Sink, Swim, or Float

God sent me a raft, but I didn’t lay on it. Instead, I stretched my arms across the middle, kept the rest of my body in the water, and started kicking. Because that’s what you do when someone sends a raft to save you, right? You hold on and start kicking because you’ve got to get yourself to shore.

Initially, kicking looked like responding to those queries in my inbox, setting up meetings, and turning proposals into contracts. I made a rudimentary spreadsheet showing the next twelve months and the amount of income I expected when. The reality of being the primary earner and an independent contractor set in. I needed a steady stream of projects and teaching contracts to pay the bills. 

Occasionally I pitched my business to a potential client, but most of the time new clients came to me. By God’s grace, the work kept coming.  But so did the stress and the doubt—like waves crashing into me one after the other. 

I constantly felt overcommitted. Clients didn’t pay me on time. Projects fell behind because of circumstances I couldn’t control. I felt like I couldn’t say “no” to some projects because I had no assurance that more would come. I signed contracts that undervalued my experience and expertise.  

I wasn’t content.

And I was lonely. 

I didn’t have colleagues to connect with regularly. When you work from home or teach online, you don’t have a break room or faculty lounge to find solidarity and support from coworkers. Most contracts don’t yield long-term, meaningful relationships with clients.  

Some Enneagram book or podcast said that Ones may struggle as independent contractors or entrepreneurs. We need the structure and routine a regular job provides. And I’m an extrovert: I need people. 

A regular paycheck would be nice, too. Yes, I know from experience that your employment status can change in an instant. But those twice-a-month deposits would relieve some stress. And maybe I wouldn’t have to pay so much in taxes and so much for insurance. Plus, an employer might contribute to my retirement fund and give me some money for professional development. A girl can dream.

I had been holding on to my raft and kicking. I was miserable. I didn’t want to be a consultant. I didn’t want to be a business owner. I was tired of being an adjunct professor. It was time to kick my raft all the way to shore.

We moved cross-country during the pandemic so that my husband could start his doctorate. Initially I planned to continue consulting and teaching to support our family, but I started scouring the job boards as soon as we got settled. 

I applied for a dreamy job at the university. I didn’t get an interview, and I still haven’t received the automated, “We determined you’re not a good fit for this position” email. Maybe it’s because I misspelled a word in my current job title. (Can I blame autocorrect?)

Then I applied for a job at Home Depot. The Home Depot. “Let’s build something together.” Specifically, “Let’s build some corporate training modules together.” I wonder what my spiritual director would have said about that one. First the faculty development for medical educators. Now instructional design for a big box store.

Well, actually I don’t wonder. Because she said something to me about my quest to find another job. I described all of the stress of owning a business and teaching, of being the primary earner, of managing our household and caring for our kids. I talked about all of my strategies for rest and self-care. And then she asked her question:

“What if you just did your job and stopped looking for other ones?”

This one didn’t take long to sink in.

I had been reading the Pentateuch for Bible study. God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt and led them the roundabout way to the Promised Land. And he stayed with them—among them—every step of the way. He provided water when they were thirsty, manna and quail when they were hungry. He was a cloud before them by day and a pillar of fire above them by night. 

He provided as he guided.

In some mysterious way, the Holy Spirit used those stories from the Scriptures and that question from my spiritual director to make me think about my raft a bit differently. Maybe God sent me a raft so that I could float on it for a while. Maybe I didn’t have to kick at all.

Maybe the raft was for rest. 

Maybe that’s what God had provided–a way to rest, a way to trust, a way to experience his goodness and guidance without my having to struggle to get from point A to point B.

Novel thought.

Yes, I still have to map out my projected income regularly. I have to budget my time well. I have to say “no” to some projects. I have to negotiate fair valuation for my work. I have to wait for accounts payable departments to issue checks. I still have to sit at my desk and tackle my “to do” list Monday through Friday.

I still experience loneliness in my work. 

But I’ve felt more at peace since I climbed aboard the raft—fully aboard this time.

He who commands the winds and the waves also commands the currents that carry us to and fro.