This verse in Romans 12 has been something that growing up going to church I’ve heard numerous times. But I can say without any hesitation that now I know what that really means. For those not familiar with the verse here it is in the MSG version of the Bible courtesy of Bible Gateway:
Place Your Life Before God
12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
6-8 If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
Cliff notes version: “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
I’ve never really quite felt that verse as deeply as I do now. As I continue blogging you’ll learn more and more about me, but I’ll focus today on my work. My job is literally my biggest struggle right now. I work in an industry I never wanted to be in. With people who talk down to me every day. In an environment where people are crying in the bathroom or talking to me with tears in their eyes. Everyone looks beaten down. And I’m ashamed to be one of them at this point since I suppose you go through life feeling strong and when you look in the mirror one day, you realize you’re a big bloody mess.
In college during job fairs I knew this particular industry I ended up in was the last place I wanted to be. It’s competitive, it’s high-stress, it’s just not my bag whatsoever. I can specifically recall conversations with God where I was like “HA this is THE LAST thing I’d ever want to do” and yet here I am. In that place of “this is the last place I’d ever want to be”. So that in and of itself is a sacrifice. I feel like a wild horse bucking around while Jesus is trying to tame my wild heart and my will. I’ve been struggling though. And while I know that I am anchored in my relationship with Him I would be lying if I said I wasn’t totally defeated. I’ve been in this place of extremes in my job for almost 3 years. And it’s a hard pill to swallow when people tell you “you are lazy”, “you are a screw up”, “you aren’t doing enough”, “you aren’t worth a raise”, etc etc etc every day for 3 years. And that’s no lie. That’s the environment I walk slumped over into every day. So on one hand I know this isn’t forever, I know God’s plans for me are good, I know He cares for me, and yet my heart is raw. My heart fights with me and tells me I’m forgotten, I’m never getting out of here, and I am alone.
So I’m writing this in the wake of another nasty e-mail. From someone who hasn’t been carrying their weight, who I’ve had to do 4x’s my normal work for to cover the slack and yet I’m told (while Ccing all of my superiors) that I am not being careful enough in my work. And though I know this is not true these voices and emails are who you deal with every single day. It does not end. It does not ease. It’s non-stop for 3 years.
It has reached a crappy crescendo I would say since the summer. I’ve hit rock bottom. And I feel like since I’ve hit rock bottom–I’ve chased after God more. Worshiped harder, prayed longer, been more vulnerable with people, etc and yet it’s like the rock bottom gave out to an even lower bottom. And yet there is still a small part of me that knows it is not the end. This is not how my story will end. But say that to the girl who literally had a total emotional breakdown two nights ago and couldn’t fall asleep because she was crying over the weight of work, of feeling beaten down, of being poorly treated, of feeling like life is passing her by and nothing is bending. No interviews are ending in a new job, recruiters are telling you that you are being abused at work because of your low salary for your position, etc etc. It makes you feel hopeless. My dream as sad as it sounds is to just be fired. To just have this all end and to get some relief and yet I know for some reason I am not being removed because there is a reason for me being here. Because it doesn’t make sense to look at it any other way. And you know what? It doesn’t usually make sense even in the Christian way.
I just know that God doesn’t want me to quit, he wants me to keep a smile on my face, he wants me to pray harder, and while everything around me falls apart. While I feel surrounded by anxiety from work, and rejection, and feelings of hopelessness–I know this is not where the story ends. In the meantime I might not understand, but I know for whatever reason this is where I have been placed.