Staying Centered

“God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”

– Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

* * *

I am on job search site again at 5 in the morning, trying to find another job. Honestly, it’s been so hard to get up at 4 in the morning to go to work for an almost minimum pay. There’s got to be something better for me to do. Something more profitable. After all, my parents didn’t send me to university to make coffees for the rest of my life. Maybe I could teach Korean. I type “Korean” in the search field, and a few interesting posts pop up. They sound promising, and are sure to pay a lot more than what I am making. Plus, it’s located nearer to D.C. and my life will be so much more interesting. It will be like I am back in Seoul, living the high style of city life; bustling nights and crowded bar scenes, nice bookstores, and never running out of things to do. But do I really want all that?

There’s no glory here, but only simple, manual, and laborious tasks. I know it doesn’t take a genius to do what I do. I make coffee, and chat with the coffee shop patrons to make connections, and then hand off the drink and say good bye. All transactions last between 2-3 minutes, but sometimes, depending on the person I am talking to, it could feel like hours. Intimidating moments, awkward moments, and indifferent moments are the moments that make me wish I had a job in a small cubicle working alone on a computer. But then, there are moments when I am rewarded in a way that I have never imagined. I brighten up someone’s day, or someone brightens my day. With some, I become friends gradually, and it is a joy to see their faces every day. I almost feel like I have the best job in the world.

Just like any job, this simple barista position does come with a lot of ups and downs. Only, it doesn’t feel like it’s worth the effort when I focus on the money part. And some mornings, I wake up feeling rushed to find another job asap. I forget all the good benefits this job offers. I especially forget why I chose this path. The day I decided to pick up my pen, I knew I would be sacrificing everything else. I wanted to pour everything I had in order to become a writer. To hyper-focus on that task, I gave up every other chance. And I cannot blame life for not giving me any chances. It did. It was me who turned them down, very rudely, at times.

Remaining in the same place, doing the same old thing over and over again with no immediate result, or reward is not so easy. It’s a work of intense faith. Especially if you are drifting farther and father away from the world, it is so nerve-wracking. It does something very destructive to my nerves. I see morning commuters heading to their important full-time jobs in D.C. that pays the house, bills, nice cars and so much more. Some mornings, the spirit of comparison kicks in and I can get so critical of myself. My ego comes fully alive, and I try to analyze my current position. I try to chart out the better path to get to where they are, those morning commuters in nice dresses carrying fancy black handbags. Some mornings, I don’t want to put on my khaki pants and boring white shirts. I even envy the girls in animal print uniforms from the vet.

It was one of those days I was caught in the dark web of self-crificism, low self-worth, and self-loathing. With my particular OCD trait, I was unforgiving to myself and regretting the choices I have made very obsessively. I was starting to feel really overwhelmed by how far I have to climb up to be where everyone else seems to be: the land of 401K, paid vacations, frequent flyer miles, and health coverage. Just when I was about to despair again about my unknown future, I ran across a simple quote by the Blessed Teresa of Calcatta. “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”

It’s as simple as that. It is not to be successful that we are here but to be faithful. But in this success-driven world, it is so easy to lose focus. Buried in mortal pain, and ceaseless suffering and anxiety, we are struggling to succeed to run away from the sufferings of the flesh. But that’s not what Jesus did when He walked in this world in flesh. “in the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications”(Heb 5:7) to the Father, in which the word flesh is taken to indicate mortality, infirmity, and the ability to suffer,”(The Sign of the Cross, St. Francis De Sales)

And if I have to ability to suffer in flesh, and feel the pain I must bear, then I have so much to offer up, and so much to pray for. Suddenly pain and suffering have a whole new meaning, and everything makes sense all over again. I have been on the right path, after all. I am not lost to the world, and the world lost to me. Instead, the world lost God, and God is bringing back His lost flock. It is never to settle and find an eternal home in this dying world that we are here. We are here to find our way back to God, where we truly belong. We are here to be faithful in flesh and spirit that we may inherit His kingdom.

The moment I fixed my gaze back on God alone, a complete peace filled my soul. I was loving myself as a child of God again, and thankful for the choices that I have made.  They were the paths that many would have gladly followed. But I didn’t. Worldly success may be far from me because of the choices that I have made, but today, I am more faithful because I chose not to follow the world. I am still here serious lagging behind the world, but I am not lost to God, and God is not lost to me. I am in my center, exactly where I belong, and I will stay here keeping my watch until the final coming of the one I proudly call Christ.

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5 thoughts on “Staying Centered

  1. You wrestle wonderfully with deep questions of labor and vocation and sum it up beautifully with the quote, “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” In a world where we are tempted to seek “easy money,” it’s important to live simply and labor with love, no matter what path God lays out for us to follow.

  2. In a world that values material success and high salary, it is difficult to rationalize working at a barista or retail sales job. I have 2 jobs, one is a retail cashier at a discount store, and I really enjoy it–for all of the reasons that you mention. You could be describing my thoughts about my own job. People think I am crazy for “settling” for that, but in truth, it is just plain fun. You can serve God in any job–but I think a service job done with love gives more concrete opportunities for ministry and spiritual growth. It is a blessing, and not a failure of any sort. I think you have chosen the better path, and of course this also gives you time to write.

    1. Reading your reply gave me a lot of strength.. I know there are many christians who struggle with what I struggle with.. and just plain fun is so right!! I think jobs should be that way 🙂

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