As the year draws to an end (even though there is two months to go technically), it’s a good chance to reflect on the year that has been for me; in particular how my first year of full time work has gone, and how my growth as a Christian has been going. There are many things to mention in my year that I have regrettably not found the time to share with people; and many more thoughts and ideas to lay down for myself and others.
My first year (nine and a half months really) of full time work has become routine to the point where I don’t really recall what my first day was like. I’m grateful to God for giving me the position that I have now and for making my transition into a full time work routine as easy as it has been. It was a struggle getting used to having to spend the majority of my time in a week at this one particular place, at this one particular desk, with this particular group of people, and learning how to incorporate it all in a healthy and positive way. At first I recall trying to keep a hard-hearted attitude towards work, trying to remind myself the various “snares” and “temptations” that “secular” work may bring. It was only a few weeks after I started working that I realized I needed to put time and effort into building a good theological understanding of work from the Bible – was it right for me to simply follow the impression that work was evil? Clearly I was wrong.
I read a number of books and articles relating to work (one of which was Tim Kellar’s “Every Good Endeavour” – which helped put a lot of my views in the right place, but also helped me identify what his perspective of work is given the American culture) as well as various talks from church and other Christian conferences. I soon began to change my attitude towards work, realizing that it should be for the purpose of God’s glory first and foremost. To bear some sort of negative preconception of work would hinder my ability to “do it [everything] all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). It became clearer to me that glorifying God with my life in the context of work means to do my work to the best of my ability, with integrity and to conduct myself with godliness in the workplace to my colleagues. One of the things that then further challenged me was how we should also be trying to evangelise in the workplace.
As one could imagine coming from an environment surrounded by Christians, being thrown into a setting where there were drastically fewer Christians felt like being chucked into a dessert – desolate and void of help and support. And for a while work felt like this for me. I wasn’t able to draw upon much Christian support in the work setting until I luckily came across a number of Christians who met up to pray weekly; that one hour meet up made a huge impact in my Christian walk during the weekdays due to just how rare it was to come across another Christian and to pray with them. In the bigger picture of things though, I learnt to draw upon support from my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ from church, and from university who were working at different companies in (roughly) the same vicinity as me. Being able to meet up with some of them even just once a week at lunch to share about our lives has helped keep me strong in my faith.
Having drawn strength from these sources, it seemed to me that the next thing I needed to learn how to do was to evangelise in my workplace. I needed to learn how to live out my faith in front of my colleagues in the hope that it would create relationships whereby I could share the gospel of Jesus with them. I have made a number of friends in the workplace and I suppose steadily building up those relationships is giving me more space to gently ask them about what their beliefs are. I honestly do have a fear in sharing the gospel at work, especially when you get told at your induction that “talking about religion at work is a taboo” – harsh words from an external program coordinator who didn’t really understand the culture of the organisation he was running the program for, but the idea that people are sensitive to talking about their beliefs makes it difficult to talk about my beliefs and to ask about what others believe. It is definitely something for me to work on as work continues.
Nevertheless my initial precaution of the dangers of work was not in vain, although I may have over exaggerated how “bad” work could have been. I have still come across negative tensions at work, seeing signs of deceit, gossiping, unloving plots to hinder the activities of another colleague. These were the sorts of things I have expected to see in the workplace and by no means was I surprised to see the sinful and selfish desires displayed in some of the people working around me. Of course, it helped me realize that I too was doing similar things at time. And so at the end of the day, these sorts of trials and temptations to sin are a signal to me to keep striving for godliness in the workplace, both in my actions and also the way I respond to my colleagues and the impression of selfishness that they give me. Even if they try to “use me” and exploit me, it gives me no right by God to sin in return and these sorts of situations have been a really test in teaching me how to respond to “evil” with love.
In terms of learning skills required for work, it brought me back to an attitude of humility, where I presumed to know nothing about how to do the work for my role, and needing to learn and be trained in doing so. I soon realised the limitations of my university qualifications that I had placed my pride in for four years. On one hand, it gave me the tools necessary for learning the practical skills for my role (so that I could glorify God through my work) but my theoretical knowledge did not give me the practical skills themselves. One of the things that dawned upon me as a result is that we will always have to be learning new things, perhaps at nearly all points in our life. The end of university for me wasn’t an end to learning for me, there were still many things to be equipped with. Even my colleagues showed me that they had things they needed to learn about too. And luckily this plays into the bigger picture for me as a Christian that learning about anything (especially the Bible) is going to be something we do for our whole lives.
Moving forward, there will still be many things for me to think about in terms of where and how full time work fits into my life as a follower of Jesus. But I face this with much confidence, knowing that God has a plan for me, and reminding myself that I need to live every single day of life for my Lord and Saviour. More to reflect on in the days and weeks to come.