by Revd Matthew Prior, Adult Discipleship Development Adviser
‘Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet’. So wrote Frederick Buechner in a book entitled Wishful Thinking…
But doesn’t it indeed seem wishful thinking to imagine that the Creator God is so involved in our lives that calls us into the ‘right place’?
When I first read those words about 20 years ago in a book on world mission, they resonated with me. And they still do. I wanted to make a difference in the world – in its places of deep hunger and even deep danger and challenge.
I’d realised: the Christian life isn’t meant to be easy. After all, the challenge of baptism in the Jordan was the challenge to be suddenly plunged underwater – who knows, you might drown, though we often make it a little less dramatic... Still if we take on the call to be baptised today, we take on the call to be immersed in a world of deep hungers – with the Spirit of God guiding us.
"The reality of our calling as we work it out is that once we start our as a follower or 'disciple' of Jesus, it doesn't need to be all 'hairshirt to be faithful."
The reality of our calling as we work it out is that once we start out as a follower or ‘disciple’ of Jesus, it doesn’t need to be all ‘hairshirt’ to be faithful. Deep hungers can seek us out in the ordinary places of our lives.
In 2017, our diocesan discipleship work has focussed on supporting Christians in the workplace – in all its shapes and sizes. It has been interesting to hear the groundswell of interest from many people in (re)-engaging with God at the ‘Frontline’ of their working lives. After all, maybe, just maybe, God places us where we are for a purpose - to use gifts and to serve, to care and to challenge.
The ‘Frontline’ is a strong metaphor (popularised by the London Institute) but for many it seems an apt one to describe the reality of many workplaces today. ‘Frontline services’ such as police or care, schools or hospitals, prisons or GP surgeries obviously fit the bill, but in a competitive world, few workplaces, whether in business, research, retail or community services are a ‘soft berth’. Looking after pre-school children is probably the hardest - I speak from 2 ½ years’ experience!
"Where then can we find the courage and even the ‘deep gladness’ to be able to give generously and live fruitfully for God at the ‘Frontline’?"
It may well be ordinary, and in fact, the more often we engage with the same needs, the deeper we may need to dig. Where then can we find the courage and even the ‘deep gladness’ to be able to give generously and live fruitfully for God at the ‘Frontline’? When God calls us, he equips us to do what He wants us to do, and even works in us (Heb. 13.20-21). I pray you’ll be able to find resources from church, from friends and from your life with God to equip you for the places you spend your weeks.
And if you are looking for something specific to resource you, there is a short day conference on Transforming Work on Saturday 14th October at St Paul’s, Camberley, in partnership with the Bible Society. More info and booking.