Freedom from regret: How ordinary work and faithfulness bring God glory

Written by Elizabeth Lyvers
Published on March 25, 2022

Although the decision to push pause on my career took place in the past, every day feels like a crossroads—a choice I must make anew every morning as little hands reach for me, and I yawn against too little sleep. It’s a choice I encounter as I go through the rhythms of stirring oatmeal and slicing strawberries. It’s a choice I face when I chafe under loneliness and miss the challenges of my job.

Contentment, meaning, identity wrapped up in a question without answer. Is this where I’m supposed to be?  

The pursuit of happiness 

I remember being a high school student when my future was a list of occupations on a whiteboard—French teacher, journalist, history professor, pharmacist

And now, at nearly thirty, my pharmacy doctorate is a piece of paper in a drawer. I plan meals, order groceries, vacuum, wash clothes, write, and play in an unchanging cycle of necessity. I finish one week to start another that looks just like it. And I wonder, was this the right choice?  

But truthfully, the pursuit of personal happiness and self-fulfillment as supreme ends is a modern, first world luxury. 

Tomorrow in Kenya, thousands of women will awake while it is still night and trek miles to draw water from a stream. In India, thousands of girls will be so burdened by daily chores that they won’t see the inside of a classroom. These women may have the intelligence of Einstein, the writing powers of Hemingway, or the charisma of Betty White, but will never know life outside the ordinary rhythms of community and survival. 

The lives of these people, those who cobble together an existence out of very little and who will die without accolade or wealth, are no less meaningful than their American counterparts. 

That isn’t at all to say that we shouldn’t seek to improve living conditions or education or opportunities for others, but it should be a striking reminder that the sum of life is not a series of accomplishments.  

Our truest identity 

My identity isn’t found in whatever use of my time or abilities will earn me the most money or praise. I don’t live a rat race existence, crushed under the pressure to squeeze every ounce of talent in pursuit of what will make me the best, the happiest, the most important.  

My identity is inextricable from my status as a created being. I exist to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That is an unchanging truth, whether I’m a CEO or a subsistence farmer. 

Anything else—the opportunity to write books or earn oodles of money or defend a PhD—is a gift that doesn’t define me (See Ephesians 1:4).

For each of us, it’s far too simple to look backwards and feel like not only did we miss the boat, but the boat sped past us without stopping. We married the wrong person, majored in the wrong degree, failed to get the right job. 

The past becomes a winding road dotted with hundreds of tombstones—memorials to our mistakes, our traumas, our longings. When in reality, our Creator’s ultimate purposes for our lives are impervious to these disappointments (See Job 42:2).

What a relief that the meaning of my life isn’t tied to a degree I chose when I was eighteen years old. It can’t be thwarted by another person or an illness or disability. 

Often the hardest moments, the lost dreams, the exquisite failures, are what shape us most profoundly. They are memorials that should point us back to the ways Christ loved and sustained us through them, transforming us into wiser, gentler versions of ourselves. 

And it’s that truth, God’s sufficiency covering our insufficiency, that leads us into greater joy, peace, and freedom from regret. 

Faithful in the ordinary 

We can be so consumed by self-importance, convinced that nothing less than changing the world confers any value to our existence. We glance around at our peers and see only their successes and our shortcomings. 

But in the expanse of eternity, life is a breath. We are like grass, here today and gone tomorrow. What if you’re not called to light the world on fire but simply called to warm your neighbors? 

Maybe in order to do that, you’ve identified ways that you could more fully leverage your gifts to glorify God and serve others. You cherish dreams of going back and getting that degree. Finding a new job. Opening your own business. 

But for those of us who have become consumed by an American version of success, perhaps our purpose here and now is to pursue contentment, reconciliation in relationships, and joy in the ordinary. 

Regardless, you can be certain that your purpose in this very moment is to trust and to glorify God with your day’s work, whether securing a multi-million dollar contract, performing a sonata, picking up the kids from basketball practice, or making macaroni and cheese (See 1 Corinthians 10:31).

The beauty of faith

I recently received a copy of Every Moment Holy by Douglas Kaine McKelvey, a book of liturgy with the intent of reminding us to reflect on God’s truths in the midst of the most ordinary tasks. On the page before a liturgy for changing diapers is a prayer for fiction writers. The juxtaposition seems a perfect description of my life right now, of what I am next to what I wish to be.  

The ending of the diaper changing liturgy goes like this: 

“So take this unremarkable act of necessary service, O Christ, and in your economy let it be multiplied into that greater outworking of worship and of faith, a true investment in the incremental advance of your kingdom across generations. 

“Open my eyes that I might see this act for what it is from the fixed vantage of eternity, O Lord—how the changing of a diaper might sit upstream of the changing of a heart; how the changing of a heart might sit upstream of the changing of the world. Amen.”   

Being faithful in the ordinary may seem unremarkable, but it’s nevertheless a brushstroke in the painting of God’s greater story. His ways aren’t our ways. The painting in its whole truth may remain unfinished from our perspective, but therein lies the beauty of faith.  

And faith? That’s what offers freedom from regret.

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Elizabeth Lyvers

Bio: Elizabeth Lyvers grew up in the hills of West Virginia, molded by books, trees, and basketball. She recently published a novel called The Honest Lies and writes for her blog, Dear Life. She lives happily in Texas with her husband and baby son, writing during nap times. You can connect with her on Instagram @elizabethlyversauthor. 

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