I Finally Overcame My Self-Imposed Limitations

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Tim Miller 2009 11 24 Australia Zoo 217 square

“I will never work at a large law firm,” I announced to my boss during a college internship. “I’m going to do something meaningful with my law degree.”

She smiled approvingly. As a public servant, she wore her five-figure income as a badge of honor.

“You’re a lot like me when I was your age,” she replied. “I got into law because I wanted to help people, not to make a quick buck.”

But then student loans and frozen dinners set in. When on-campus interviewing came around, and I had the grades to make the cut, I revisited my self-imposed ultimatum. It can’t hurt to show up to a few interviews. Besides, it’s not for life. I’ll pay off my student loans, get the experience, and then figure out something important to do with my law degree. Something that will please God and make a real difference!

So I jumped in with both feet, promising myself I would last no more than five years. Then something unexpected happened.

I actually liked it.

The work was challenging and fast-paced, and I soaked up every opportunity. Yet many days, I still felt unsettled. Best case scenario, I was in a holding pattern. Worst case, I had missed God’s will altogether.

The voice of doubt kept telling me I was in the wrong job, that my work was too worldly, that I was wasting my time. You’re not doing anything of eternal value.This can’t be what God had in mind when he sent you to law school. Billable hours are fungible.You’re just putting your time in until you get a meaningful assignment.

Five years quickly became ten years. After I made partner, I shared my frustrations with a trusted colleague I’ll call Joe. “I won’t be here in five years,” I told him.

“I don’t believe you,” he replied.

“No, I’m serious,” I insisted. “I never intended to be at a big firm even this long.”

As a working mother of young children, the tension mounted inside of me. I felt spiritually isolated and disconnected from my faith community. I looked longingly at the women around me who seemed to have endless hours with their children, and I further doubted that there was any real “value” in my daily work.

Joe listened with interest. As an Ivy League graduate and self- proclaimed agnostic, he was used to my “God talk” and even sympathized with my desire for greater purpose in my work. Yet he didn’t understand why it had to be “either/or.” Did I really have to quit my job to make God happy?

I had never really asked the question. Instead, I jumped to the conclusion. A conclusion that was about my circumstances, my beliefs, and my limitations. A conclusion that closed my mind to the idea that God was in my work right here and right now. Sure, I had prayed to God that he would use me, but in my mind I had already decided it would be somewhere else, and that I would just have to wait while God prepared me for the next assignment.

One day, as Joe and I walked to lunch, we passed the local street preacher. In typical style, he offered us a pamphlet and shouted “Repent!” at the top of his lungs. Joe turned to me and said, “Ok, let me get this straight. So one day, I’m going to come into work and you won’t be there. Instead, you’re going to be out here, winning souls for Jesus? Preaching in the middle of the street?”

We both had a good laugh. He wasn’t buying it. And he was right.

Post by Susan DiMickele. Susan DiMickele is a lawyer who writes about her struggles to live out an authentic Christian faith in a complex and fast-paced world. She is the author of Working Women of the Bible: Timeless Mentors for Modern Women and Chasing Superwoman: A Working Mom’s Adventures in Life and Faith. Susan lives in constant need of grace, caffeine, and technology -- usually in that order.

Image by Tim Miller. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.

Coming to Terms With Our Limitations

This article is part of a series at The High Calling on Coming to Terms with Our Limitations. Not a super-fun topic, I suppose, but certainly a reality that all of us must face sooner or later in our lives: the lack of living up to our dreams; the struggle to accept our not-so-glamorous circumstances; redefining of our perception of success. Are you dealing with this in your professional life? Do you know someone who is frustrated and could use a reassuring Christian perspective? Why not share some encouragement with those folks by sending these articles around via email or social media?