Like a lot of Christian men, I struggle with balancing the need to provide financially for my family, the need to be Dad, and the need to be a husband. I recently had to shine a bright spotlight on this issue because my boss asked me to consider moving into a marketing position.
As some background, I am by education an engineer and more recently I've been a consultant on the design of web applications. I have for several years played a role which was about 70% "do the work" and about 30% technical leadership. My marketing efforts have primarily been in the area of helping deliver great results so that our clients keep giving us repeat business. My marketing has been more of an "assist" role to the "real" marketing types. I've had a leadership role, but my employer really held others accountable for a true sales quota.
Then I get asked if I would like to take on a formal marketing role and take on my own "real quota." It doesn't necessarily mean I'll make more money but there is certainly the opportunity to make more money. I also expect that in the new marketing role there would be significantly more job-related stress. I'd be out of my comfort zone. My work hours would be more unpredictable. I would likely have to increase the amount of travel I do as well.
This is not the first time I've been asked. In the past, I thought about it and prayed about it and just never felt like volunteering to "jump into the frying pan" because I was pretty happy doing what I was doing.
For some reason, this time feels different. I recent years I had really come to believe that things happen in life for a reason. Then I had about three different events happen at work in the span of two days which all seemed to point towards accepting a move into marketing. For some unexplained reason this time my reaction was not "wait and see" but more along the lines of "I wonder if I supposed to say 'Yes' this time?"
I must admit I feel like I've been conditioned over the years to say "No". All the Christian men’s publications, Christian men’s organizations (eg. Promise Keepers, Men's Fraternity), and Christian radio shows seem to preach to men to avoid any opportunity that might sacrifice one extra hour a week of family time. The ideal job for a Christian man seems to be not a leadership position, requires no overtime or weekends, and allows you to get off by so you can help coach your child's sports team.
There was a time when I bought into this line of thinking 100%. Along the way, I started observing that life doesn't always work out along those nice neat lines.
I had a Christian friend who was in a family business that was being negatively affected by technology. The service his business provided was getting automated over the Internet. His business prospects were declining. His response? He and a partner opened a business that did not require his constant presence on site. It was basically a self-service business where he provided the expensive equipment but the customers provided the labor. He could literally make money while he was asleep.
There is one guy I know who worked for a privately owned business. After a few years, the owner was ready to retire and apparently did not have any children who wanted to take it over. The owner asked him if he wanted to buy the business from him.... and he did.
There is another guy I know who left a good job because he thought his management was starting to expect him to do things which were almost unethical. He went through a long period of unemployment and a sales position. Then God arranged for a new position. Again, the owner is ready to retire and my friend and another employee are trying to buy him out and take over the business.
I know another guy who was practically forced into starting his own business when his boss got into some legal trouble. Because of regulatory and insurance issues, the owner could not be in that type business any more.
I don't think any of these Christian men are lousy husbands or fathers just because they don't have the predictable work hours/be off at job. From my vantage point as an outsider, God has used these situations in their life to grow them spiritually. They've had to take a lot on faith. They've had to learn to live with no earthly guarantee. I guess now I’m wondering if now it is my appointed time to step out of my comfort zone and grow in some way God has planned for me. Granted, my risk is perhaps smaller than theirs as I’m still an employee vs. the owner but I think the spiritual dimension is much the same.
I wonder also about the potential impact of the career change. I try to tithe regularly so if I take the new job and am successful, would that be God's way of funding his ministry? Would it be a way to help pay for my kid's college? For my children to avoid student loan debt? For my wife to not have to work outside the home? Is there someone that I am supposed to meet in this new position and be an influence in their life as part of God's plan? Is there someone I am to meet who is supposed to influence me as part of God's plan?On the flip side, if I take this new job will there be new temptations to resist? On my death bed will I regret making the change? Will the stress shorten my lifespan?
God, I pray tonight for Your wisdom. Help me discern whether this opportunity is part of Your provision for me and my family.... or an opportunity to decline. I pray that if I am to accept, that You will enable me to be successful. Remove all barriers to me serving Your purpose even if I don’t understand what that purpose is right now. If this opportunity is not from You, I pray that You make that obvious and protect me from taking the wrong path. In either case, I pray for clarity. Help me know with certainty what You want me to do. Even more than that, use this time in my life to help me trust in You and Your provision. Grow me into the man You need me to be. I pray for Your blessing upon me and my family at this time of decision. Amen.
Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved