Sunday, December 09, 2007

Fixed points for jobless times

I am lazy, the laziest boy in the world. I sleep during the day when I want to, 'til my face is creased and swollen, 'til my lips are dry and hot, 'til my hair is mussed and sinewy. I eat as I please. To think, in childhood, I missed only one day of school per year. No longer. Job-hunting. It's hard. Periods of uncertainty, rejection letters, perceived looks of pity, puzzled reactions. Even my sentences are lazy. The shortening of prose. The firing of staccatos. Write briefly, while others go for pages. I hear the head, the voices of reassurance of the commonality of the experience, the urging of patience. The body only knows of the sagging of shoulders. The feet doesn't even know what to do with itself. And that familiar refrain, set on repeat. Work hard and do not shame your family, who worked hard to give you what you have.*

While I'm looking for work, I've been trying to think through how the gospel should shape the way I live during this time. This is hard work too! Not just thinking, but then living it out. Here are some fixed points I've come up with, the stars by which I navigate these rapids:

1. Work is good. Before the Fall, God has already revealed himself as a worker, and gave responsibilities to Adam to work the garden. Post-Fall, the world-weary writer of Ecclesiastes is able to say that man finds satisfaction in his toil (3:13). The New Testament is replete with commands not to be idle. Therefore, it is good and important for me to keep on looking for formal work and also look for other ways to redeem the time, even something as simple as cleaning my room. This is especially needed for Type B personalities like me.

2. Work is not the gospel. Work can and should bring glory to God. It can be an expression of worship and love. But if my identity becomes fundamentally bound up with what I do for a living, if my job status determines my worth as a person, if I put my trust in my university degrees, than I have lost sight of what is truly good news. Even Type Bs like me who think they are not tempted to make work an idol should not underestimate the threat. And so looking for work should never become my greatest need in my eyes. God's grace is my greatest need.

3. Money is not the gospel. Earning money is good. Money empowers: it gives us choices to purchase commodities, to live in places which we otherwise are unable to. It reminds me to be thankful for my parents who were able to support me here in the UK. But like work, money can wield power over us. Again, this can work subtly. I am not planning to work for an investment bank, and I might look disdainfully upon those who do so as having the wrong priorities. But even if I take up a low-paying position in an NGO, I can still choose to make money my comfort.

4. God is sovereign and loving. He works for the good of his people. This is supremely demonstrated in the gospel event of Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection. He does not expect us to be passive, but to exercise wisdom. Nevertheless, that does not mean that he is simply helping those who help themselves. Faith is trusting in God's promises, not of health and wealth, but in his lavish grace and his faithful provision. Times looking for employment can also be times of reflection on how God might grow us, where we might need to change.

5. In Christ, I need not fear any condemnation. Unemployment invokes guilt, screams parasite. Christ's death tells of my justification, speaks of my dependence upon him. Unemployment invites despair and despondence. Christ's resurrection implores hope and yearning. Unemployment magnifies failure. Christ ate with failures, and his followers will be at the victory feast.

6. God's people love Christ by loving one another. The gospel reconciles us both to God and to one another. Employed people, of course, can help and encourage those who are unemployed. Grace says we can never be too proud to accept help. But the unemployed can help by serving others in creative ways, with their time. The unemployed are not exempt from loving others.

Just being able to state these doesn't make it any easier of course. I find prayer hard even now. Prayer can seem like a time-issue, as in "I'm too busy to pray!" but really, when one has a lot of time, it is exposed as a heart issue. J.I Packer says that "people who know their God are before anything else people who pray". Ouch! But it does tell of my lack of trust, because my failure to pray is fundamentally that. This works because prayer = going to God with our hopes and fears = raised expectations, and so failure to pray = thinking that God can't deal with them = a way to minimise disappointment, "just in case it doesn't come out the way I want it to".

And so this becomes the daily struggle. And so here we are, in the hard business of Christian living.

Cause when it's always winter but never Christmas
Sometimes it feels like you're not with us
But deep inside our hearts we know
That you are here and we will not lose hope
- In Like a Lion (Always Winter, Never Christmas), Relient K
*This paragraph is me seeking a creative outlet and playing around with words, so please don't read it woodenly! Sentences in italics are me acknowledging intertextual references to Blues, a poem by Elizabeth Alexander, found in Body of Life.

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Blogger Tim said...

friend that was so timely. been on the job hunt too in the past few months, and yes, its not easy (specially given the fact that an Arts degree is nt the easiest career-specific degree to obtain!)

in the middle of juggling all matter of consideration its quite easy to lose sight of perspective, so ur words were extremely beneficial..

wat exactly have u been applying for, just out of interest? :)

1:04 am  
Blogger BK said...

I'm glad my words helped! With you on arts degrees. :-)

I've been mainly looking for entry level editorial-type positions in publishing houses, although if an unrelated job that I think is interesting and makes use of my skills pop up, certainly will have a look as well. What about yourself?

8:30 pm  
Blogger Tim said...

graduate level positions within a number of government departments (such as Immigration and Foreign Affairs), plus pretty much anythng else that takes Arts graduates haha.

its a pretty crazy world out there though. im not sure about England, but because the labour market in Australia is really competitive especially for graduates, employers have the luxury of selective culling.. not the easiest to find ur dream job haha.

ever thought of continuing on to do a Ph.D? haha.

4:38 am  
Blogger BK said...

Just as tough here, especially as I'm not a British citizen!

PhD - nolah. Have neither the ability nor the discipline.

5:07 pm  

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