It was a slow and painful realisation that having a good degree from a good university did not necessarily land me a good job. Time and again I sent my carefully groomed CV off to a prospective employer, and time and again I received the worst kind of rejection letter – nothing. Nada. Zip. For months. And then, while one friend got onto the Civil Service Grad Scheme and another studied for her PGCE at Cambridge, I stagnated in dull office jobs for 12 months. This was a blow.
Disillusioned doesn’t quite cover it. I raged against the job market, bemoaned the recession, questioned God’s agency in my life. I floundered in self-pity; why do I get all the bad luck? And after months of being disillusioned and bad-tempered I started to realise why the boring office job was getting to me so much.
I thought I was better than this.
It’s true, with a good degree and a healthy dose of middle-class self-esteem I thought I was above office drudgery. I should be earning a decent wage doing a job I believe in. Right?
Think back to university – those rose-tinged days spent lying in until dinner and watching YouTube until dawn, last minute essay hand-ins, student discount, the Harlem Shake. Simpler times. But at university I fed myself three delicious lies.
Firstly, I believed that if I worked hard and got my degree, perhaps got involved with something extracurricular for my CV, I would earn a healthy wage doing a job I loved. Secondly, I believed that this was the future I deserved. And thirdly, I was sure that this was the right future for me. However, not only is this completely untrue and embarrassingly arrogant, it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the kingdom of God.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32.
The creator of the universe, the sustainer of all things, the beginning and the end, chooses to spread his kingdom through the tiniest of all the seeds. He’s not preoccupied with status or being impressive – He loves the small and seemingly insignificant. What incredible humility. Isn’t that unbelievably beautiful? And what a wake-up call. How could I possibly feel like I am better than my boring office job, when the Holy God over everything specifically identifies the seeds of His kingdom with everything I hate about it – small, insignificant, unimpressive?
Of course, God’s big plan is not for me to have an impressive job spec, or to enjoy a proud ascent up the corporate ladder – although it may well include that – but to use me for His will. And while His will can involve big, important jobs, it doesn’t have to. If God is the champion of the small and seemingly inconsequential, then it makes sense for Him to sometimes use us in small and seemingly inconsequential ways.
This is the beauty and wonder of His upside-down kingdom. The boring office job, far from being inconsequential, is a God-given opportunity to plant a precious mustard seed that will grow into the largest of garden plants. In fact, if I was obedient, laid aside my pride and truly lived for the glory of God in that job, embracing its trials and Excel spreadsheets, then that might well be the finest thing I do with my life – even if it’s not the most impressive. Because what I’m trying to remember is that the success of my life isn’t measured by the promotions I get, but the times I let God work small wonders through me.
At the end of my life I want to be able to say that not only did I faithfully follow God into the fire and the battlefield, but into the 9 to 5 temp job and the times of unemployment, if that is where He leads.
That would be a truly successful life.