My Work Identity - Projects Vs. People

I thought I was dying.  It happened suddenly - any food I put into my body didn’t stay there, didn’t digest.  My life was consumed with nausea and pain. 
My hypochondriac imagination worked overtime. Maybe I had cancer.  Maybe I had liver failure.  The possibilities seemed endless, and my doctor had decided to go on vacation.  

Yet, between medical tests and losing 15 pounds effortlessly in two months, I dragged myself to work every day, weak and emaciated, even if only for a few hours. While plodding through reports, I wondered -- What would happen to my projects if I couldn’t work anymore?  What would I be known for in my work? If I died, what would I be remembered for? 

This task-oriented person needed a reminder -- my work identity is not in my projects nor my task list.  My identity in Christ is ultimately manifested in my relationships.  So what would people say?

“She was so professional.”  I heard these words spoken admirably of a former boss.  Is being business-like, emotionless and impersonable admirable traits for a Christ follower?  Jesus was considered an authority and generally respected for it by many.  But no one would say he was all business or uncaring.  He worked with people, not projects.

“She was a nice person.”  Not likely everyone could say that about me, and with my reserved personality that avoids being the center of attention, I’m not easy to get to know.  While I want to be thought of as kind or friendly, I’m not sure that I am concerned with a reputation of being “nice.”  Jesus was warm and caring, but He wasn’t always nice.  He called people out when they were wrong.  He made people think.

“She was a good person.” This is better than the outward persona of being nice because goodness goes beneath the surface and is rooted in the heart.  Jesus WAS a good person, to the core.  If goodness reflects the love of Jesus in me, then I want to be a good person too.

But ultimately, I want to be known as someone who puts others above myself, someone who goes out of the way to be sure justice is served even if it was inconvenient, and someone who stands for her convictions.  Like Jesus.

So, I may not always be ‘nice’.  But I CAN reflect Jesus by being humble, respectful, kind, and patient.  I can choose to pursue what is right rather than pursuing favor.  To do these things, I need to be someone who listens and seeks to understand before seeking to be understood. 

I want to see the big picture – everyone as a person with an eternal soul, a spirit, to see them beyond the task at hand.  Work is the platform where I practice my faith, where I perform in an arena with my head and hands what I know about God and His purposes.  And not just with my head and hands, but also with my heart.

After three months, God brought healing to my body after a diagnosis of gastroparesis (partial stomach paralysis).  The healing is not complete, but I can function, and the pain that remains is a reminder – a reminder that I work with people, not projects.


  1. Wow! What an experience you went through. I would be more than scared!

    I am so glad that everything is starting to heal, I pray you will continue down that road. You certainly found many things to work on now...God works in mysterious ways, that's for sure.

    Maybe, just maybe, you possess them all already. You just needed a jostle to look for them.

    Peace in Christ,

    1. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, Ceil!

  2. I've never heard of this disease before. Glad you are on the mend!

    Your reflection on your real purpose and value in life, above and beyond the work we do, is insightful. Yes, our work is incredibly important, and is an important part of our identity. But, the real core of our identity is much deeper than what we do to draw a paycheck. Thanks for the reminder.

    And pray you continue to heal.


  3. Paula, there is nothing like a serious illness to make a person reconsider her purpose in life. I am praying that you are completely healed by His love for you.