“So, what are you doing with yourself now?
This question is usually followed by a look of anticipation as the questioner waits, hoping to hear an elaborate tale which weaves your talents and current successes into a succinct answer.
Another painful substitute for this question is “What do you do?” or the even more unsettling and presumptuous, “How’s work?” These questions have become constants for me as I have moved from education into the real world, and from conversations I’ve had with friends, I know I’m not the only one.
By certain standards, at the age of twenty-two, I should be working a salary paying job, juggling multiple projects that will change the world in some way, and of course, building a solid foundation with a young man that will one day bring home the ‘good news’ (this may be a bit different if you’re a guy — for one, you’ll will be bringing the ‘good news’, amen?!) Unfortunately, not all graduates are able to tick all of the above boxes. For those of us that can’t, we tend to recite a list of achievements which somehow deflect the attention away from the above. My response often goes something like this:
“I’m currently studying my MSc at (insert university here) and doing work experience with (insert organization here). I’m also working on (insert project 1) and (insert project 2) over the summer” — not forgetting to add details and embellishment where necessary.
Of course, this isn’t my response to everyone but this is the likely structure I have come to use time and time again; one that seeks to validate my years in education while consolidating my talents, all in an attempt to meet people’s expectations. It’s exhausting and, quite frankly, conceited. No matter how humble you are, listing your accomplishments on command, outside of a networking opportunity, can be deemed a self-serving task.
Disclaimer: I am all for shameless plugging and sharing our achievements with others, it’s great, all glory to God! However, our responses often themed by ‘I’s’ and ‘I’m’s’, do not. I sometimes wonder how much of what we do is actually self-serving and self-advancing and how much is for the service and advance of others.
Some time ago, after graduating, I caught myself being very selfish with my prayers. At the time I was not feeling content with where I was in life, I was dissatisfied with what I had achieved and generally unfulfilled. All very dramatic for a newly graduated twenty-something with multiple prospects (hindsight, ey?). I was asking God about my next career moves and life choices, I was asking what he had for me and what he wanted me to do, what field I should specialise in, whether I should travel or take a year out? The list, as you can imagine, went on. I rarely included anyone or anything else in my prayers.
It turns out that it became easier to be satisfied with where I was and contented with what God was doing when I stopped obsessing over myself and started looking outwardly. When we stop being consumed with every detail in our lives that we want God to tweak or fix, it frees up space to be happy where we are and frees up time to be present for others. It broadens our view of God and allows us to acknowledge the amazing things He is doing outside of what we have going on.
Central to being human is the sense of social responsibility and this duty is even more pertinent for us as Christians. Quite literally, the charge we have to love our neighbour, falls into this category and would include giving our time and even our possessions to others.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
In a way, doing for others involves showing a selflessness that is achieved through a love that only God provides; doing for others is doing for God.
I’ve been reading Acts, trying to understand the work of the Holy Spirit and amidst the miraculous, we see Peter and John, and Paul and his compadres, moving from town to town simply doing God’s work. Paul’s encounter with God on the road to Damascus set him on a mission not for self-establishment or for the approval of others but for Gods name to be glorified.
The onus that was on Paul is on us too.
It seems somewhere between A-levels and the normalisation of fame and fortune, we as millennials have become more concerned with building our empires instead of building God’s kingdom. Sometimes we need to pray for others before we ask God about when our own job will come. Sometimes we need to help someone with their next steps forward before focusing on our own. We should habitually look at the responsibility we have to others instead of focusing on ourselves, for Christ’s sake and for the glory of God.
Is your response to “What do you do?” and “What do you do for others?” the same? If it isn’t, I challenge you to ask yourself why it is not. This isn’t to benchmark who is a ‘good Christian’ and who isn’t, but to get us to think about what we do in this life and whether it expands the Kingdom or whether it simply expands our egos and extends our curriculum vitae.
Lots of love,