And why I’m not going to explain them. By guest writer Lindsay Callaway
LinkedIn recently announced they would start including titles like stay-at-home parent so members can justify gaps in their employment history. While it’s helpful that LinkedIn is making it easier to explain such absences, this decision attests to a cultural preoccupation with what we do, rather than who we are.
Cultural commentator David Brooks masterfully categorizes this distinction as resume virtues and eulogy virtues. The resume virtues are the qualities LinkedIn cares about, the measurable contributions you’ve made to society. Eulogy virtues have to do with your character, what gets talked about at your funeral – what kind of friend you were, how you loved your family or what made you laugh.
With my 30th birthday looming I can’t say I’ve thought much about my eulogy, but I have reflected on how a culture obsessed with resumes has affected what I put in my LinkedIn profile, and also the way I live out my faith.
I expected to compete in the job market with a resume filled with active verbs and quantifiable contributions, but I’ve noticed a similar pressure to compete over qualifications in the Church. This has surprised me.
For years I felt the need to exhibit spiritual virtues, a third category, so people could size me up as a valuable and trusted asset to the church community. These spiritual virtues tended to resemble those valued on a resume more than those shared in a eulogy. Attending the right conferences, name dropping admired theologians, having a hot take on the latest Twitter debate, even down to the Bible translation I chose were the "virtues" that made me feel right with other people and therefore right with God.
In Philippians 3:3 Paul warns the Church to "put no confidence in the flesh." In a context where external works of religiosity were the standard of piety, Paul knew such a culture could easily infiltrate the sacred community of grace. And so he outlines his own spiritual qualifications that raised him to elite level in his religious context. "Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the Church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless" (Philippians 3:5–6).
The cultural differences in Paul’s list of religious accomplishments are apparent, but can we imagine what this might look like today? I can. Acceptable spiritual resume virtues could range from theologically aligned activities to family status to educational values.
Being caught up in those virtues is another way in which we care more about what someone does than who they are. It can be so easy to appear to thrive on the outside while spiritually dying on the inside. So Paul tells us exactly what we are supposed to do with our spiritual virtues that look more like resume virtues: "Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ" (Philippians 3:7).
Paul is willing to lose his standing before the religious elite because of the "surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, My Lord" (v.8). Knowing Jesus intimately isn’t something we access through the measure of our contributions or the advantageous networks we belong to. Going against every resume impulse, we don’t have to explain the gaps before a Saviour who calls us and loves us.
Knowing Christ as we do, the Church ought to be a radical alternative to the rat race of resume building. Membership depends only on receiving the grace of God and not the contributions we make to justify it. It’s a community where a (well-sanitized) outstretched hand is meant to extend a hearty welcome rather than an opportunity to hand over a business card.
The Church is also a community concerned with becoming more like Jesus who Himself displayed what some might consider major gaps in His ministry life. He worked humbly for years before entering public ministry, and then during ministry often retreated from crowds and stole away in silence or slumber. By embracing limits Jesus sets the pattern for what it means to flourish as a human being and perhaps more importantly as a child of God.
So, even though LinkedIn suggests I explain the two-month gap where I was in the hospital and the two years I took to care for my children at home, there’s something human about leaving them there. I won’t apologize for the gaps.
Lindsay Callaway of Ottawa is a researcher at The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.