There are leaps of faith one takes in life which take all three. Getting married. Having kids. Jumping out of airplanes, though I think marriage and parenthood take a lot more courage, faith, and crazy. At 45, I thought I was past making those big leaps but last summer I proved myself wrong. Obviously, Jim and I are still happily married and our baby-making days are behind us. I didn’t go parachute jumping, though at times it felt like I had. Ironically the scariest decisions I’ve made in decades involved protecting people from the risks and dangers of life.
After years of staying home with the kids and struggling on one income, we knew it was time for me to find a full-time job. I loved being home with the kids, most of the time anyway; anyone who tells you they “loved every minute of it” has either forgotten a lot of minutes or is lying. To be honest, I have never seen myself as someone who would have a career. If money weren’t a factor, I would have been happy to stay at home. But with a kid in college and three to follow, that wasn’t in the cards.
So, after twenty years of odd jobs and false starts, I set out to get a job. I had some ideas of what I would like to do and what I thought I would be good at. I cleaned up my resume and waited. And waited and waited and waited. I had known it might be tricky for me to get my foot in the door, but I won’t lie—my pride took a hit. Out of desperation, I went to an interview with American Income Life, a life insurance company I had never heard of.
I sat through the interview thinking, “There is no way in a million years I am going to do this.” I studied for my licensing test thinking “I’ll do this while I look for something else.” And I prayed “Lord, if you don’t want me to do this, please help me to FAIL this test.” And I repeated that prayer many times during the 60+ hour weeks of training to become an insurance agent, right up to the point where I fell in love with my job and the people I work with and serve.
I won’t bore you with all the details of my job. I’ve done that to my family enough already. But I do want to share a few lessons I’ve learned over the last seven months. Hopefully they will speak to you next time life requires a big leap on your part.
Lesson 1: Don’t let plans get in the way of following the path God has clearly laid before you. It’s hard to believe all the friendships, opportunities, not to mention paychecks, I would have missed out on if I hadn’t taken this job.
Lesson 2: You are never just a missionary. You are always getting back as much, if not more, than you are getting. In the office and when I’m meeting with prospective clients and policyholders, I’m always looking for ways to make their day a little better. But I can’t count the times someone has offered a kind word just when I needed it the most; a glass of water or a shared laugh or a cry. Try not to be too selfish to help when you can, but pray to be humble enough to take help when it’s offered. You never can tell where that help is going to come from. I’ve spent many a delightful afternoon with clients thinking I was there to help them only to realize they were the ones that lifted my spirits or brightened an otherwise gloomy day.
Lesson 3: Don’t quit. That’s all you have to do. When I hear of the amazing things people in my office and company are accomplishing, the common thread that runs through all their stories is that they didn’t quit. That’s it. Of course there are times when quitting is the prudent thing to do, but we are capable of so much more than we think we are. Just keep going and you will surprise yourself.
Lesson 4: You are never in a holding pattern. You might feel like you are living in limbo but there is no such thing. I spent twenty years at home, changing diapers, doing laundry, etc. and assumed that I wasn’t acquiring any additional marketable skills. But when I came to work for American Income Life, I realized I had developed mad skills in hard work, patience, and persistence that I definitely didn’t have in my twenties.
I sell life insurance but in reality there is no such thing. There is no insurance that gives you the future for which you are planning. I can help you protect your family’s financial future in the event of your death. But I can’t prevent that death. Or all of the unexpected bumps along the way to that death. But sometimes those bumps and detours and unexpected side trips turn out not be detours at all. Sometimes it takes a while to realize you are headed in the right direction after all. It just takes a little courage, faith, and, of course, crazy.