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Two questions I don’t like to answer

In the culture that I live in, there are two questions that I have struggled to answer in recent years. I know that people don’t ask these questions to be malicious (I don’t think…), but these are common questions that get bounced around often in social circles.

Let’s kick off with…

‘What do you do?’

The first question relates to employment status. This question came to irritate me when I experienced nine months of unemployment back in 2014. I had recently married and moved to a new area. Even with a top degree I could not find a job. When Joel and I were looking to settle in a church, we met lots of new people and this question was probably asked within the first minute of getting to know someone. I was asked this question week after week by different people and I began to dread going to church and meeting others.

When I was unemployed I experienced a range of emotions. I felt like I had failed, that I was not smart enough, that everyone else was successful… I felt really low a lot of the time. However, this same experience taught me more about having my identity rooted in the love that God has for me, rather than my employment status. It was a vital part of my Christian journey – who said being a Christian was meant to be easy?

As tempting as it is for me to ask the same question to others when I meet them, I really want to try and ask other questions about them. Tell me about you – what do you enjoy? What interests you? What irritates you? I am still pondering the best questions to get to know someone.

It’s not that employment isn’t important or I don’t care about that in others, but it’s just how we get to that question so early on in our conversations.  Is it because we spend many of our waking hours working so it shapes a lot of our life? Perhaps. But there is more to an individual than ‘what they do’. It shouldn’t define us, rather it is one small piece of who we are.

For me, I still wrestle with telling people that I am a writer. If I lived by that label alone I would probably crumble. Why? Lack of self-confidence? Yes, partly. If my identity was solely that of a writer, then it would fluctuate depending on how ‘successful’ my writing was. I have to remind myself where my true identity is. I don’t earn much from writing at the moment – I am starting out and it’s a steep learning curve.

This links into the next question which has started to really press me.


‘Are you renting or buying?’

Joel and I moved house in a smaller town in April and many people wanted to know if we were renting our house or buying it. I don’t believe people ask the above question to be annoying. It’s an innocent question on the face of it, but why ask it at all? What does it matter if we rent or buy? What does it matter to you whether we rent or buy?

I am not going to write about the pros or cons of both; there are plenty of websites that do that already. However, it feels like people are looking into how much we earn as to whether we can afford a deposit for a house. That might not be the reason at all! Maybe I am insecure in this, but I just don’t think it’s a necessary question to ask.

Imagine if I asked you how you use your toilet paper. Do you fold it or scrunch it?

Scrunch or fold? Rent or buy?

Do I really want to know how you wipe your bum? Not really. It’s a personal choice to you. The important thing to me is that you do wipe your bum!

Does it matter if you rent or buy (once again not going into a debate on the pros and cons)? Not really. The important thing is that you have somewhere to live.

Ah. Problem. What about those who don’t have anywhere to go? What if they don’t have somewhere to call ‘home’?

Jesus had nowhere to lay His head (Matthew 8:19-20). Along with His disciples, Jesus would often be travelling and would stay with those who would take them in. Hey Jesus, do you rent or buy? Whether we are wealthy or poor, we need to examine our lives to see if we are unintentionally making idols out of what we have, where we work, where we live, who we know, our comforts etc.

Jesus told a story about a rich man and his treasure:

“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)

We can spend our lives gathering wealth, but it’s all about our heart towards God. Where our treasure is stored, there our heart is (Matthew 6:21). Let’s store up eternal treasurers with God today, for tomorrow where will we be?

If I get asked the above questions, I do answer them but I have to remember that I am storing up a greater treasure than anything I could hope for on earth; I am wanting a heart that is rich towards God, not a heart that is rich before the world.


3 thoughts on “Two questions I don’t like to answer”

  1. I think and it is not the case all the time that some people may ask that question as a way of asking are you going to be committed to this area. Or is it just a stop gap. If you buy a house then you may be seen a fully committed and invested in the long term of the town and or community. If you rent it may be seen as they may pack up and move on at any point.
    Just a thought I’m prob wrong. But a viewpoint to think about.

    1. Hi Josh – that’s a really good point and I am sure it probably is a true point for some people! I do know of plenty of people that buy who are wanting to get on the property ladder, but don’t plan on staying in the area long-term. Same is true for those who rent who may move about. I also know people who have stayed in the same town for decades and have rented. Will consider your point next time I get asked as it might stem my own negativity – or I might ask the question, ‘do you mean are we planning to commit to the area?’ to see what response I get 🙂 Thanks for your insight!

  2. Great post, Ruth. Interesting. It’s so easy too as writers not to admit that we are. I usually state my part-time receptionist job as what I do, not writing. Also, some of my friends definitely think that if you’re at home you’re not working. Another thought I remember is our old church leader saying that we’re human beings, not human doings!

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