By Jennifer Maggio, Crosswalk.com
Like many teenagers, I entered my senior year of high school with a list of big plans to accomplish after graduation, not the least of which was to run as fast as I could from my small town, leaving it in the dust. I would get my degree, land a big-time job in an even bigger city, probably New York, and I would change the world with my loud, very passionate, never-wrong, voice. I would live in a Manhattan apartment and wear a business jacket and high heels to work every day as I stormed hurriedly down a busy street with a briefcase in tow. Somehow, things didn’t quite work out like I planned.
Although I graduated high school as valedictorian of my senior class with scholarships to attend colleges around the country, I was secretly pregnant, contemplating what my next moves would be as a young, single mother. That baby was born just a few months later, and after a brief stint of homelessness, I moved into government housing, procured some used furniture, and settled into a life I had assuredly not mapped out. I waitressed full-time during the day at a local pizza place and went to college at night, while juggling the demands of single parenthood, crying babies, and extreme emotional and physical exhaustion.
Eventually, I landed a job in Corporate America in sales. I quickly learned my company products, working diligently with customers to find a program that would work for them while attempting to maximize my commission earnings to put food on the table for my children. I began climbing the corporate ladder rapidly, earning multiple awards and promotions along the way while leaving food stamps and welfare as a distant memory. That job provided many learning opportunities in accounts payable & receivable, hiring & firing, goal setting and achievement, management, sales techniques, and the like. That job moved me from government housing into home ownership as a young single mom. That job is where I met my future husband. I thought, surely, I had found my calling in life and that I would one day retire from that corporate job. God had other plans.
Many years prior, as a young, single mom, who was barely treading water financially, emotionally, and spiritually, the Lord had given me a vision that I would one day serve other single mothers. I didn’t know how or why, but I felt certain that God could somehow use the mess I found myself in. To be honest, I forgot about that vision for many years. I worked hard in corporate America and attempted to outrun the pain of my past, eventually marrying, and not thinking much about the single parenting years.
I became pregnant with my third child in 2006, and my husband and I were elated. Admittedly, my prior two pregnancies were wrought with shame as I birthed two children outside of marriage, often lacking the financial and emotional resources I needed to parent them well. I was riddled with shame and often hid in my apartment alone during those years. Now, many years later, this was my first time to enjoy my pregnancy, all the little things, as my husband held my hand at sonograms, and we labored together in that birthing room. It was a dream come true and a true redemption story from all I had mourned in a prior season.
And the birth of that baby changed everything. I stayed home for several weeks post-partum and walked back onto the job I had once loved with tears in my eyes. I didn’t want to leave my newborn child. This was a new feeling for me. I had always been career-oriented and enjoyed the daily grind of goal achievement and long hours. But there was something about leaving that precious little one behind that tore my heart out daily. The job I once loved quickly became a place I hated. After many tears and much discussion with my husband, we made the very hard decision for me to leave. Financially, it made no sense, but I knew God was calling me to leave my job. I didn’t understand why at the time.
While some may have panicked about the financial ramifications of that decision, I was overjoyed. I was pushing my newborn around in a stroller in the neighborhood, rocking her to sleep for midday naps, enjoying her first smiles and crawls. All the things I had missed with my first two children, the Lord gave me with my last one. It was during this time of staying at home that I realized the reasons I had left my career.
The Lord was restoring all that had been lost. All the years of single parenting alone with no one to celebrate my babies’ milestones were hard. Birthing my two oldest children alone was hard. Changing endless diapers alone was hard. Going to work two days after birthing my second child because I couldn’t afford not to work was hard. Working two, sometimes three jobs, to make ends meet was hard. The hardest? Well, that was the day I pulled up at my babysitter’s house, and my first-born was walking across the yard to my car when he hadn’t been walking that morning when I dropped him off. I had missed my baby’s first steps! That was hard. And yet, here I was, 13 years later, enjoying those small milestones. The Lord had truly restored my broken heart.
However, there were other reasons I eventually left that corporate career. One was that my corporate job had become my idol. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it had unknowingly become my source. After all, it was the very job I had landed that allowed me to transition from food stamps into financial security. I had somehow misplaced my loyalty of God’s provision in my life with loyalty to the job that God provided to get me there. I was putting too much trust in my job and not enough in my Savior. My successes led to arrogance and pride and an unintentional thought that I had gotten myself to that level of success – not my God and others. I left that job because I needed it to leave me. It was shaping my character in a way that I wasn’t proud of.
Finally, I left my career behind because that career was meant merely for a season. God moves us into different seasons – all with purpose and intentionality. His ebb and flow are ones that only he could orchestrate. His thoughts are far above ours. His ways make little sense to our simple minds (Is. 55:8-9). But as always, he knew what he was doing. My time in corporate America was well-spent. I learned the skills I needed to step into my actual calling – to serve single mothers. I had no way of knowing that many years prior, when I huddled on a bathroom floor alone as a young single mom, God was teaching me much. I didn’t know that my eighty-hour work weeks in corporate America were teaching me discipline or that my skills were being refined to one day launch a national nonprofit that would serve well over one million single moms.
My time in a prior career wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, it was just what I needed for that season. I needed the financial provision the Lord brought through that company. I needed the skills to recruit, hire, and retain good employees. I needed to learn how to manage others, set goals, and effectively budget large sums of money. I made wonderful friendships where we shared many laughs as we pressed on towards the unachievable goals that corporate leadership set for us. We served many customers who needed our services. And all of it was good – for a season. However, when God moves us into a new season, and his guidance prompts a change of career, it is important that we step out in obedience to the new thing.
Do you know what I’ve learned in all these years of walking with the Lord? He is always doing a new thing. He is always teaching us something new, revealing a new mystery, sharpening a spiritual gift, refining character, opening a new door of ministry, or budding a new relationship ripe with promise. We must hold every assignment with loose, open hands, ready to freely let it go and pass the baton to others when God calls us into the new thing.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/fizkes
Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others.