I had my first encounter with the person of Jesus Christ when I was 18. I attended a Steubenville Youth Conference at Franciscan University, and my life was changed forever. Though I was raised Catholic, I had never known the love of Jesus in a personal way like I did when I encountered Christ in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After that, my life was set on a new trajectory.
My plan prior to this youth conference was to be a music teacher. But after my encounter with Christ, all I hungered for was to nurture this new relationship with Christ that had begun. I wanted to do Bible studies, go to Mass, and deepen my prayer life. By the end of college, I realized I was far more passionate about Christ than I was about teaching music. And so I began a career in Jesus. I could not and still cannot picture a life or career that Jesus was not central to.
My story is not unique. There are tens of thousands of young adults all over the world with stories like mine. We have our own plans, then Jesus comes into the picture, and He becomes the focus of the picture. And we are filled with the evangelical gifts of the Holy Spirit and desire to spread the goodness of Christ to others, letting them know how beautiful and full a life with Jesus is. We abandon old plans and follow. And that’s a good thing. But a career in Jesus comes with its own set of complications.
When Jesus is your job, you run the risk of reducing Jesus to a job, not God. Not a perfect, divine savior. Just like every job can become mundane, so can a Jesus job.
After college, I taught theology for four years at an all-girls Catholic high school. And I loved every moment of it. The joy of my life was sharing the good news of Christ with these girls. But high school teachers know the reality of burn out, of being overworked and underpaid. I worked in a school building that had a beautiful chapel, available for anyone at any moment they wanted to stop in and pray. At the beginning of every school year I would have aspirations to make a daily 5-minute stop in the chapel for some quiet time. But as the weight of grading, planning, and retreat directing started to get heavier and heavier, I was lucky if I sat down in the chapel by myself for five minutes once a month.
After teaching, I was an administrator at a parish for almost two years. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed every Tuesday, all day, in Church, but I wouldn’t stay for more than five minutes or so because things had to get done at the office, and I wasn’t getting paid to go to Adoration.
I’ve also been a cantor for almost 15 years. I often get paid to do so, be it for Sunday Mass, a wedding, or a funeral. So, Mass becomes a job. I often am preoccupied running over an upcoming song in my head rather than paying attention to what’s happening during the Mass.
So, what do you do when Jesus is your job? How do you keep your relationship with Jesus alive and fulsome when you spend 40 hours a week teaching and talking about Him? It’s become clear to me after seven years in ministry that my own well needs to be full before I can pour into others. However, I can’t draw from the same well I’m pouring into. It is so incredibly difficult — for me, near impossible — to savor the fruits of God’s goodness when I am the one running or organizing whatever the “thing” is. Sometimes, instead of caring for everyone else, we need to be taken care of. We need to revel in the hard work that someone other than us has done. It’s why people go out to eat or why we go to bakeries: food is so much better when someone else makes it. We need to experience the joy of just showing up to something without knowing how the sausage got made.
Some examples of this in action that have worked for me:
- Spend at least 15 minutes of quiet time every single morning with Jesus. Have no agenda. Don’t bring your Bible or your journal. Just sit in a designated spot in your home (not your office, not your work space) and imagine Jesus sitting next to you. I like to imagine Jesus and I sitting in rocking chairs, at the beach, looking out at the ocean. Speak or don’t speak. Just be.
- Go to daily Mass, but not at the Church you work at. Daily Mass is a way to start your day in the best way possible: by receiving the Eucharist. I go to 6:30 AM daily Mass at my parish before I start work, and it is a “come as you are” environment, especially that early in the day. I don’t have to worry about dressing a certain way to impress anyone, or having my makeup done. This way, Mass does not become my job.
- Join a parish, but not the parish you work at. While I was working as a parish administrator, my husband and I were in our own parish twenty minutes away. The parishioners I met and visited were always somewhat surprised that I traveled twenty minutes to work at their Church instead of my own, but this allowed me to produce and plan for them, while reveling in just being a parishioner at my own church. This created a healthy work/life boundary for me. If I was a parishioner at the parish I was working in, the lines of work and life would have become very blurred. Strict work/life boundaries are extremely important for a healthy personal and spiritual life.
- Join a Bible study or small group, but not one that you’ve organized or planned. Community is essential to a thriving spiritual life, but there is a lack of excitement and attentiveness when you’re the one who’s been planning, advertising, and organizing a small group.
- Find Catholic friends to whom you can relate, but not just your coworkers. Work friends are the best! I love making friends at work, and I’ve retained many friends from past jobs. But it’s healthy to have friendships outside of work, ones that have a basis in something other than your job.
- Get a spiritual director, but not your boss. Your boss is paying you to be an employee. There is an underlying understanding that your boss should not know the details of your personal life. In fact, many priests will ask their employees to not go to them for Confession, unless truly necessary, because this blurs the lines of appropriate professional work relationships.
I love that Jesus is my job. But I’ve also learned that I need to leave my job at work. Keeping work and life separate is important to a healthy and thriving home life. This becomes harder when Jesus is your job. But He is good, and He wants me to have a healthy, happy life.