I Am What I Do by Andrew Laird (Matthias Media)

“What do you do?”

You can just about guarantee this will be one of the first questions you’re asked when you meet someone new. The answer may not be that easy if you’re retired or unemployed, of course, but most people are happy to talk about their work and it often breaks the conversational ice in a non-threatening way.

It’s not so great, however, when our lives become indivisible from work. When we are so wedded to what we do that it essentially becomes who we are.

This is a very familiar feeling for former journalist Andrew Laird (right) – so much so that he felt compelled to write a book titled I Am What I Do to help other Christians refashion their thinking about work along godlier lines.

“Early on in my career, I recognised that I cared enormously about the opinion of my colleagues and my industry peers, and there was a real desire to get their approval for who I was and the work that I did,” Laird says. “It’s only in hindsight that I can see how incredibly burdensome that was, and how much it shaped the way that I worked and behaved around them.

"...there was a real desire to get their approval for who I was and the work I did"

“The book very much is the fruit of many, many years of wrestling with that, and coming to a fresh understanding and appreciation of the sure and firm identity I have in Christ, his opinion of me being what counts, and my identity being shaped by who I am in Christ as a forgiven child of God.”

Laird is now the national Life@Work manager for City Bible Forum, helping to encourage other Christians in secular workplaces to have a godly life and witness, and equipping them to share their faith with colleagues. 

After all, he knows from experience how hard it is to get this balance right. Yes, he had an active Christian ministry during his earlier work years, but this was paired with a need to work harder and push himself further to achieve the workplace “success” and peer approval he craved.

Significant seasons of humbling

When asked how he began to break this cycle, he bluntly says that, like many Christians before him, “God in his kindness brought a few significant seasons of humbling into my life – firstly, being unwell for a period early on in my career, but one that I talk about at length in the book is a period of burning out. I was unable to work for about two months and then was recovering for a good 12 months after that. It was a really significant season where God humbled me and was at work in this particular area of my life.”

I Am What I Do came out of Laird’s own reflections, the speaking and teaching he has done over the years with City Bible Forum and the recognition that he was not the only person wrestling with this problem. This prompted him to put his thoughts on paper with a desire to help others understand the issue before they also fell over the edge into burnout.

“Some of us need that kind of wake-up from God before we listen, but you really wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” he says.

He describes the first half of the book as the biblical foundation for our identity in Christ, and the second half as the application, amid the framework of freedom. 

“One of the things I have found is that when we have a sure and firm identity in Christ, that’s incredibly freeing – to not have to prove ourselves to others,” he explains. “And so, my hope is that Christians who read it will appreciate and experience afresh the freedom that there is in the gospel in this particular area.”