Pursuing a Calling, Not a Profession.
When I was a kid, I think it was obvious that my parents knew I would be a cop. My parents recall me on the swing set in our back yard going as high as I could making siren sounds. In high school I joined the law enforcement explores and it seemed my path was destined to being a cop. One thing I remember was how dedicated I was to the profession and the path that I was on then. That was not a bad thing, but I also remember looking back and seeing now that I had my identity wrapped up in that profession.
It took years for me to actually reach my goals as I had to learn some hard lessons along the way. When one is called to such a profession as law enforcement, the line between what we do every day (our job) and how we define or perceive ourselves (our identity) can be easily blurred. While there is nothing wrong with identifying as a police officer, I’ve learned that my work cannot define who I am. It must be the other way around—who I am must dictate how I do my job.
I realize this may sound confusing, so let me explain what I mean. When I reflected on 30+ years leading up to me entering this profession, I realized how often my feelings about self were directly related to how successful I was. I was worried about what others thought and worked hard to make sure I was successful in their eyes. Pride snuck in and became my motivation. My identity was wrapped up in my job. As a result, I found criticism devastating. Sometimes I would become defensive, and at other times discouraged. It was all about the job, and I lost sight of my true identity.
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, our identity is in Him. Our self-worth does not have to be determined by our position, status, or occupation. Too many men I meet today are looking at their occupation, education, how much they make or status as a way to measure identity and success. They want prestige and recognition rather than doing any work and serving others along the way. God’s Word has a great deal to say about our identity in Christ.
...you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 2 Peter 2: 9-10
Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy. I Peter 2:10
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12
Recognizing and embracing these truths about our identity can have a tremendous impact on how we approach and accomplish our jobs along with the impact it has on the community at large. No job can give us what Jesus can. Our lives are shaped by what we experience along the way. We are being discipled by something as we go, either this world’s view or the biblical worldview. We are shifting and growing throughout our lives as we confront new challenges, obstacles, trials, and tackle different experiences. Jesus is about transforming us day by day to become more like Him.
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18
Don’t misunderstand me; our jobs are important. Being a police officer is a very rewarding profession, but there is no power in the profession to change your heart, no power to make you into the person God has called you to be. Only a relationship with Jesus Christ can do that. God does not want us to have an identity in worldly things. He has given us our identity through His Son Jesus.
When our identity is in Christ Jesus, when our identity is about being more like him, when our identity is about bringing glory to God, then everything else falls into place. Our jobs will take their rightful place–helping us to fulfill the purpose for which we are called. All of us are called to shine the light of Jesus wherever we are so that ultimately God is glorified (Matthew 5:16).
God’s Word coupled with prayer is one of the best ways I know to hang onto our identity in Christ. The Bible is full of instruction to guide us. Here are just a few examples.
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.Colossians 3:23-24
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them…Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:29, 31-32
There is a sign in my department hanging on the wall that says, “when you feel like quitting, remember why you are here.” It is a good sign and had me taking a moment to pause and think about why I’m a cop and inspired me to write this post. I have wondered how others who read that sign will answer that question? I realize that sometimes it is impossible to separate what we do each day (our job) from who we are (our identity). There is no doubt that our careers and our identity overlap, but our self-worth cannot rest in our occupations. As with life, there are good times and bad times when it comes to our occupation. However, one thing that never changes is who Jesus is and who He wants us to be. Hold onto His promises—who He says you are.
Your occupation is not your identity.