Published by Michael Bigg on Sat, 2 Sep 2017 15:05

This is something I've been thinking about ever since I was ordained 2 months ago. You might look at me and think that I work full time for the church. That's not strictly true.

I am not paid. I don't get given a salary to perform a certain task. I am instead given a stipend which means that I have enough money to support my family and so can fully develop my vocation as a minister without needing a second job. That may seem like a rather technical distinction (certainly, as far as HMRC are concerned, my stipend is a wage that is liable for income tax and NI contributions!). However, it also has other implications.

My job isn't to "do" anything in particular. Of course, there are lots of things that I happily do for the church, but it is not contracted like a normal employment might be. That means that everything I do can be a gift. If I come to visit you, it's not because it's my job and I have to visit people in order to get paid. I visit people because I want to and because it's part of who I understand myself to be. It's a gift! If I preach a sermon, it's not because I have to, it's because I want to and think that I, through the working of the Holy Spirit, have something to offer the congregation. If I take a funeral it is because commending the dead to God in prayer and comforting the bereaved in their grief is part of who I believe God has called me to be.

At first I was thrown by a new way of thinking, but I've started to find it liberating. I spent the first few weeks in this role wondering if I was spending my time in the right kind of way. However, I've discovered that asking myself "Am I doing the right things?" is the wrong question. Much better to ask: "Am I being the person God has called me to be?" and (if it has to be about tasks) I might ask myself: "Are the things I am doing reflective of the person God has called me to be?"

It's a cliche, but there's truth in the claim that we are "human beings", not "human doings". If we start to measure ourselves and our "success" in terms of what we "do" or "achieve" then we'll probably feel like we constantly fall short. 

By contrast, "being" is much more flexible. As a Christian, I believe that, when all is said and done [sic], I am defined by my identity as a beloved child of God. I cannot change that, it is simply who I am. There is always work to be done in formation of my character, but it's not an exhausting to-do-list. Formation may involve having an afternoon off, or getting an early night, or reading a book, or seeing friends in the pub.

You may not be called to ordained ministry (perhaps you are though! If you think you might be then answer the Call Waiting), but all of us have a vocation, a calling on our lives. Perhaps you might find yourself liberated by focusing on growing into that human being rather than defining yourself as a human doing. 

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