Whether or not your life’s rhythms are determined by the school calendar, for many of us September brings with it more of a sense of new beginnings than January. If we are coming back to work from a break, we may find we crave a change.
X Factor is now in its fourteenth series and the core formula remains the same. In chip shops and betting shops, factories, offices, and building sites up and down the land, there are people who know in every fibre of their being that they are not living the life they were made for. This is their one chance to change things for themselves and their families, they say into the camera, to show the world and themselves that they are worth something.
Between them and their dream sits a panel of three judges. ‘What would it mean to you to get through?’ one of them trots out, understandably a bit bored by the whole thing. The screen fills with a face, naked with fearful desperation. ‘Everything… it would mean everything. All I want to do is sing.’ And – the unspoken subtext – have you validate my existence.
Whatever your views on the show, it touches on some profound universal themes – the quest for meaning, significance, and vocation. When there is discordance between who we feel we are and what we spend our days doing, that inevitably creates stress. And if we allow anyone but God to determine our self-worth we become incredibly vulnerable. As Simon Cowell dismisses yet another not-quite-good-enough crooner from his presence, you can see their self-esteem crumbling before your eyes.
As we crank up again for autumn, in jobs we love or jobs we hate or perhaps not in a job at all, as Christians let’s remind ourselves and each other that we stand before only one judge who matters.
This judge, our Father God, created us and pronounced us ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). This judge sees everything about us (Psalm 139) and is under no illusions about our worthiness or lack thereof, yet looks on us with delight (Zephaniah 3:17). This judge tells us we are precious in his sight (Isaiah 43:4) and loves us enough to give the life of his son for our sake (John 3:16). The X Factor he is looking for in us is faith, and faith is a gift he gives to anyone who asks.