The Mission Central Blog
Resources on Effective Leadership, Emotional Health, Spiritual Growth, and Faith and Work
I know that when I consider making time for spiritual practices like prayer, the first thought that comes to mind is, “But I’m so busy!” Of course, one of the main things I’m always busy with is my job. This week, I had planned to do an after-work prayer time on Monday, but somehow I found the work project I was wrapping up kept me late at the office. Not extremely late: Just forty-five minutes, enough for me to run out of time for prayer before the rest of my evening responsibilities started. Experiences like this can reinforce the sense that my job is a problem, a barrier to the kind of life with God that I want to live. It’s easy to imagine that if somehow my circumstances were different, making time for prayer and other spiritual practices would be easy. Giving up my job for Lent sounds kind of nice.
Not all of us do literal craftworks in the visual arts. The gift of the Spirit is universal for those in Christ, but the specific work we do is particular. As Paul writes in, “There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:5 NIV). Although it’s not explicit in the text, I think a case can be made that the different kinds of service are different kinds of beauty. Isn’t there something beautiful about good work, done well, regardless of what kind of work it is? We get at this broader idea of beauty when we describe someone’s efforts as “beautiful work” even if it isn’t artistic work. Beauty includes the idea of wholeness, goodness, or excellence—not just aesthetic or artistic beauty as such. What if any work we do well and wholly are as pleasing to God as a beautiful sonata or painting?
Just as Jesus sent his disciples on a mission “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2 NIV), Jesus sends us into our neighborhoods and workplaces as ministers of God’s healing power. As you mature in your capacity to receive and exercise the ministry of healing, you can consider your workplace again with fresh eyes. What would it be like to bless your coworkers and customers with the same power you’ve found in Christian community?
While there are many ways we could sketch out the purposes of God, I’ve found it can be helpful to talk about four aspects, or “corners” of mission: healing, justice, beauty, and evangelism. Like the nooks and crannies of a charming old house, each “corner” has its own features to explore, and together they make up a holistic picture of mission. We’ll look at each of these in depth in later posts, so for now we’ll look at how these themes all emerge in the ministry of Jesus himself.
There’s something about the way we imagine encountering God that, for many of us, causes us to put it in a separate category than our normal workday. But if we don’t imagine encountering God in our normal workday, it’s not because he isn’t there. If we can find God in the middle of our work, then our work—whatever it is—can become a place where we experience spiritual change and growth: a workshop of the soul.
If you want to counteract gossip at work, you have to cut against the grain of normal human behavior. Knowing exactly how to deal with gossip at work can flummox us. The challenge of gossip is that it feels inevitable, but we also know it can be destructive. Those of us who are disciples of Jesus might also have in mind the warnings of Scripture about gossip. We’re tempted to think of gossip as a relatively benign vice, but it’s treated as a serious spiritual matter in the pages of the Bible.
When we use spiritual gifts in the workplace, it’s not because the gifts aren’t special. It’s not because “everything is spiritual” in some vague but inspiring way. It’s because Jesus’ death and resurrection has made our bodies the special, set-apart, holy place of God’s presence. The special and spiritual now travels with us into our everyday lives and work.
Sometimes, the things we dislike about our jobs are the very things that grow us the most. As the proverb goes, a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. Challenge and difficulty are what engage us and call forth our internal resources, stretching us beyond where we’ve been before. In spiritual terms, the person who is willing and able to embrace challenge and pain for the sake of doing what’s right is a courageous person. In a word, that’s how not to quit your job: find the courage you need at work.
Like all virtues, the joy of loving an imperfect job doesn’t happen by accident. It takes work to love your work. It’s easy to feel miserable about the challenges of work. Most people do. Energy and zest and a bright spirit are harder to come by. It takes some creativity to find the joy in the middle of the mundane. But if the result is loving your job, then the effort will pay off—not just for you, but for everyone around you.