“I wasn’t focused on building God’s Kingdom, I was focused on making Caleb known,” said Caleb Dean. “I thought that once I became the CFO of a corporation, then I’d have a platform to make the Lord more famous. But I was lying to myself. If I wasn’t glorifying the Lord with what I had, it was foolish to think that once things were different I would be faithful.
“I’ve always been a performer – very headstrong and independent. My parents had high standards for me, and I had high standards for myself as well. I worked hard at school, rarely making less than an A on a test. But it always felt like I just couldn’t live up to the standard in front of me.
“Realizing there were times that I failed to reach my own standards actually helped me understand God’s grace. In church I heard that we could never reach God’s perfect standard by our works alone. That resonated with me. If I couldn’t meet my own standards, how could I ever meet God’s. I asked my mom about that, and she shared the gospel with me. I trusted in the free gift of grace available to me through Christ at a young age.
“By the grace of God, the foundation of faith in Christ was laid early in my life, but there were not many people around who showed me what it was like to walk with Christ. There were spurts of spiritual growth throughout my childhood, but when I went to college at Texas A&M, that’s when my faith in Christ really became my own. I was challenged by other believers who spurred me on and inspired me by their pursuit of Christ. I saw that it wasn’t okay to sit on the spiritual sideline. I moved from simply living as a rule-follower to becoming amazed by God’s love and sacrifice for me.
“I met Sallie, who is now my wife, in college. She’d always intrigued me, and I figured there was no way she’d want to talk to me. But God gave me the best gift I’ve ever received when we married in 2008. She’s an encouragement and a truth teller. When she speaks, I really listen.
“After college I went to work for one of the big accounting firms, doing consulting work in mergers and acquisitions. For five years, I worked 70-80 hours a week. I was known as a very dependable guy and moved up in my career faster than expected.
“I loved what I did and took a lot of pride in my profession. In fact, I was slowly making a big idol out of wealth, career and status. Although it didn’t really satisfy, the pursuit of the American Dream really drove me.
“The tipping point for me was Fourth of July weekend in 2011. I worked all weekend to close a deal for a client. My wife wanted to go see fireworks together, but I wouldn’t go because of work. We ended up arguing, and eventually brought the subject up to our community group. They asked me if I valued my job more than my wife. I didn’t think that was the case. My friends pointed out that while I desired to serve the Lord and my family, I was pouring myself exclusively into work. My wife, who is always really supportive, also said there were times when my actions didn’t show that I valued her. I didn’t want to be absent from my family’s life. That’s when I knew things had to change.
“I have God in His provision to thank for what happened next. The next day, I got a phone call about an opening on the finance team at Watermark. At first, I wondered if a church really had a position for a guy who wanted to love the Lord but was actually very sinful and prideful. But many different mentors I trusted and respected encouraged me to apply for the job. So I did, and eventually ended up working for Watermark.
“Honestly, I didn’t realize the idol that money and career had become until my job changed. Working for a church meant a salary cut, and that really demonstrated how much I loved money. I also came from a company where clients praised my work all the time. At Watermark there is a different focus than winning a client’s approval. This job has showed me how much I craved the affirmation and approval of man. God, in His mercy, has continued to show me these struggles and humble me.
“Today my life and marriage are much better. I still find myself struggling with being a work-a-holic, but God continues to break me, and I’m able to see things differently. I have a much greater understanding of God’s love for me and my deep need for Him. Rather than being bitter about ‘giving up’ my career in the corporate world, I’m actually joyful about coming to work here and
going home to my wife. I truly believe I am where God wants me.
“At the end of my life, I don’t want to stand before God and say, ‘thanks for saving me! Here’s how I built my own kingdom.’ How embarrassed and sad would I be? I have a healthy respect and fear for Ecclesiastes 12:9-13. I hope that as I submit to His call in my life, God will help me to be obedient and become more like Christ.”
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