Our question this fourth week in Lent is “Where is God in our work lives?”
Rather than we who work inside the church writing, we asked you, Broadstreeters working outside the walls of the church building, to respond.
The following reflections come from three hardworking folks you see on Sundays, singing in the choir, sitting with God’s Treasures or at 8:45 worship.
My days as a clinical social worker on a crisis-oriented inpatient psychiatric unit are intense, immediate outcome-focused, team based, and never having a break kind of day after day. But I rejoice in this opportunity to be a conduit for God’s healing, love, and strength. While I am driving the 30 miles there, I can reflect on breathing in God’s spirit for the day ahead. “In with Thee, out with me” with each deep breath, to remind me of the purpose of my being. Then, when caught up in the midst of the day’s crises, it must be auto-God-pilot at work that permits me to end most days with thankfulness. Sometimes when our treatment team is sitting privately with a psychotic patient, I will be reminded of Jesus commanding out the demons, or of His compassion for the grieving and depressed. Sometimes I concentrate my will on that person with the silent prayer of “may the Christ in me reach the Christ in you”. Each of us of faith has this capacity to tap into God’s spirit and be open to His light that envelopes those we meet along our way. Some days it comes to us simply, and other days we pass it by. God is always forgiving and loves us anyway.
I have always had roots- deep ones. Grounded, never rash. I was a serious kid, a worrier and a planner. I always sought safety and security, quiet and dependability. I like things orderly and predictable. I like to control what I can, make lists. I fix things when they go wrong. Make them “normal.”
I am good at work. Always steady, competent. I’m on time. I don’t do sick days. I can be relied upon. I am never lazy. I don’t look for the easy way out. In many ways, work is my ballast. A constant that I count on as much as it counts on me, regardless of the state of my life in any other category. Ironically, it is not very steady sort of job. There is no controlling it. My opponents, and my clients for that matter, can be completely unpredictable, creative, and often erratic. Most of my days are triage, putting out fires and fixing things. I help. I put things back together. I do thank God for this, my work- it grounds me. I don’t thank him as often as I should. But most days, I feel like my work is his work too. There is pride in that- both the good kind and the bad kind.
Then something goes wrong. Or maybe it doesn’t go wrong, but my perception of what is happening or has happened makes it seem that the end of the world is near- either by my hand or somebody else’s. There are days that I completely doubt my ability to do anything right. I doubt my competency or my understanding of the situation. I can’t see the way out or how to put the pieces back together again. I don’t believe that I can help anyone. My clients, lots of hardworking men and women, trust that I know the right thing. They trust that I will do the right thing. And sometimes, I feel I am an absolute fake. That I have let them down. I am not good enough and they will suffer the consequences.
And then I recognize it again. This belief that I hold the fate of all these other people, and even my own fate in my hands alone. That it is only my decisions and only my abilities that could possibly affect the outcome of the lives of these workers or my own life. It is not some selfless, unrealistic burden that I place on myself. It is pride. Because in the moments that I believe I am utterly and totally alone, this pride swells up in my chest and suffocates me. I believe that I am it. But then I remember (even though it may take me a very long time) that I am never alone.
Sometimes, I will not know what the right thing is and there will be times that I make mistakes. But all I can do is prepare and fight my hardest. Then, I have to give it to God. Then, it is His. So I say a little prayer before each hearing that God will help me know the right thing. I pray for my workers that God will know the right path for them. When my workers ask me to, we even pray together. Because we are both His, regardless of what happens next.
What helps me operate through the day and week at work is the guidance provided by the benediction—
“Go out into the world in peace; have courage; Hold on to what is good; Return to no one evil for evil; Strengthen the fainthearted; Support the weak, and help the suffering; Honor all people; Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
It is easy to remember and helps me make what sometimes feel like counterculture decisions about
Thanks to these three Broadstreeters for sharing how they experience God in their work lives, and for stirring up our awareness of how we do as well.how to navigate through life at work.
Questions for discussion:
Where is God in your work life?
When do you struggle to find or sustain a connection with God in your work life?
Here is a humorous take of how to see God in our everyday work life.