“Then Moses said to the people of Israel, ‘See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.’”
Is one kind of work more significant that another? Was the work of Moses, leader of the nation of Israel, friend of God with Whom he spoke face-to-face, more important than the work of Bezalel, the artist? What I’m learning here and now tells me no. What society tells me is yes. What the Word of God tells me is no. What my family tells me, whether they mean to or not, is yes.
A light bulb went off all of a sudden and my throat felt tight as I fought back tears, a little embarrassed at my reaction. I sat in the big office on the 2nd floor overlooking a rainy parking lot speckled with a few cars on the late Friday afternoon. The kind lady across from me was reviewing these test results that I KNEW would be significant, I just didn’t realize how much they would mean for me. I tried to swallow and fight back the tears as I realized how much freedom this meant for me. I took some deep breaths and I glanced back up at her. She smiled and said, “Hillary, now we’ve tapped into something here. This is a reaction to pay attention to.” We’d sat for three hours together and she was kind enough to give me so much of her time as a befuddled and confused Hillary sat with her asking a litany of questions and thinking aloud as preconceived notions seemed to fall away, and other truths seemed to take their right place in my mind and in my heart.
I had just taken an aptitude test the week before, and suffered though the onerous four-hour exam on a Saturday morning. A few days later, I found myself back in the same room on the edge of my seat waiting to hear about my strengths and weaknesses, abilities and frustrations, all elements with which the Lord has seen fit to fill me, Hillary Dotson.
So for a little more backstory, as the oldest of four children, I’m overly responsible and a caretaker and a type-A perfectionist; no matter how much I try not to be one. I attended UNC-Chapel Hill for undergrad where I found more people like myself. And unfortunately, there was something in the water at UNC, something we drank in the middle of the five clubs we were involved in on campus, the research we did over the summer, the non-profit we started on the side, and the mission trip we had gone on to help feed starving communities in a third-world country… this lie we drank told us that we needed to save the world.
As I prepared to study abroad in South Africa my junior year of college, the study abroad office actually handed out shirts that said, “Save the World, Yes You Can.” Little did I know that sipping this Kool-Aid was a dangerous lie that would eventually bind me to dreams that weren’t my own and trap me in a line of thinking that, yes, some jobs are inherently more worthy than all the rest… those of course included full-time ministry, missionary work, and anything that had to do with saving people or rescuing people or healing people. The scary thing is that I didn’t even realize I believed this until two days ago, but it was there underneath the surface directing everything I had in mind for the future.
Back to the big reveal… I rush in a little bit late and quickly take my seat offering a quick apology, blaming it on the traffic. I receive a kind smile in return and she pushes a thick stapled booklet towards me and across the table. I proceed to read about myself slowly and carefully for the next half hour. The first time tears popped into my eyes and I felt a wave of emotion wash over me was when I saw the words on the page, “photography,” and “culinary arts.” Two of my favorite things in the world, but viewed in my eyes strictly as silly pastimes or perhaps hobby-level activities to which I give very little of my precious time. Why? Because there are more “important” things to do. Also, here’s where the family comes in… I can’t blame them much, but my family just isn’t very creative, so maybe it wasn’t on their radar screen growing up, but these were not the important areas of life for us. We’ll just say that dabbling in the arts or even just baking a new recipe for your brother’s birthday cake would wind up in critical comments and a crushed burgeoning baker. So I stopped trying and being creative because I didn’t want to withstand hurtful comments or failure.
Thankfully, traveling and new foods and cultures and increased freedom down the road led me back to a love of cooking, and then photography as a means of trying to capture the sheer beauty of the places I’ve been. But still, I didn’t really think or believe that I could be good in these areas. I saw them as areas to play around in if time allowed. But to see confirmation on a sheet of paper that I have a photographer’s eye and the pitch discrimination needed to be a great chef—I couldn’t believe my eyes. AND to see that teaching high school students was one of the worst places you could put me according to my aptitudes and abilities, and that counseling might even be off the table because of my tendency to take in the pain of others and get frustrated when I don’t see the results of my efforts (people in counseling that just don’t want to change)…all of a sudden the chains fell off and a burden was lifted! I didn’t have to walk into these professions because I thought I had to and because I truly believed that these were more worthy “helping people” jobs than a host of other possibilities.
Everything we have been learning in our Monday morning seminary class came together in an illuminating light bulb all in a single moment as I looked down at the “artist” pattern clearly highlighted down the page of my test results and labeled at the bottom. No job is more worthy than another as long as you are using the gifts God has given you to multiply and have dominion in your area on this earth. Moses was not more valued as leader of all the nation of Israel. How incredible that Bezalel and Oholiab get a whole section of the Bible dedicated to description of their craftsmanship, skilled design work, embroidery, wood cuts and carvings, and artistic designs… and the fact that God called them to do just that. I pray for courage to let go of the other dreams and notions I’ve clung to for so long, and for courage to walk into whatever the Lord is calling me to and to not be afraid of my passions because I don’t want to fail. I’ve walked that line far too long.
Hillary Dotson is a Falls Church Fellow, class of 2016-17.
image/freeimages/W. Szabó Péter