What’s your workday like? If it’s anything like mine, it’s filled with meetings, phone calls, emailing, more meetings, writing, negotiating, compromising, strategizing. And that’s just my paid job. Throw in dishwashing, vacuuming, laundry, lunch-making, personal hygiene, cooking, hugging and snuggling, shuttling – plus lots more negotiation and compromise – and that’s a full day’s work.
So here’s my question: How often do you think about God while you’re at work?
Truthfully, I hardly think about him at all, and that’s because I segregate my faith. I pray at certain times of the day – often in the morning, before the kids awaken, and if I’m lucky enough not to fall asleep first, at night before bed. God doesn’t often accompany me to the office.
It’s easy for me to assume that for a monk or a nun, a pastor or a missionary, God goes hand-in-hand with the job, but God and PR? God and fundraising? I didn’t think so.
Benedict, of course, had a radically different philosophy. The Benedictines believe that everything is sacred – that all parts of life should be revered as holy. And this includes work – even work as mundane as public relations. Author Jane Tomaine describes it like this:
“Since our real work is to love and to point to Christ, no matter what our earthly and tangible work of the moment is, all our work is a holy endeavor. Work is a way we seek God. Work is the way we use our God-given gifts in service to others. Our work provides opportunities to be in relationship with others where we can let the light of God shine through us…All our work can be an opportunity to listen for God each day.”
Benedict doesn’t limit “holy work” to the religious or service professions – you don’t need to be a priest, doctor, nurse or teacher to use your God-given gifts in the workplace. He means that all of us have the capacity to do holy work – even if we’re in PR…or driving a tractor trailer…or bartending…or delivering mail.
Benedict’s work philosophy reminds me of my friend Michaella. Michaella scored high in “Empathy” in the StrengthsFinder test (I did well in the “Discipline” and “Achiever” categories…some of us have a longer row to hoe than others). She put those empathy skills to good use, always tuning in to the emotional climate of the department, always willing to listen attentively and offer kind advice when needed. Even working in PR, Michaella let the light of God shine onto the rest of us.
Michaella served as a great example for me, illustrating that it is indeed possible to reach out to coworkers in the workplace. She didn’t spout Scripture in the conference room, but that didn’t matter – she exuded God-given compassion.
Tomaine offers some practical tips for melding God and work, a few of which I’ve tried during the last several weeks (and found that they’re actually effective):
- First thing in the morning, ask God to be with you throughout your day.
- Before a difficult meeting or conversation at work, pray for guidance, patience, the ability to listen, open-mindedness and anything else you feel might be helpful to bring to the table.
- Listen to spiritual music while at work [I admit, I haven’t done this while actually in my office, but I do pop in a CD of hymns on my way to work in the morning and often on my way home, to help ease the transition from work to home life].
- Give thanks, even for the simple things – the invigorating spring air during your 10-minute walk outside; the homemade chocolate chip cookies in the breakroom.
- Practice patience and silence. Ask God for the ability to sit quietly and not interrupt as a colleague speaks during a meeting (personally, I find this one particularly challenging!).
- And remember that all work is holy work. God has given you special skills and talents; use them wisely and thankfully to bless others.