‘What do you do?’ doesn’t always fit well in Christian life. At any given time at least 47 per cent* of faithful souls will be – excuse me while I slip into basic Christianese – ‘in a season of transition’. We might be waiting on God / for breakthrough / tables while we wait for both God and breakthrough, and a simple answer can be elusive.
It can be a lonely place. We’re not where we want to be. Destiny has been mentioned. Prophetic words issued, hinting at a new direction or brighter future, but they seem far away. With leadership elevated it’s tempting to aspire to lead (or, ahem, marry a leader) in order to feel we’re living a significant Christian life, despite the reality only a few will lead churches (stress-free, full-time holiday though I’m assured it is).
Thrown together in Christian community, others’ lives can seem appealing. This is positive if horizons are being broadened – without church my community wouldn’t have ranged from artists to missionaries to barristers to writers plus flocks of students with interesting plans – but also a potential source of dissatisfaction if it hasn’t happened for us. Exclusivity rather than inclusivity. Shared faith yes, but there the similarities end. We haven’t all had opportunities. A paradox around identity emerges. We are not what we do, but what we do helps form who we are. Being in church with others who have progressed to where we’d like to be creates chances to discover the character, choices and sacrifice that might have paved the way. What can we do about it? Some thoughts and awkward questions…
1. Commit to the things you want to do. The things you think you’re meant to be doing. Work at them as often as you can. Develop your skills. Learn at every opportunity. Is it OK to say ‘I’m just happy for God to direct my steps’ if you’re wishing things were different but aren’t being proactive?
2. Acknowledge your motivation. Are we, even a little, bought into the idea of platform – even Christian celebrity – and the pursuit of profile? Will you be content if your life is one of the hidden ones? What does ‘success’ look like and will this limit who you associate with?
3. Play your part. If you have expertise or success in something you may be perceived as a gatekeeper. Are you approachable? Available for a drink and a chat and to listen, even for a few minutes, to someone else’s dreams? How can you encourage? Do you have knowledge to share? Who are you prepared to give space, introductions, even position, to? Will you take time to discern even well-hidden potential and offer support?
4. Value everyone. Everyone. Even if your lives don’t have much in common. Avoid cliques. Can you genuinely celebrate others, whether they are less or more, and treat everyone with equal value? If someone helps you, will you remember to thank them?
5. Know your limits. What are you prepared to do? Do you have time to pursue a different idea or goal? Someone once described their dream of running a café but added they had no intention of working in one first. Their café is unlikely to exist. Want to be a singer but your vocal stylings resemble an alarm going off? (C’est moi). I’m sorry; I don’t think God has engraved your name on a Grammy. World class talent? Will you be happy to muck in with the less exciting parts of community or let people treat you differently because of it?
6. Serve others. See a need and respond to it. Genuine community is about serving. Start somewhere. Anywhere. Help with someone else’s vision if you don’t have one of your own, or don’t know where to begin with yours. Help if you do. Discover someone else’s dreams, someone who can’t reciprocate, and how you could assist. Live intentionally and make as much difference as you can, even if only to one person.
Our lives may look different but we are all supposed to be motivated by the same thing: love. Create space for others to develop potential, and show and receive love and we’re off to a good start.
*Utterly made-up statistic
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