Rachel felt called to a particular place after graduating university in 2017. At times she has struggled to see direction and fruit in the work she does. But what does it mean to outwork our calling in these moments? How can our understanding of calling bring meaning to the everyday tasks? Come along to What Now? our Alumni Network Day on 24th November 2018, as we unpack these questions.
After finishing my degree at Durham last year, I went to live and work in County Durham, in the churches of some of the most forgotten and depressed villages in the country. I had no job description, timetable, income, and no one (including me) knew how to explain my role to anyone else. But I knew clearly why I wanted, and had, to be there. If it is true that Jesus leaves his 99 sheep to go after one; if he really spent so much time among the lowliest people in society, then these are the people we should be passionate about too, right?
I had no fixed idea of how I would be spending my time – I had no obligation to do anything. This was totally freeing. There was no reason for me to be in the place that I was, other than my conviction of Jesus’ fierce love and uncompromising compassion for the people who lived there. And how did I think I might show this? By getting to know people. By becoming part of the community. By listening and getting alongside people in it. From the outside, everything I was doing was mundane. Everything I did was simply an ‘everyday’ act; drinking tea, chatting lots, going to local shops. Thanks to the hard yards previously done by the fantastic clergy I was working with, I did have some ‘ins’ with the community – such as going into schools and running youth clubs. There was nothing flashy going on. But guess what? A year on, the process hasn’t changed much.
And yet, people and places have started to change. There are several individuals and groups whose purpose, self-esteem and confidence have been transformed by knowing the risen Christ. But this has not happened through anything dazzling that we have done! For me there is no more clear display of the power of the resurrection than when ordinary acts of love, motivated by Jesus, enable people to encounter Him for themselves. I’ve seen people who used to struggle to get through the day, be transformed into worshipping gospel gossipers. Praying that I will see Jesus working in my day, that I can leave behind a sense of Him in people I encounter, turns out to be the most powerful, crucial, and, in one way, the simplest part of this process.
Of course it is not all plain-sailing. As I have little obligation to do anything specific, and because what seems to work best is hanging out with people, there are almost infinite things I could be doing. How do I continue to discern where to focus my energy and spend my time?
How do I reconcile those frustrating moments where I don’t see Jesus moving in someone’s life in the same way that he was been working in the life of someone else? Why is the resurrection power so clear in some and barely making a difference in others? It’s easy to say ‘ok what’s today got in store, God?’, but harder to get to the end of it when nothing exciting has happened. It raises uncomfortable questions, but ultimately it forces me to see that it is His work, not ours.