expenses related to their activities, their education, and everything else, I needed to be in jobs that paid the bills and then some.

To a large degree, when I became bored, bitter, underappreciated, overburdened, and otherwise unhappy, I did what my father did when I was a kid. I sucked it up. The purpose of my work during those years was not my joy and fulfillment. It would have been nice, but that wasn't the point.

Still, I found opportunities to help other people at times. Hiring people, managing their training, growth, and development was rewarding and it helped me justify the rest of it which, in time, became just awful.

In unplugging me from my last corporate gig, the Lord has placed me on the bench so I could think about how and where I might play when I got back in the game. For a long time, I had no answers. I wrote a book, which was published earlier this year, and I started two others, one of which will publish early next year, I think.

Then I got a note from a dear friend, who has known me for over 40 years. She said that I kept coming to mind and her idea for my next job is the one I pursued: I've accepted a job as an instructional aide, working with kids with learning difficulties to get their work done, to learn, to grow and to reach their potential.

I'm the fish. Out of water, get it?

I'll be working in a middle school with kids in 6th and 7th grades, an age that I've written about before. To me, it may be the most challenging phase of anyone's life. So much is changing physically, emotionally, socially, educationally, and it all comes to the fore at once. You're no longer a 'child' but you are certainly not a grown-up.

I was blessed with several important influences who came into my life during those years, making what I now see as a crucial difference in who I was and who I could and would become. I have written about some of them in a book I am considering publishing with the working title, 'Profiles in How to Be' These people knew how to be when they had to be, many of them working for decades and influencing and encouraging thousands of lives.

But as I wrote these profiles, I began to realize that I had learned many of the things that made them so good at their jobs. And how they influenced my life. I realized that some of these skills had rubbed off on me. I had actually managed to emulate some of the best things about them.

The point I want to make is this: There are times in our lives when the Lord takes us out of the game. His purpose in doing this is to help us change course, either when our work is done in a particular phase or when we are not on the track that He wants us to follow.

He'll also take us out when we open ourselves up to His plan. Sometimes He needs to tweak some things in order to prepare.

This is what happened to me. I had preconceived attitudes, expectations, and limitations that kept me from seriously considering a change as different as this one. In fact, my first thought - my reflex attitude - was to consider the idea crazy.

But then I remembered all the work the Lord had done preparing me. Focusing on serving others, using the gifts He gave me to have an impact, to go where I am needed. And this became more and more plausible.

When I applied in the 8 towns that had openings, I got interviews with three, meaning I have had two more interviews in the past month than I had in the previous 15 years.

In doing this, I surrendered - for now at least - the business career which I had followed for 38 years. I stopped expecting the salary I had in the past. I stopped expecting to 'be the boss.'

I am doing something I've never done before. And the stakes for this work are high. Kids futures are dependent on it. They need help. I have to succeed.

The good news is that I am not alone, and in fact, I am not even the main cog in the wheel. Jesus has led me to this new place. He has called me to do this work and He has someone on the other side who is depending on me to obey. So whatever success I have is because of Jesus, especially since I have no known talent, skill, or ability in this profession.

There are many examples in the Bible of people the Lord has called to serve Him. At some point in the conversation, the chosen starts a statement with, "But Lord, ..." This phrase is followed by one or several reasons why the Lords idea is crazy:

  • But Lord, I stutter (Moses)

  • But Lord, I am weak and my family isn't famous (Gideon)

  • But Lord, I am too young (Jeremiah)

  • But Lord, I am too old (Moses)

  • But Lord, I am a woman (Deborah) (Okay, she didn't make an excuse or hesitate. But she could have made this excuse. Back then, it seemed a valid one.)

There are more, but you get the idea. And I could honestly say, "But Lord, I am sixty, I am inexperienced, I have nothing to offer that suggests that I could do this! It's too important to send someone like me!"

He would tell me, "Then you'll be perfect."

Because whatever I do and however long I do it is up to Him. I will accumulate knowledge and experience, but right now, I'm an empty vessel. The only thing I have going for me are my faith and my obedience.

I realize now that, in the right place, those two factors are all I need.



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