Social Descent

I was generously taken to a restaurant last month. It was located in a building that had once been a Conservative club, now closed. A decade ago, I had an office there, for I was the chairman of the local association, and deputy chairman of the county. From that room, I pored over missives from Central Office, planned elections and arranged agenda with councillors and events for supporters. I would be invited for tea with Sir Simon and would pop over to County Hall to have lunch with the Group Leader. I recall meeting there one Theresa May MP, then Shadow Home Secretary and future PM, and Dominic Grieve, a future Attorney General. Nowadays, politicians no longer wish to meet me; they no longer ‘have their people’ find a mutually agreeable diary space.

As I reflected on those days, I pondered my other demotions, my further descent down the social ladder. Once a Justice of the Peace and Chairman of the Bench, my words would sometimes be reported in the local press, as some miscreant was sent down, or another was given a second chance, albeit with stiff warning. My words no longer have the authority to convict or acquit, to imprison or release. Mine is a voice that cries in the wind, heard by few and heeded by less.

Once, 17-18-year-old boys queued up at my office door wishing me to review a university application or prepare them for interview at Cambridge or Durham. Some had pastoral needs and problems at home; others just needed someone to talk to, or sought my opinions on politics or current affairs. Until 2020, I was Head of Sixth Form at a boys’ grammar, and, as I frequently pointed out to the Headmaster, had the most enjoyable job in the school, as well as one of the most important (after himself, the school secretary, the photocopying lady, the exams officer and the team of cleaners. That’s right- in a typical British school, the lower paid the post, the more important the role). Few young people now seek my advice on anything; I no longer have colleagues who ask for my help with classroom control or advice on how to get promoted. I am just some bloke whose face they cannot place, or another yesterday’s man.

I really am a nobody, a person of little account, a has-been. The heights I climbed were hardly giddy and my social status certainly undazzling, but I do now reckon myself further down the ladder than I have been for 25 years. Yet I am certain that all worldly success, prestige, influence and power are but flashes in the pan, burps from the gutter, mists of a morning. Only what we do for Christ will count for anything; only who we are in Christ will matter beyond the grave. Greatness in the world’s estimation is foolishness to God, while that which the world reckons foolish is the power of God for salvation. Writes the psalmist:

For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. Psalm 84:10

A humble doorman in heaven is better than the greatest lord on earth; one day with Christ is better than a thousand in any others’ company. Let prestige and honour be sought by those who are perishing; let God’s people seek Christ, who is alpha and omega, the beginning and the last, the only prize worth gaining and the only one worth keeping.

Let others boast of heaps of gold,

Christ for me.

His riches never can be told,

Christ for me.

Your gold will waste and wear away,

Your honours perish in a day,

My portion never can decay,

Christ for me!

-Richard Jukes