I can remember the train journey home. My three-year stint at Bible college had drawn to a close. Excitedly, I pondered what the next chapter may hold. A church role perhaps, a charity gig, or a spot of missionary work?
Five months after returning home I began working in finance. Five years later, I’m still there.
Not quite what I anticipated. Not quite what I really want to do.
I don’t hate my job or the people I work with – far from it, in fact – but when I consider my training, and the ambitions that reside in my heart, I find it difficult at times to escape the feeling that I should be somewhere else.
I raise my right hand to the proverbial door and begin to knock, but I hear a voice behind me. “Stay.” Nothing audible; just a sense of restraint and uneasiness. I let my right hand drop and suddenly this deep peace flows through me.
How do we reconcile our desires and gifts, which we see as God-given, with roles that sometimes seem at odds with them?
In a society such as ours, the nudge to reach for the stars and make our dreams a reality is all too prevalent. Reality TV shows, the vastly wide-ranging courses on offer, fellow runners speedily reaching the heights of success, ease of travel and the many opportunities offered by the internet – all these, and more, can leave us feeling obligated to steam ahead in pursuit of our own dreams.
But should we stay rooted, by choice or circumstance, it can be difficult to shake-off the lingering disappointment of unfulfilled ambition.
From the Bible, we know that God likes to honour our desires, while Paul’s frequent mention of the spiritual gifts suggests that we are created to express God through the different skills, tasks and roles that we are gifted in, and have worked towards.
And like any good father, it gives God immense joy to see us flourish in these things.
As Christians, though, we must be wary of succumbing to the pace and mentality that the world around us often pursues to reach their dreams. Our ultimate pursuit and destination is Jesus, not vocation, and a preoccupation with occupation can impact on the unrivalled delight of knowing and following Jesus.
The New Testament recalls the moment when Jesus, on catching sight of Simon Peter and Andrew, says: “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people”. We’re then told: “At once they left their nets and followed him.”
I love this.
Firstly, for these brothers, the call to follow and obey Jesus was their priority; their occupation, which they were clearly skilled in, was subservient to this.
And secondly, note that Jesus did not ignore their skill; he acknowledges and crafts this into something beautifully new: fishers of men.
If Jesus is our Saviour, then Jesus must also be our Lord; Lord of all that we are and hold within us. We must steward well our ambitions and skills, committing them to Jesus’ faithful care and letting him craft them into something that beautifully serves the kingdom of God.
For some, this may mean determinedly pursuing that deep-seated desire. For another, God leaves us to make that decision. While for others still, it is being obedient – often reluctantly! – to the restraint.
We’re all on different journeys and, whether in dream job or not, perhaps God has us where we need to be.
As I take a step back and ponder the past five years, I begin to see this: the colleague who, after working with me a few months, is pleasantly surprised to find Christians aren’t boring people who don’t like music or football; the opportunity to befriend some of the homeless people near work; the 4.30pm finish and free weekends, which give me time to serve my church; the skills learnt and character grown.
It’s not what I expected, but I’m beginning to see God beautifully crafting a few things together.
Jesus calls us all to follow him. Like Simon Peter and Andrew, may we follow “at once”, confident that Jesus will always take us – and all that we are good at, worked for and long to do – to where we need to be.