Identity Crisis: Part 5 – “So, What Do You Do?” Answering That Nagging Question

open book of family story
We acquire degrees, status, houses, cars, and fat retirement funds. But it is best to invest in the Kingdom of God and lay up treasures in heaven.

“So, what do you DO?” We’ve all been asked that question, and it can be a nuisance. Why does the world define us by what we DO?  Obviously, because the world values status, prestige and accomplishment. And money. But what happens when Christians confront each other with this question? Our answer should be ‘I want to glorify God in whatever I do.’ Why are we compelled to go into a verbal resume instead?

Being complementarian, I am thrilled that I’ve been loosed from the bondage of paid employment and that daily grind. God blessed me with a new husband and provider. I love domesticity. I’m free from office politics, corporate guidelines, career casual fashion, and everything else that goes with that robotic, please-the-man mode of work/career. I no longer have to climb the ladder to nowhere.

In the Beginning There Was…Work

In the garden, God-ordained work was pleasurable. After the fall, work became drudgery that continues to this day. We read in Genesis 3:

17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread…

Biblically speaking, work is something you do to earn your keep, to put bread on the table. Work for pay is part of the curse. And yet employment is a great blessing and we know God hates sloth and idleness. A wonderful study about work can be found here: Work – Blessing or Curse?

Sadly, our professions have become a source of pride. I am a distinguished scientist and I work for Big Engineer Company. I am an esteemed professor at Big Bucks University. Yes, all good things come from God. And He gives us gifts and talents. So the career, job, whatever you call it is good. But all should be done as unto Him for His glory. Colossians 3: 23,24 says:

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

And Ephesians 6:

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

Then comes the nagging question, “So, what do you do?” and we are tempted to embellish with important titles and job descriptions, or we feel like the world’s greatest underachiever. We are tempted to be men-pleasers.

Women and Work

We’ve studied complementarianism vs. egalitarianism. Bear in mind, being complementarian doesn’t mean a woman should never have paid employment. I do believe that women who are blessed with marriage and children need to heed their primary calling. Serving husband and children comes first. Outside employment interferes with that. Doing it all and having it all are feminazi lies. Because of those lies, even Christian women today wrestle with careers vs. being a stay-at-home mom.

Stay-at-home mom and other annoying titles…

There were days when it was okay to be called just mom. Now we have to prefix it with stay-at-home. Does this mean she is house-bound?

I was a stay-at-home mom (ugh) in a suburban ghost town (all other moms worked) in the 1980s. Living in Long Island, NY at that time, I was certainly an oddball in a community of have-it-all neatly manicured lawns. We drove rusted relics and mowed weeds, but our priorities were different than other neighborhood couples. It was a very lonely life, but I cherished those years. Toward the end of the 1990s, my circumstances changed and I was foisted into the work world, albeit only part-time. With the new millennium came singleness which necessitated my return to college and full-time employment. I’m thankful the Lord enabled me and sustained me during those years, but they were nothing to write a resume about!

I’ve noticed some young Christian women are embarrassed by being a stay-at-home mom. They incorporate different apologies for it in their blogs – like ‘ registered nurse now nursing mom’ or ‘teacher turned homeschooler’, which is fine. But that is saying, in effect, I must prove my worth, my identity, because being a mother in and of itself is just not enough! Nonsense! Or it could be a result of pride — I am qualified for blah blah, I have credentials in pooh pooh, but now I just take care of poo poo. Does anyone else see this trend? I hate it. They are answering that nagging question, “so, what do you do?”

Another phrase I hate is ‘work outside the home’ as if you have to remind everyone that yes, you are working in the home. Feminism has denigrated the woman’s biblical calling as helper to the man, nurturer of children and homemaker. Even titles like ‘Domestic Engineer’ and ‘Manager at Jones Household’ are attempts at more respectability. We shouldn’t care what the world thinks. Bring glory to God as a mom, homemaker, wife. Yes, that’s what you do.

Men and Work

I could be wrong, but I tend to think men identify with their work more than working women do.  When men lose their jobs through lay-offs or other circumstances, the devastation is deep. Understandably, it’s because they have (hopefully!) that biblical Provider instinct.

If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8)

But also, it’s because of this question,”What do you DO?”

I am currently unemployed. Now I do nothing. I’m an embarrassment.

They’ve lost more than their job – they’ve lost their identity, because they have mistakenly attached their identity to WHAT THEY DO. We’ll talk more about men identifying with careers in another post. (My last two posts exceeded the word limit of our attention-deficit-disordered society!)

Our God-ordained roles as men and women are constant. We have different stages of life: sometimes we are working and sometimes not. So the answer to that nagging question is ever-changing, hardly relevant and always annoying on the receiving end. It’s a question that tempts us to sin as we pridefully rattle off job titles. It is really asking, “How important are you? How brilliant? How much money do you make? Are you upper, middle or lower class?” If we want to get to know someone or start a conversation, ask something else, please. Ask anything but “So, what do you do?”

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One thought on “Identity Crisis: Part 5 – “So, What Do You Do?” Answering That Nagging Question

  1. Hi Angela,
    Love your insights and so much identify with most of what you’ve posted here. The only thing I would contend with is quite minor and obvious; we cannot know anothers motives for certain, we can only continually examine our own. When I try to get to know someone, I get a lot of information about them by asking the obvious question, and usually I can better relate to the person regardless of whether the person says she’s a housewife or a teacher or whatever. In other words, it’s an easy jumping off point. Gotta go and fix MY honey his dinner.

    Liked by 1 person

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