First Monday of Advent: Desk Job
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
—1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (Read 1 Corinthians 13)
I spent my twenties convincing young people that you could have a holy calling to any vocation, but just before I turned 30, I lost my job—and everything turned upside down.
In the summer of 2012, I was a newlywed. My husband and I were two weeks from closing on our first home when I found out that the university where I worked as a campus minister was restructuring my department. My position wasn’t being renewed. The timing meant that it would be nearly impossible to find a new position before the school year began, and there would be no opportunity for an in-person farewell to students.
Heartbroken, I closed my second Facebook page—my ministry one—with an electronic goodbye, and I signed up with a temp agency.
Suddenly, my life was desk work. I held five different temp jobs full of mundane, important, and depressing desk work in the course of 15 months.
I did disease surveillance for the health department, working in a locked room with locked cabinets. The files contained such sensitive information that even maintenance couldn’t enter—the trash had to be left outside the door. I worked for a few other state agencies, clearing backlogs, cataloging letters from incarcerated persons, and triaging calls for the state’s alcohol and drug hotline at the beginning of the opioid crisis.
I did the kind of work that needs to be done but that nobody wants to do. I did it well.
And sometimes I escaped to the office bathrooms to cry—my reality felt so far away from what I expected of my own life.
It took me more than a year to find full-time employment, but when I did, some things fell into place. It was a Good Government Job. I got a promotion. My husband and I started a family.
I have that job to this day. Still, I sometimes find myself not only longing to return to ministry, but wondering if my time with students made a difference at all.
But God is faithful.
One summer day, I took my infant daughter with me on a grocery run. A stranger in the store seemed to be trying to catch my eye, and I imagined her to be mustering up the courage to tell me that my daughter was cute—a frequent but welcome inconvenience during shopping trips. The woman eventually approached and asked if I had ever worked in campus ministry. I said that I had, still not recognizing her face. Undeterred, she called me by name and thanked me.
As it turned out, I had discipled her in 2008. Time and pregnancy brain had taken her face from my mind. She told me that she still had a book that I gave her back then. She also told me that, during one of our last meetings, I had given her encouraging advice about a guy she had recently met. She married him! Enthusiastically, she thanked me again, remarked that my daughter was cute, and hugged me goodbye.
It was a holy moment.
In it, God poured oil over my still-healing wounds, and reminded me that even when I see dimly, even when I know incompletely, there is One who is making all things beautiful in His time.
Khadija Adams is a Management Analyst with the Ohio Department of Public Safety, and a blogger and co-leader of Black Lactation Circle (BLaC) Central Ohio, a 475-member support group for pregnant and nursing women. Khadija and her husband, Landon, are CCO Associates, reaching out to college students in Columbus, Ohio.