‘I’m so sorry you’re bleeding!’
These are some of the first words of my interview with Jess Lacey: I had just lost a battle with a bottle of lemonade and sliced my finger open. Sat in the July sunshine planning to talk all things ‘starting work’, my minor injury puts a hold on things. Once I’d staunched the wound, however, we got round to having a proper chat.
Jess is a year into her first job as Editorial Assistant at Hodder Faith, a Christian branch of Hodder & Stoughton. Having done a year’s apprenticeship at her local church she knew, she says, that God was calling her into the workplace: ‘I think I’m born to work in an office!’, she laughs, ‘I love being part of a team, I love being a part of helping people with what’s going on.’
That gives you an idea of what kind of person Jess is – vivacious, intelligent, and kind. But last September, she was less sure. Although she knew that she was called to the workplace and sure that she was using many of her God-given gifts, she had moments of being completely paralysed by fear: ‘I remember sitting at my desk knowing that I had this and this and this to do and feeling completely out of my depth… I didn’t know the whole publishing process and I didn’t think I knew enough and all I could think was “oh my goodness what if I get this wrong?!”’
That was the state in which she came to Changing Light 2016. But it was there, she explains, that something changed. Although she had considered the theory of the sacred-secular divide through church, being confronted with it in the workplace presented a whole new challenge: ‘I think I still had to undo it in my head a bit… it was still there.’ It was as Jess broke down the sacred-secular divide that she began to break down the fear.
That, coupled with the chance to talk with someone further along in their career than her, meant that Jess left Changing Light 2016 feeling a whole lot more positive: ‘I just remember feeling a release of this fear… I came away thinking that God does really want me to thrive in this workplace, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.’
Now, she explains, she tries to balance the feelings of insecurity with the knowledge that she’s called to the workplace, but that it is only through God’s strength that she can carry on: ‘I’m still learning to live with that paradox of not feeling good enough but also knowing that God has called me so I am good enough – I know I’m supposed to be here, but it’s also really hard.’
All that aside, then, what is it about Changing Light that is so special?
‘There’s no time to think about work while you’re at work. To have a space where you are intentionally thinking about and praying for your workplace, especially when you’re just starting out… it’s the best thing you can do.’
Slightly sunburnt as we finish off our lunch and prepare to head back to the office, I ask Jess for her one piece of advice to someone starting work. She pauses, and then responds quite simply: ‘take time to pray.’
‘We are all a work in progress,’ she explains, as we laugh at the unintentional pun, ‘and we’re all going to be shaped by something. Make sure that it’s God that is shaping you in the workplace. Think about how he is discipling you and growing character traits in you, but in the midst of it all, don’t forget to pray.’
Re:Work, a day conference for young professionals, takes places in Central London in May 2018. Find out more and sign up here.