I am re-entering the job market this year, and I am scared.
I am making the transition from mostly-mother to wage-earner-with-children. I haven’t even started worrying about reality yet: the bleak outlook for careers in journalism, the lack of honor for parents who have worked at home, the fact that I am nearly forty. All these horror scenarios aside, I am simply scared of change.
It’s a big threshold to cross. My calling is getting a make-over. I’m moving into a new phase, saying adieu to life as I have known it.
It’s no surprise then, that I’m preoccupied with careers. When I prepared to give a talk at church last week, I read a gospel passage as a chronicle on career development. The passage in the seventeenth chapter of John is titled “Jesus prays for his followers.” For me, though, it was a conversation between an employee and his boss.
Jesus basically says, in so many words, “Well, God, you gave me work to do, and I finished it.”
It’s his semi-annual performance evaluation. It’s that talk with an employer that takes place a couple times a year. It’s an opportunity to hear of an imminent raise or promotion, or that one’s job performance is less than optimal.
If we could only walk into job evaluations with the confidence that Jesus does. He takes inventory with God: he summarizes his assignments, lists the tools and people with which God equipped him, and evaluates the overall experience. Jesus appears to have done everything he was asked to do.
As he checks off all the boxes, though, we see that he is also praying for the people who will fill his shoes. While wrapping things up, he’s passing the torch to his followers. They are, in this way, his co-workers, and Jesus puts in a good word for them. In very characteristic humility, he endorses the new crew by putting them on his same level.
He says: The world has hated my followers, because they are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world. What a character reference: his followers, like himself, reject the ways of the world.
He says: In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. Jesus trusts the new hire so much he’s personally given them a mission. Moreover, that mission is part of a shared, divine calling – one Jesus countersigns with the prayer that his replacements be of “one heart and mind, just he and God – are of one heart and mind”.
Being of “one heart and mind” is not just about peace on the work floor, during the team meeting, or among the larger body of the followers of Christ.
It is about followers finding their calling in the work that gives them peace.
The peace is relational: between you and God, or me and God, or God and your office mate.
In our individual relationships with God, we are invited to examine not only the work we have done and the boxes we have checked, but also the work that we have left undone. We are called to do this, for example, in the Anglican “Confession of Sin” when we “confess that we have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.”
Those things left undone: I like to think of them less as sin, and more as a sort of “holy restlessness.”
Holy restlessness is a lack of completion that we feel, here, in our chests, or there, in the back of our minds. It is a lack of peace coming from that which we have been called to do, and have yet to move forward with. When we are immersed in work that stills the restlessness, then our hearts and minds are one with God, as Jesus prayed for them to be. In that work, we are participating in the mission that Christ conferred on us personally.
This might mean making a casserole for your neighbor, who just got divorced. This might mean teaching art classes at the community college. It might mean running for American president. It’s the very individual thing we have been called to do. In our obedience of it – of our unique gifts and of our yearnings – this work enriches the greater, good work of the kingdom.
For those of us like myself, scared of stepping up to the next chapter, knocking our knees against change: we have the character reference we were given when God once said it was time for us to step up to the plate. Jesus, having put a good word in for us, works alongside us in Spirit.
Together, with Jesus, we are not defined by the world,
and together, with Jesus, we share a luminous mission.
© 2015 Anastasia Hacopian