What I Do: My Vocation & My Shame

Post Grad Duck #13

“So, what do you do?”

For just about all of my life, this question wasn’t the least bit scary. It didn’t hold any form of shame and I never felt the need to cleverly word my answer. It either wasn’t applicable because of my age, or I would just say “I’m still in college…” But now that I’ve graduated, that question isn’t so easy to answer.
If you’ve read my blog before, or if you know me at all, you know that I identify as a Christian and that I currently work for a campus ministry called Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) as an intern.  I’m proud of both of those titles; however, I have come to find out that it is way easier to talk about those titles in certain, particular social circles.

Yesterday, I went to a Halloween party with my roommates. The vast majority of those in attendance were in the science field. More specifically, most of the people I spoke to were grad students in the Entomology department at Penn State. For the slim few that did not study bugs, but still did work in the science field, I can imagine that it was easier to find common ground among the entomologist. As an English major, the only way that I could try to relate to the scientists around me was by hopefully understanding the words they used, and in return being able to engage in conversation based upon context clues, even if the subject matter was a little gray. As a Christian, I didn’t try to relate. What I mean by that is this: I didn’t introduce myself “Jayna, roommate of one of your lab mates, person who believes in the one true God and who is also judging all of you here.” (Because let’s be honest, unfortunately when people hear the word “Christian,” they too often use “judgmental” as a synonym). The older I get, the more I realize how much of a turn off it is to obnoxiously display your beliefs to people you’ve just met, regardless of what it is that you believe. Additionally, the older I get, the more I realize that it is important to know exactly what you believe and to not hide it.

This morning at church, we read from Romans chapter 1. If you, too, identify as a Christian, then you’re probably familiar with verse 16, which reads, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” For I am not ashamed of the gospel…
I’ve always been attracted to this verse. It’s empowering. How beautiful to stand up for what you believe in, but to do so with such a boldness that causes people to rethink their own situation. Not in a way that is oppressive or obnoxious, but rather one rooted in a passion and zeal that is admirable.
Because of the environment in which I grew up, this verse was really easy to own. In many ways, no one was ashamed of the gospel because no one had to be. Now that I think about it, we (or at least I) didn’t know how to be ashamed. A good friend would always say, “You see, Jayna, being a Christian is the cool thing to be here. No one makes fun of you for reading your Bible or praying.” He was right. Those of us that grew up in Christian homes and attended a private Christian school didn’t really have a concept of what “uncool Christianity” looked or felt like.

I have grown out of my christian home, graduated from my Christian high school, gone through my college campus ministry (now working for it on another college campus), yet find myself stopping in my tracts when people ask me what it is exactly that I do vocationally. After all, as a young adult, that seems to be what defines you. Last night, as I was asked what it was that I did, I was scrambling to come up with an answer. Should I fib a bit and just say I work with students on campus? It’s not really lying, I’m just leaving out the details. What if people ask me what organization I work for? Do I just say RUF and hope they don’t ask for what it stands for? I don’t want to turn them away by explaining to them that my job is to hang out with college freshman, love them, and share the gospel with them. What if the people I’m talking to aren’t believers?

Entomologist: So, what do you do? Are you a student at Penn Sate?
Me: No, actually. I work for a campus ministry at Penn State.
Entomologist: Oh, really? That’s cool!

There was no uproar. No riots. No pitchforks. Each time that question was asked, I gave the same answer. Some people allowed me to go into more detail of what it is that I do, and others didn’t. I’d like to say that it got easier as the night went on, but in reality it didn’t. It’s not easy to be the person at a party full of scientists that works in ministry. Were the people rude or judgmental? No, quite the opposite, actually. But there is still a stigma surrounding the importance of a person’s job. We want to do things that matter. We want to do things that other people will recognize as worthy. It’s funny though, my job goes against that stigma. In fact, what I do relies entirely upon what Jesus does and what He thinks of me. And He is pleased.

That is why I can claim Romans 1:16. I don’t have to be ashamed of the gospel, or a position where my job is to share the gospel, because any from of shame or unworthiness or lowliness was destroyed on the cross. Jesus didn’t promise that the Christian life was going to be easy, but He did promise that we wouldn’t have to walk it alone. He is a personal God that loves to interact with His children.
In my interview to work for RUF, I said that I was a big people pleaser. It’s a struggle of mine that I want to overcome, and I knew that this job would help me do that. It’s true. I can’t afford to worry about what people think of me and what I do. If that’s the case, I won’t ever really be able to do my job. In order to do my job I have to bank 100% on the gospel. There is no 50/50 deal here. Because I can’t do this work alone, my only option is to rely entirely on the Truth that paved a way for me to have any form of work to do in the first place.

So, what do I do? My answer? Unashamedly, I work for a campus ministry called Reformed University Fellowship. I’m an intern on Penn State’s campus and my job is to meet with freshman, befriend them, and encourage them in the Gospel.

[Thank You, Jesus]
❤ Amen

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