Is What's Inside What's Outside?
by Jeff Montgomery
Does our exterior work reflect our interior work? In other words, do the things we produce or provide in our jobs reflect our relationship with Christ?
I've had the good fortune to work with a wide variety of people all over our fine country, and seen a wide variety of performance and commitment to work. Some folks are not very pious and produce great work, and others display the accouterments of piety yet engage in poor work habits or behaviors. Being of an over-analytical frame of mind, these sorts of observations inevitably lead me to wonder where I fall on that spectrum. I'm big on consistency.
The process of integrating our faith with our work is an ongoing journey. Some days we do great, other days we may stumble a bit. Hopefully most of us avoid falling too far into the void. But in the long run, our faith should be alive inside of us, which should in turn motivate us to do our best.
Therein lies the rub. How do we keep our faith alive and turn that into good performance? Often this is as automatic as breathing, but at other times it's like trying to push a boulder up a hill. Most of us have numerous influences on our psyche in addition to whatever is going on at work. Whether it be family issues, financial issues, illness, spring fever, or just an inordinate amount of focus on what we're going to do this weekend, there are many things which can get in the way of giving our best effort.
The workplace, too, provides us with ample opportunity to be distracted. For example, what happens when someone in the office is fired? For the rest of that day there are usually many hushed hallway and cubicle conversations where we hash over what might have happened. A pending merger or acquisition of our company is usually good for a few hours of lost productivity. For some of us, discussing the latest developments in the sports world, or the latest divorce of our favorite celebrity pull us away. Now, most of us have these kinds of conversations at work, and they're valuable for building relationships, I only use them here as examples.
The point is that the world offers us many opportunities to get sidetracked from the task at hand. Our job is to figure out how to stay focused on that task, and how to give it our best in the face of such challenges.
One of the methods I use is to remind myself that God has given me the tasks that I have to face during a given day. Sure, they may seem to come from a boss or a customer, but ultimately God is directing events and handing me the work through others.
This initiates two thoughts. First, knowing that God has given me whatever task it is, through love for Him it is my duty to do it well. Everything we do should be for the glory of God, no matter how small it may seem. I give thanks for the work, and ask for help in doing it to the best of my ability. The second thought is that I don't want to get a bad review at that most final of performance evaluations.
Of course, we can accomplish nothing without God, so it's imperative to ask for guidance and help in our prayers. To paraphrase Scripture, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, so we need to ask for strength to follow the path He has laid before us. Recently, I have begun saying the morning offering, and I find that it is invaluable in focusing my thoughts in this direction. By giving the day's' events - the joys, the sorrows, the triumphs - to God, I find myself strengthened in my resolve to do things well.
In my recent journeys through Thomas Merton's Life and Holiness I was struck by his description of the Holy Spirit. He describes it as living within us, almost as a part of us. Consequently He walks with us everywhere we go and works with us in everything we do. This may seem rather basic to some of you, but I have a tendency to view the Holy Spirit as something outside of myself. It's more like this being floating around outside of me, but still with me all of the time.
But the subtle shift to thinking of the Holy Spirit as being within me seems to provide an inner strength. If He is right there in my soul, walking around with me, breathing with me, and working with me, then there is an inner reservoir of Holy strength to use in staying on track. As long as we invite Him in to what we're doing, He is more than willing to help.
Once we have the Holy Spirit alive within us, staying focused and doing our best should become almost second nature. Many of the distractions that once pulled us away no longer even register. Those that do register are easier to ignore. We have supernatural strength to stand up to the most vicious of distractions and stay focused on God's work.
This inner power, if you will, then shines forth in all we do. We know that our work deserves the attention and dedication asked for by God. We stay away from situations that might lead us astray. Our work properly reflects the Holy Spirit driving us to do it well.
Will we be perfect? Perhaps not. Even doing these things, I find that the battle to stay focused is almost an hourly event. However, if we persevere, and if we ask for God to guide us, over the long haul our lives and work will begin to reflect He whose image in which we are made.
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