Last summer when I failed to find a job in vocational church ministry, I was devastated. In my disappointment, I convinced myself that not finding a job directly serving the church meant my desire to evangelize and bring people to Christ would not be fulfilled. But as usual, God proved me wrong and gives me comfort through the witness of many people—including the surprising example of how a seemingly normal married couple, a career watchmaker and a career lacemaker, brought so many people to Christ.
I have always loved the story of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and her “Little Way,” and I find her parents, Saints Louis and Zelie Martin just as relatable. Both Louis and Zelie wanted to join religious vocations in the Catholic Church and both were rejected from the spiritual communities they labored to join. Louis was prohibited because of his inability to learn Latin, and Zelie was turned away because of her frail health.
But God had other plans for them. Through his grace, their paths crossed, they married and were successful ministers to Christ.
What I find most remarkable about Saints Louis and Zelie Martin is that their religious education from their labors to join a religious community did not go to waste, and their careers as watchmaker and lacemaker did not define their life’s calling. Instead, their careers and religious education supported their calling of marriage and raising godly children. Despite spending many, many hours a day at work, mourning the death of four of their nine children, running their own businesses, Louis and Zelie were able stay close to the Lord. And through their witness and example I have learned that one’s career does not have to be the center of one’s life, calling, or ministry to Christ. Here are three things we can all learn from the ordinary lives of Louis and Zelie Martin:
- The value of your life is you, not your wealth, status, genetics, or career.
Louis and Zelie Martin had the lives of average, everyday people. Their careers gave them enough money to adequately support themselves and four children. They had no political status or social status, and their physical health was frail. Despite Zelie’s frequent debilitating headaches, respiratory issues, breast cancer, and Louis’ dementia, they had meaningful and fruitful lives. All of their surviving children grew up to pursue vocational religious lives and drew many souls to Christ. If it were not for Zelie and Louis’ Christ-centered marriage, many souls may not know God.
- Do all that you do well.
While Louis and Zelie Martin placed God at the center of their lives they knew that their careers as watchmaker and lacemaker would not determine their inheritance of Heaven, and they did not use this as an excuse to slack off and be lazy in their work. They strived to please their customers, knowing that their success as business owners would not just benefit them, it would aid in the success and well-being of others. Zelie’s lacemaking business employed 15 women and assisted in the support of their families.
- Trust in God!
Both Louis and Zelie had plans to devote their lives to a full-time religious vocation. They were probably confused and wondered why God had allowed them to put in so much effort and work into something that would not work out. In the end, it did work out—just not the way they had planned.
While careers are important, they do not have to define your life’s work. If you cannot find a full-time job in ministry, or even a part-time job, you do not need to be discouraged. God has a plan for you and will use your life’s experience to draw others closer to Him, regardless of your career.