Teaching was not my first profession, but by the grace of God, I’m doing the work that He’s made me to do.
I got my first job at 13 years old in the family plumbing business, sweeping the warehouse floor and carrying supplies around jobsites. It was not a typical job in my high school– most of my friends that worked had jobs scooping popcorn or bussing tables (I’d later hold those jobs, too). Working in construction was ok, but hauling plumbing fittings and digging ditches wasn’t the kind of work I was made to do, so even though I would work in off and on for most of the next couple of decades, I tried other things, too.
I spent the next few years of high school and college rattling around various other part-time work. Making snow-cones at the softball park, waiting tables at the hamburger restaurant, serving banquet dinners at the hotel, and other sundry jobs in the hospitality business. I liked that work, and have done pretty much every job you can do in the restaurant business– from dish washer to general manager. But eventually, I learned that I wasn’t made for that life, either.
Later, I worked in banking. I had a nice paper-shuffling job on the second floor of a mid-sized bank in the suburbs. It was a nice job with a promising future for a good company, and I really hoped I could do that for a long time. For my first professional-style job, I really hit the jackpot. I liked my coworkers and the way the company was involved in the community. But again, I came to understand that God had given me certain skills, and loan processing wasn’t part of that set. He made me for something different.
So I spent a couple years working for the county government. I was a tax appraiser for residential real estate. After so many years of trying things, I really felt like I found my place. There were a lot of reasons I like appraiser work– it was fun, outdoorsy work during the nice weather, and comfortable desk work for the crummy days. But it had just as many reasons for God to tell me to do something else.
It’s funny how God works. He rarely give you some clear direction on life. It seems like He’d rather you figure it out for yourself, then check back with Him to make sure it’s right.
I remember the day that I told my wife that I think I needed to quit work as an appraiser and change careers again. It was a hard conversation– we had a house payment and big plans for the future. The economy and job markets were as bad as they had been in our lifetimes, meanwhile I had a stable, recession-proof government job with a (stable?) government pension that I could hold for 40 more years– when it seemed like other people were having a hard time keeping work. I could retire well out of a job that I enjoyed.
I told her that I thought I was supposed to be a teacher.
My poor wife! We had only been married for a couple years, and we were hoping to start a family. And this new job would pay less than my last job, would take a bunch of expensive graduate-school tuition, and have a period of time student-teaching where I wouldn’t earn any money at all! (While money isn’t the most important thing in life… it’s not unimportant, either). At that time, I was beginning to take my faith more seriously, but we were leading largely secular lives. So to have this conversation because “I think Jesus wants me to” was an even weirder justification. But Mrs. Walberg is kind-hearted to her windmill-chasing dreamer of a husband, and helped me continue to discern God’s expectations for us.
So here we are: my story of becoming a teacher isn’t a normal one– and it’s certainly not the job I would have chosen for myself! But it is the work that He has chosen for me. This school were I teach is the dream job of which I never knew to dream. I am not a perfect teacher (though it’s not for lack of trying), but I will be the best that I can be for the glory of God.