Faith and the City
How can we find time to be with God when all of our hours are spent in the office? Georgia explains how focusing on her faith has made a difference to how she sees her job.
I work for a corporate law firm in Bank. It’s not Suits, or the Good Wife, or even The Split, but the atmosphere can be similarly money-minded, impersonal and sometimes vicious. It’s not an environment which instils peace, and sometimes God’s presence can be hard to see.
I struggled when I started my job not to divide my work and my faith and treat them as separate aspects of my life. Unsurprisingly this mentality was not helpful and both my work and mental health suffered for it. Nine months in and I still struggle sometimes; when work gets particularly stressful or when I find myself letting my competitiveness or pride get the better of me, but I feel God in my work and workplace more than I ever have before and I no longer view the office as somewhere I’m alone and without guidance.
The key realisation that sparked this vital change in attitude sounds so obvious I almost feel like it doesn’t need to be written down; but what is obvious when pointed out isn’t always clear in a time of crisis so here it is, in black and white: we do what we do and we’re good at what we’re good at because of the gifts God gives us. I have always been someone who enjoys an intellectual challenge, and this job is the result of a lifetime of being good at passing exams. I was never sporty, or musical, or a good orator, but I have always enjoyed learning, and testing my knowledge. This is something that has stood me in good stead in my job, and has made the hours and hours of reading long, difficult documents and untangling complicated scenarios not only something I can do, but something I enjoy doing. I enjoy my job and the challenges it presents because of God; because of the gifts I’ve been given. Finding God in spreadsheets and annual reports was hard when I looked at it from an impersonal angle, but finding God in the work that I enjoy was as easy as turning on a light and seeing him standing there.
The understanding that God is in what I do wherever I am, guiding my path, was incredibly liberating. I hadn’t realised how much pressure I had been putting on myself to love and be brilliant at every aspect of the job, and how scared of failure and trapped I had felt when that inevitably wasn’t the case. With this newfound sense of purpose I suddenly saw that as well as not being alone spiritually, I was also very much not alone materially. They say that when you start doing Pilates suddenly everywhere you go people are doing Pilates – well it seems that the same can be said of living in faith. Within a week of embracing God in my work I had two separate conversations, with people I had known for months but never known were Christians, about maintaining your faith in a corporate environment. Christ Church London alone hosts a remarkable number of lawyers and bankers and other city workers; there is even a monthly lawyers lunch!
Talking about faith to colleagues is tough, and for many people, myself included, the idea of walking up to someone at the coffee machine and telling them that you go to church is nerve wracking in the extreme (for those people who are confused by this, who happily discuss church and faith and God with anyone, you are amazing, and you can skip to the next paragraph). For those of us who are barely comfortable with even the ‘how was your weekend?’ chat, I would say this: you don’t need to talk, just listen – you’ll be amazed how many people do talk about faith, sometimes quietly or shyly, and before you know it you’ll find yourself surrounded by fellow Christians in the City, so much so you’ll find yourself desperately seeking out non-City types on a Sunday, muttering about how the lawyers have taken over your social life.
Finding God in your work is vital, whatever you do and wherever you do it. For me, and for many people in many industries, work is frequently incredibly stressful. Anyone who has ever taken concealer into the loo with them because they know they’re going to cry off their eye make-up will know that the job can sometimes be horrible; you don’t understand the task, your boss is shouting at you, the deadline is impossible, the coffee machine is broken. It is in these times that it is most important to feel God’s presence, and sometimes it can be these times where that is hardest. Sometimes the City is too much; sometimes your ergonomically designed office can feel like a prison, and in these situations remember that the rest of the world is out there, just a second away. If you can, get out – go for a walk: I always find even a very short walk around St Paul’s or by the water very calming. If you can’t leave the office, phone a friend, if you know someone who will be free for a quick chat, listen to some music, pray out loud – do whatever it is that makes you feel connected to God outside of work. Remember it’s ok for it all to be a bit much sometimes. Remember God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Remember that your ability to review an offering circular in 20 minutes isn’t why he loves you.
The most important thing I have learned in this job, possibly ever, is how essential it is to fit my work into my faith, and not the other way around. God is the solid foundation on which to build every aspect of our lives, including our careers, and the City is so much more beautiful, even at 4am on a Wednesday morning, when you’re looking at it with God.