As for the Lord: Grace in the Workplace

There have been a good number of “Christ at your workplace” kinds of posts in the blogosphere lately. I’ve heard a number of sermons where I was told I’m supposed to have an impact for Christ at my job. Who hasn’t heard that?

My Real-life Job

Of course I don’t disagree with these things. However, I know this is wrong, but the main light I’d like to show them at my current workplace is the lunar light of my posterior as I leave the building for the last time! Here is the scene at my workplace. A couple of years ago my boss heard a little snippet of “Santa Clause is coming to town” coming from my cube and let me know that he is a Jewish atheist, and he doesn’t want to hear any of those Christian songs. (It turns out his wife is Presbyterian and they exchange gifts under the tree every year!) If you have ever worked in IT you know how your ability to work difficult long hours never measures up to everyone’s capacity to complain and malign you for it.

Here’s the other problem I have with being a “light for Christ” at my workplace: I’ve blown my witness about 1000 times. Let’s put it like this: at one point my youngest son, who was about 3 years old, was sitting at our computer pretending to work like me. He kept repeating, in a sweet little sing-songy voice, “D#@$ it! D#@$ it! My daddy says “D@#$ it!” Yes, its true, on occasion when a critical system has crashed and I’ve been troubleshooting for hours, a bit of colorful language has managed to slip forth from my “why, yes, I’m a part-time Pastor” lips.

I’m a Quitter!

I remember when I bought Jon Acuff’s book “Quitter”, I was surprised to find that he had also been working in an IT department, and had actually escaped! Here’s a guy I could possibly learn something from! I quickly skipped the chapters about doing really well at your current job. I skipped over the part about staying for the paycheck so you could pay your bills and buy food. I really didn’t want to hear all of that boring claptrap! I quickly skipped to the good part about hustling and working hard on your next thing.

So while I did keep working hard at my job, I got up at 4 AM every morning and wrote a book and it got published! I resisted the urge at work to obsessively check to see if my Amazon rating had broken the 6 digit barrier. I was startled after several weeks into the publishing “go-live” that I wasn’t becoming comfortably wealthy off of my writing. I looked around and realized that I was probably going to be in IT for the long haul.

He Cares for You

It does look like circumstances are looking up, and some exciting things are on the horizon! As of now, none of this is resolved, but the scriptures offer genuine encouragement:

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,
7 casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:6, 7, NASB).

22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men;
24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
(Colossians 3:22-24, NASB).

Your personal real-life struggles matter to God. People want to tell you that your various trials are not as bad as other people’s various trials. So and so doesn’t have a job, you should be grateful. But, your trials are real trials, and they are important to God. God doesn’t share their fervor to downplay your frustrations. He cares for you.

I have learned that if I do my work heartily as for the Lord, it doesn’t mean what I used to think it means. Usually it is taken to mean that you will do it unusually well and that you will be exceptionally successful if you work for God. But I work in an environment where the expectations are unreasonable and where I can’t even begin to produce the excellence that was expected by my employer. In a way I am making bricks with no straw, and getting whipped for it. By faith I have the power to be content that I can do what I can do, and succeed at what is reasonable, and know that even though no one else celebrates it, God sees and is pleased.

Truthfully, this grace and this comfort and this ability in Christ to find comfort and count oneself as beloved despite external chaos and even personal failure is the true witness. It is my failure and my embrace of God’s unfailing love for me rather than my thin veneer of fake perfection that is the evidence of God’s reality in my life.

Slavery is bad. If you can’t keep a roof over your head and food on the table without obeying your boss, you are a slave. These verses do not say that you should just go on doing what you hate with some fake cheerfulness. It says that you have hope. There is a “proper time” coming when He will exalt you. He is in the redemption and rescue business. He rescued the Israelites out of Egypt, and He sent His son to rescue us from sin. He can rescue you from your slavery, and that time is coming. Until that time, you can count on the fact that He sees you and He cares what is going on with you. There is a really great reason to humble yourself under God’s mighty hand, because contrary to practically everyone else in your life, He truly understands you and loves you and counts your trials as important. You really will be redeemed.

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