Most of the people who I hope will read this probably won’t, and the people who have already considered what I am about to say will find, perhaps, an echo of thoughts they’ve already encountered. Nevertheless, I still have to try to reach the people who are still unaware of where they stand on this issue of calling and comfort.
By the will of God, I’ve chosen to attend the Talbot Philosophical Society (ooh) Boot Camp, which begins this coming Sunday evening. They’ve asked that we consider reading some of the materials that will be discussed, and so, I’ve had the pleasure of reading a piece by C.S. Lewis called, “The Inner Ring,” which you can read here (I highly suggest reading this before continuing). The concept of the “inner ring,” as described by Lewis, seems to illustrate how we find our respective places in society; not wanting to be outsiders, we find the “inner ring” of exclusive individuals enticing, and so we strive to be part of that “inner ring.” Lewis hits on this notion of how lusting after being inside the “inner ring,” creates a cycle of rings that we find ourselves outside of – we are never satisfied by the inner rings we’re a part of because the allure was in being outside looking in. Lewis also mentions another party in this social narrative: those who make their work their end. He says, “If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.”
So what am I getting at here? How does this apply to the issue of calling and comfort? What Lewis is describing is precisely how many of us might view our relationship with our faith and how it plays into the work that God has given us to do. In fact, I would be so bold to say that many of us do not consider our faith at all when searching for jobs (this, of course, has been the relevant and pressing issue of my time as a post-undergrad student). However, I’d like to draw our attention to the fact that the job we work in is our ministry and where we can exercise our faith. In Colossians 4:17, Paul says, “And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.'” Now, I’m not going to risk reading meaning into the Word, but we who believe have all been given a ministry in the Lord in this life, and I am of the mind that the career God provides for us is a sizable part of that ministry. The question now is: are we choosing our jobs merely to join the comfort of the inner ring of those who have jobs (because we were once the outsiders looking in at those who have already found work), or are we choosing to see the jobs we’re applying for as a part of the ministry that God has provided? If we choose to see our jobs as part of the ministry, then we will not be subject to the lust of wanting to be inside an “inner ring,” but we will look around us and see faithful servants working in their ministries as well, creating what Lewis calls, “an accidental inner ring.” If we choose to see our jobs as a way of being in the inner ring because we are so fixated on being outside of the inner ring of “those with jobs,” then once we enter that inner ring, we will only find ourselves unsatisfied; once we’ve made it inside the inner ring, we see that the only thing special about it is its exclusion of those who aren’t in it, and so we go to search for other inner rings to be a part of now that the present has been found less than fulfilling.
I’m not going to advise anyone on how we should approach this topic of calling and comfort because, as Lewis intimates, I can’t claim to know the circumstances all of us are going through. Nevertheless, I will say that to dwell in the peace and joy of work as our calling is to be the “sound craftsmen” that Lewis describes; to simply find comfort in having a job and being a part of that “inner ring” will only lead to, according to Lewis, more inner rings for us to feel less than satisfied in. May we be faithful in fulfilling the ministry that we have received in the Lord.