By most accounts, Aileen had it all: the right education, a promising career, and a steady, two-year relationship with her boyfriend. But a couple of months ago she lost it all—for the better.
Stretched and Stressed in Seattle
A Christian since childhood, Aileen says her faith was on shaky ground when she left Toronto for law school in Seattle four years ago, and she was looking forward to rebuilding it and to find a strong community through church. Seattle, to Aileen, was a new beginning and held great promise for her future.
Law school began, and so did the constant worrying about passing classes, finding an internship, and landing a job that would ensure a secure future. But soon afterward, she found that, for the first time in her life, she felt utterly alone. She didn’t know a single person, not even a friend of a friend. This compelled her to search for a church home, and she quickly found Mars Hill Church.
She soon found Mars Hill. Aileen met with her Community Group regularly throughout law school, but doing so always required tremendous effort and manipulation of her schedule. She felt an urge to become more involved at church—to serve, to pursue friendships with the brothers and sisters around her—but law school always came first. Then, at the start of her second year, she met a fellow law student, whom she dated for the duration of law school. After pouring all her energy into classes and exams and the relationship, she felt there was nothing left of her to give to fellowship and no time in the day remaining to give it.
Working and Worrying
Graduation came, and with it the bar exam, which Aileen successfully passed. The fall after graduation, she landed the job she had been praying for: a contract-to-hire position with a family law firm. Although the cases were often heavy (divorce, child custody, etc.), she was grateful to have the job. She sincerely saw it as an answer to prayer and believed that she could use her job to serve the Lord by counseling people and families.
It was not long, however, before the shine began to wear off of her brand-new career. In order to impress her boss, Aileen found herself regularly working at the office long past closing time, with additional hours at home just to keep up with the workload and minimum amount of expected billable hours. Her work product was praised, but her promised hire date kept getting extended.
Aileen was confused because she was pouring every bit of energy and tenacity into her work, but it didn’t seem to be making an impression. When she sat down with her boss, she was shocked to hear that her boss didn’t have a problem with Aileen’s work, but with Aileen herself. “She told me I wasn’t assertive enough, that I wasn’t confident,” Aileen says, still stung by the critique.
When Your Worst Fears Come True . . .
The following months at work were miserable for her. She constantly worried that she would lose her job, but at the same time was discouraged that she was working so intensely in an environment where she felt unaccepted and inadequate.
Things weren’t much better in her personal life either. Aileen assumed that she and her boyfriend would graduate, have fulfilling careers, and that their relationship would be on a similar trajectory with their mutual success. Instead, their new lives and Aileen’s unhappiness at work exposed the weaknesses in their relationship and problems arose. She began to feel as though she didn’t measure up to her boyfriend’s expectations.
“It’s like . . . I was giving everything I had to my job and to our relationship and all I was hearing was that I wasn’t good enough,” she confessed.
Through all of this, Aileen was only vaguely aware of Jesus’ presence in her life. She continued to pray for answers and direction, but says she wasn’t taking the time to listen for his response. Instead, constant anxiety over her career future and the future of her relationship consumed her thoughts and attention.
“I know now that my worrying was simply idolatry,” she says. “I have since learned how freeing it is to trust in the Lord.”
. . . for the Better
However, that lesson came with some painful upheaval in her life. Just a few months ago, Aileen was walking down the sidewalk and wondering where Jesus was in her life, asking God if he even existed. It wasn’t long before she received a response.
She and the boyfriend broke up and she quit her job at the law firm. A former professor from law school contacted her about an available marketing position, and he encouraged Aileen to apply. She did and was offered the job.
“It’s kind of funny—my two worst fears were not being a lawyer and losing my boyfriend,” says Aileen. “But now that they both came true, I recognize how much God loves me and that he has a better plan for me.”
Contentedness amid Upheaval
While she is no longer a lawyer, she enjoys and feels appreciated at her work. Additionally, now that some time has passed since she and her boyfriend ended things, she acknowledges that Jesus was not the center of their relationship. Although the breakup itself was hard, today she has peace from God that she did not have while she was in the relationship. “I know Jesus ended it,” she says, “because I never would have.”
Looking back at a year when so many things changed, she says that she knows that Jesus stepped in and took control of her life. It took coming to a place of brokenness for her to really hear his voice and to be obedient to his leading, she says. Besides feeling appreciated at her new job, she also has more time to do all the things she’d been wanting to do earlier: spend with Jesus, serve at the Downtown Seattle church, and cultivate godly friendships. “What a gracious and loving God he is,” she says.
“I know now to stay in this place where God has brought me.” –Aileen
After a year defined by upheaval and loss, she’s more content than ever about where she is, both with herself and with God.
“I remember a series Pastor Mark preached on Ruth where he talked about remaining in the place where you are blessed,” says Aileen. “That really spoke to me after this last year—I know now to stay in this place where God has brought me and with the people that have come to mean so much to me.”
Aileen is a member of the Downtown Seattle church.