I would usually choose a nearby Costa to write an article like this. I often work best in a café, with the quiet hum of chatter surrounding me and a reliable hot chocolate by my side. It was in a church-run café, tucked into the walls of York that I spent a lot of time working on my Politics degree.
During my final year at university, I applied for the CARE internship programme, which places Christian graduates as interns with MPs or with charities for four days a week and runs a leadership programme on Fridays. I ended up working in Parliament altogether for about two and a half years.
Reflecting recently, I have identified seven lessons I learned through my time in Parliament, and I hope they are encouraging to you as you consider a future in politics.
#1 Trust God with your weaknesses
My journey in Parliament started in a place of both physical and mental difficulty. Just months prior to the beginning of the CARE internship, I had experienced a serious complication during a medical procedure and spent almost a month in hospital. When I was discharged, I questioned whether I was fit to move to London and work for an MP, when I was struggling to even walk around the small local park near my house. My physical strength gradually returned enough for me to decide to go ahead with the move, but a few months later, I started experiencing mental symptoms, later diagnosed as PTSD, stemming from my experiences in hospital.
I write this to show what a broken state I was in as I started out in Parliament. Yet, it worked for good in several ways. As someone starting out in the workplace, my recovery forced me to ensure I maintained a good work-life balance in Parliament, which is so necessary but often neglected. I also had increased empathy for so many hurting constituents who would get in touch and was even able to support other staff members who battled with chronic illness and other afflictions.
I don’t know what your weaknesses may be, but God wastes nothing in His Kingdom and personal strength is not required to live faithfully as a Christian in politics. What is required is an absolute reliance on God’s strength and the complete submission to God of all your talents and strengths. Allow the Lord to steward your life, and it will be well-lived.
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)
#2 Pray about everything and anything
Transitioning from university to work is quite a shift. It can sometimes take even several years to adjust. Adjusting to the political sphere also requires a particular shift, both in terms of focus and pace. This is why I have started most days throughout the past couple of years with simply, “God, I need your help today” when I wake up. It’s always straight from my heart and acknowledges both my need and His sufficiency.
There’s nothing too small to pray about – whether you are unsure about how to respond to a constituent, needing wisdom whilst writing a speech, wondering how to approach a colleague, or even simply planning an organisational task. God has ordained work since the foundation of the world, and He is honoured by our prayers for help with our work.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)
#3 Expand your horizons and keep an open mind
As with most political systems, UK politics can be incredibly partisan and adversarial. Even our political chamber is laid out to be directly oppositional. Whilst we each have our often strongly-held political beliefs, this must always be balanced with God’s requirements for how we are to treat others – with respect, humility, and love. Humility is especially key because we do not have God’s knowledge of everything. There are some issues that the Bible lays out clear stances on, but we should be flexible and open-minded with those issues that come down to personal political preference. Other people or parties are not the enemy!
“And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:12 (NKJV)
#4 Money, sex and power
Ambition can be a useful driver to do the works God has set before us. Ambition can also be a hazard if abused. It is fair to say that, for various reasons, Parliament has an abundance of temptations in the area of power, even for staff members. Sadly, sexual abuse from those who misuse their power has occurred too often. Even during my time in Parliament, there were instances I knew of within my circles.
Christians are not immune from being the abusers in these situations either, or from misusing their power and money. Keep short accounts with God and others and an open heart before him. Connect with other Christians in politics and become accountability partners. Ask for prayer from church leaders over your work life. And, if you see others abusing or being abused – speak out. Do not turn a blind eye.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)
#5 This little light of mine
I was blessed in Parliament to be part of so many interesting projects and meetings, including working on an Armed Forces families project in my first year as an intern and learning so much about flooding policy and the aviation sector when I moved on to work full-time for an MP. It was also exciting to be part of writing a maiden speech for my final boss in Parliament, who was one of the new 2019 intake.
God gives us all different skills and Parliament was a great place to develop mine. Whenever you have an opportunity to use your talent, do not bury it in the ground, but use it to honour the Master who gave it to you.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” – Matthew 5:216 (NKJV)
#6 Connect, Connect, Connect
I remember on our CARE leadership course, we read a book called ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie. Most of us found the tips for connection in the book very useful, but the motivations often crass, usually employed in angling for business and profit. Connection itself, however, is so vital in order to build bonds, care for people and show them God’s love, however. Connection is also important in politics for joining together causes and organisations that could be useful to each other in building a better society. So, connect all you can and be willing for the Lord to bring anyone across your path.
“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24 (NKJV)
#7 Changing the world
I imagine that at least half the people reading this have some desire to make a change in society and maybe even the wider world. God may have laid particular causes or people on your heart to reach or even laws to change. I pray that God will bless you in anything that He asks you to put your hand to. Discouragement can easily set in, with politics often being a slow-moving world in terms of actual change. All that you need to remember is that you are not a saviour, God is. He is working His purposes out and you are blessed to be a part of them. Trust in His timing, not your own, and remember that more than any societal or political change we might desire, our first reason for living is to know and love God, then to know and love others, seeking to also draw them to Him. Keeping this as your baseline will hold you steady in the exciting and stormy world that is politics.
“Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and Prophets.” – Matthew 22: 37-40 (NKJV)