In the early years of our marriage, our two sons were born, so my first career was and will always be mothering. I also worked part time doing computer-related things and volunteering at church, living out “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” a bit frenetically.
When my second son started preschool, I decided it was time to put my university degree to use. For his first semester, I tried to write. Two of my poems and one chapter in a book called, What Shall I Read Next, were published and I earned a total of something like $300. It was too quiet, too lonely, and I didn’t have much to write about yet.
Around Christmas, my husband, Brad, and I went to see the movie, City Slickers, in a theater, rare for us. At one point, the Billy Crystal character asks the cowboy, Curly, “What’s the secret to life?”
Curly answers, with a gnarly finger in the air, “One thing.”
Billy asks what that is and Curly says, “You’ve got to figure that out.”
This started me thinking about what my “one thing” might be. Over the next few days, I pondered all the settings where I had taught: Christian camp, Bible study, aerobics class, Sunday school lessons. On January 2 of that year, I sat up in bed and asked Brad, “What would you think if I went back to school to be a teacher?” He suggested I start right away. Two weeks later I attended my first class at the University of Texas. When we told my mother-in-law, she said, “You’d better finish as fast as you can, or Brad will be transferred and you’ll have to re-take courses.” I went full time that summer and the next fall, and did my student teaching in the spring, just in time for us to be transferred to England.
Our sons’s school in England had a policy against hiring parents as teachers, but they let me substitute. After I did a long-term substitution for a seventh grade Earth Science teacher, they hired me as a sixth grade Biology teacher, and I continued to teach for over twenty years, in American schools in England, The Netherlands, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
During the decades when teaching was my “one thing,” God multiplied my efforts. He gave me energy, creativity and joy; along with love for the subjects I taught and for my students. But now I seem to have come full circle, and I am in a season where I am asking God for wisdom and experimenting to see if writing might be my “one thing.”
Mothering, teaching or writing are ways I have filled my days, but there is a much deeper “one thing.” The Israeli King David poetically wrote, “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” No matter what career I pursue, I want companionship with God, and ever increasing understanding of who he is to be my soul’s “one thing.”
Application: Dear friend, one passage in the Christian Bible that I find helpful as I think about calling and purpose is this, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Weary friend, I long for you to feel confident, capable and joyful in the work, volunteering, or family service that you do. Even more, I long for living in daily relationship with God to be your soul’s “one thing.”
If you are in a season when you have the privilege of choosing how you occupy your days, ask yourself, What do you already do well? Which roles interest and excite you? What needs exist that you yearn to fulfill? What gifts do others recognize in you? What is your soul’s “one thing”?