- Joelle Steffen
It’s been a year since I started working at Campus Life as the Social Media Manager. I’ve had the opportunity to interact with all the different programs for children and adults, taking pictures and doing short interviews. I’ve seen the life-changing affect that Campus Life has for the people of Sheboygan County – and that includes myself.
This current trajectory started during the recession in 2008, when I lost my “cool” job at the Arts Center. I had been working as a writer in their marketing department, and before that as a community journalist. I felt like I was putting good out into the world and was able to be salt and light in places where Christians normally weren’t inhabiting. So, losing that job made me feel dejected, and I experienced a keen “loss” of identity and purpose. In other words, I grieved. I read C.S. Lewis’ short autobiography “A Grief Observed” and saw glimpses of myself struggling with my faith and feeling deeply alone in prayer.
I began working part-time jobs to keep busy even though unemployment was available. One such job had me washing and folding mountains of laundry through the night. It was humbling, hard work that dried out my hands, but gave me lots of time to listen to sermons.
My friend Danika gave me a sermon series by Timothy Keller called “Prodigal God” and I listened to it over and over, letting this multiple-part series sift through the broken pieces of my life and to fuse them back together with gold – making it stronger and more beautiful.
God had never stopped loving me. He used this insufferably long period of job loss and domestic servitude to show me a hidden idolatry in my heart that expected God to protect me from bad things because I was his. But Christ wasn’t shielded from suffering, so how could I expect to be as well? Moreover, Christ promised suffering in this world in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” For my heart, I needed to accept that the suffering was producing in me endurance, compassion for others and hope, which never puts us to shame (Romans 5:5).
God also used this time to show me where my true identity resides – as his daughter. I started writing down verses from scripture and kept them in a card carrier so that I could flip through if I ever forgot who I was and remind myself.
Many years have gone by since God put me in that furnace of refinement. At Campus Life, I feel that sense of purpose in my work that I enjoyed so much while working as a journalist. But now, I also work with kind-hearted and supportive Christians. It’s a restorative process that has brought me here, and I continue to look forward to the amazing things our loving God has in store for me.