The challenge of entering the real world
I’m still in culture shock. I’ve entered the ‘real world’ of bills, rent, pensions and tax. The world of having a diary and using it. And needing it! A world where there is a sense of satisfaction in cleaning a house or a room, because no-one else would do it. But there’s a nagging feeling. I’m twenty-four, a year out of uni, single, and doing four part-time jobs. Where am I going? What do I hope to achieve? What does God want me to do?
In recessive Britain finding a job is pretty hard. A lot of graduates are finding they’re too qualified for entry level jobs, but not experienced enough for the jobs they’re qualified for. We take the jobs we’re offered and we think ‘may be I should be a teacher after all’. But for the Christian, work should be a vocation, a calling, shouldn’t it? So where does God want me to be?
My big problem is choice
There are many issues for the young, free and single. The pressure to succeed as a Christian (read the books; attend the meetings; convert the masses, etc.) and also gain worldly success (read the books; attend the meetings; be famous, etc.). There are time pressures, making it hard to build relationships. There’s pressure to earn enough to pay the bills.
The overwhelming struggle for me, however, is choice. I have so many doors open to me. What does God want me to do with my time and my gifts? I’m not married; I don’t have children. I have the flexibility simply to up sticks and go where the need is, almost anywhere in the world. But we’re shown so many needs every day on the news or in missionary newsletters. How do I discover which need God wants me to meet?
One choice always comes at the expense of another. If I go and work abroad, I may meet people from new cultures and meet their needs, but it will come at the expense of long-term relationships that I have built up here. If I work to become a better musician, it would be at the cost of my writing skills. And I have to choose, because it’s not really worth doing lots of things half-heartedly.
How will God guide me?
I’ve come to realise there is no single way that I will find guidance. In the Bible we see God guiding through burning bushes, fleeces and pillars of cloud. We read of Paul being frustrated by the devil but also being prevented by the Holy Spirit. Some are told ‘Come’, some ‘You need only be still’, and others are told to ‘Go’. Philip is taken directly to the Ethiopian’s chariot, the four lepers stumble across the feast and Namaan takes the advice of his servant to travel to Elisha. The disciples on the road to Emmaus are walking away from Jerusalem when they are met by Jesus.
I would like to be clearly told what I should do – in an ideal dream that would be nice! I think everyone would like that in a way. With the bizarre dreams I have, though, the church family is a safer bet! As ever they have given helpful advice from their vast experience, not to be ruled by consumerism and the desires of ambition. As one lady put it, ‘Look at where you are. If this is all God wants you to achieve, isn’t it enough?’ One thing I am grateful for since coming back from uni is how my home church has supported me and welcomed me back into the family. They have prayed for me since I was a baby and continue to do so.
For the moment, part of the journey is not knowing the whole picture of where I’m going. I am realising that in biblical terms, I am a sheep, wandering aimlessly and rebelliously, but guided, called and protected, even in the valley of the shadow of death. The Good Shepherd is not going to fleece me of anything good. Elisabeth Elliot writes in her helpful book, God’s Guidance: A Slow and Certain Light: ‘Some duty lies on our doorstep. The rule is – do it. The doing of that thing may open our eyes to the next.’
So what do I do next? The next thing in front of me, I suppose. I’m very much open to suggestion. Elliot ends her book by saying that if you are presented with two options, choose the harder one, which is no comfort to me at all because I think she’s right.
Ed Mayhew former UCCF relay worker and member of Carey Baptist Church, Reading.