Vicky Calver, inspired by her own diverse experiences tackles the subject of success - the world's take on it, the biblical perspective and our response. Illusions of Grandeur looks at issues and questions raised by the story of Joseph, through both his times of trial and those of fame. This is brought into our current context by a rich variety of poignant illustrations drawn from both Vicky's own life and that of others.
The book starts out considering our reaction to times when life is not all we dreamt it might be, working through what we strive for and how we go about it, and unpacking how Christians respond in a world which labels success so specifically. We are encouraged to hold on to our God-given dreams and ambitions and to take steps to put them into action. If we then find ourselves in positions of responsibility, achievement or significance, or when we interact with others in these places, how do we respond?
Whilst on the surface it would seem that many trappings stem from life in the rat race, the world of mission is not necessarily removed from the drive to lead outwardly successful lives, nor is it exempt from the desire for status and recognition, even if, as the book reminds us, these look a little different to those at home. The text doesn't simply list salary, house size and the stereotypical hallmarks of a highflying career, but engages with some complex issues about who we aim to please and what we seek to achieve.
I was struck by Vicky's observation of how easy it can be to think, if we are truly doing God's will, the outcome will also look successful to the world around us. She provides an encouraging look at some of the different forms that success might actually take in God's eyes. When it looks different to that of the world's view, or the view of those around us, or even our own ideas about how things should be going, God is still working out his purposes. We are reminded that we need to continue to work faithfully in circumstances when there may be no clear benefits for us or when our work goes seemingly unrecognised. Our faithfulness in these things, as with Joseph's service in prison, can enable God's glorious outcome to prevail.
I found many of the angles put forward to be valuable in my thoughts about the changes, challenges and apprehensions of returning home. Whilst some step straight back onto the rung of the career ladder they stepped off, or instantly secure perfectly-fitting, well paid, successful jobs; others take longer to readjust, to find their feet and employment. The books insights are helpful as I question God on this, as Vicky does, wondering why it is not always an easy, straightforward path, and mulling over what my expectations are for that time. Vicky's words remind us that however it pans out, God values us for who we are, and leads us uniquely. Our job is simply to trust him.
Vicky's openness about her own experiences, combined with her perceptive angles on our instincts to succeed, makes Illusions of Grandeur an inspirational read. She very effectively uses both the story of Joseph, and the anecdotes of others quoted throughout the book, to provide us with motivation to pursue a deeper kind of success, encouraging us to be faithful as we continue in the mundane things of life, while at the same time dreaming dreams, and developing goals and ambitions, which are rooted in God.
It is unique to find a book on this subject from within our generation, and reading it was like hearing one of those sermons you feel has been written precisely for your circumstances. Each and every chapter brought either personal, or friends and colleagues, situations to my mind. As such it is definitely something I will be taking to our house group as a study series - it is guaranteed to tease out fascinating stories from people, stimulate thought provoke debate and help us all toward living out our lives more from God's point of view.