God in the Workplace

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“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it” [Genesis 2:15].

It all began in the Garden…work.

“Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God” [Ecclesiastes 2:24].

“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” [2 Thessalonians 3:10].

We need to do it, we should do it…God expects us to do it.

However, for some people, work is less than inspiring.  In his book Holy Discontent, Pastor Bill Hybels writes about holy discontent in the workplace.

Why do you do the work that you do?

Some do it because they have to, to make money to live.  Some do it because they make a lot of money and they want a lot of things that money will buy.  They get up, go to work, tough out the day, come home, sleep, get up, go to work, etc.   You get the picture.   There is little purpose other than making money.  There is no passion.  Nothing else really motivates them to go to work, much less do a good job at work.

Hybels applies his premise that some people work to correct “what they cannot stand” to the work place.

There may be something to that.

Let me get a bit personal.

Going to school was something I liked.  Early in my life, I liked books, I liked reading and thanks to a wonderful 7th grade teacher who introduced me to diagramming sentences [who does that anymore?] I developed a love of language and writing.

It was natural that I pursued English study in college.  I thought I would become an English teacher and I was an English teacher for several years but English teaching was not what drove me to teach for thirty-six years.  It certainly was not the money I earned.  What inspired me to teach for thirty-six years was the fact that I was painfully shy.

I had a collection of dreadful experiences in front of audiences, a piano recital when I forgot my piece, the serious campaign speech for junior class president that was met with laughter, the time I forgot my lines in the school play.   I can go on and on.   I had the notion that an audience was there to judge a speaker negatively, to pick the speaker apart.

To add to that, I was not gifted in interpersonal communication either.  I found it hard to carry on a conversation.   I would find myself in social situations with nothing to say but I had very sweaty armpits and perspiration on my forehead.  My wife knew I was shy.   Over the years she has joked that when we first met, I found it difficult to go to the concession stand at a sporting event to get popcorn.  I had to interact with people.  Problem is, it was not a joke.  I did everything I could to get out of going to get that popcorn.

The more I began to think about what I could not stand, the more I began to consider that I could not stand having “stage fright” or, to be more broad-based, “communication apprehension.”  The more I studied communication in graduate school, the more I realized I was not alone in this fear of speaking.  It was everywhere.  It was listed in many polls as mankind’s greatest fear; yes greater than heights, snakes, germs, etc.

I was so blessed.  I found myself with the opportunity to be a communication teacher.  For many years I had the honor of taking groups of twenty-five students through a journey from little confidence at the beginning of the semester to much greater confidence at the end.  I tried to instruct them about how to understand who they were speaking to and how their message could be written to work with their audience.  I tried to sell my students on the value of sharing their experiences with others, connecting with others and trusting others.   I wanted them to see the importance of relationships.

I was blessed because I loved what I was doing.

I was blessed because it sprang from something that I could not stand. 

I could not stand being nervous and insecure around other human beings.

I could not stand knowing that so many other people felt just like I did.  I wanted to do my part to eradicate communication apprehension.

I have a very good friend who has a tendency to look back on life.  She says things to me like “I don’t know why I did that” or “maybe that was a mistake.”

I spend very little time doing that.

At the end of my teaching career, I was still a very effective teacher.   I felt like I could have continued on longer in the classroom, but I did not want my teaching to be less than my best.  It was time to move on in life. 

Yesterday I found myself in a fast food restaurant and I got a special treat.   I ran across two former students who are wonderful people.   They were enjoyable in class and they went on to be responsible adults doing good work, one a lab technician and the other an EMT.   They are what I call good solid citizens.  They came up to me and we had a little conversation about the past, when they were in my communication class.  I was truly humbled as they said good things about me.

Yes God expects us to work; He wants us to work.  I don’t believe He wants us to just slug through the day at work.  Think about your life and try to figure out what you cannot stand.  I know it sounds like a strange way to approach your work-life but maybe it is not.

What you can’t stand may just motivate you to do your best work, and if that happens, I believe that God is pleased and an added dividend, you are a happy person.

God is probably pleased about that too…

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