For many people the idea of finding God at work is laughable. What about you? Some people would describe their work experience in more hellish terms than heavenly ones. Even if your workday is fairly pleasant, most folks struggle to describe how it relates to their beliefs and personal search for God. After all, in most lines of work religion and faith aren’t matters you usually talk about around the water cooler, much less in meetings or in interactions with clients. Yet the reality remains that you will spend more hours at work in your life than doing almost any other activity. Parenting, by the way, is also work, and especially if you’re the parent who stays home fulltime. If the majority of our efforts, resources, and time on the planet are spent working, shouldn’t we consider how our employment effects our spirituality?
Work is an ancient and God given reality. Even though we sometimes daydream about never having to work again, this isn’t something that God ever had on His mind. I’m sure you remember Adam and Eve, who lived in the Garden of Eden. Before they ate the fruit of the forbidden tree and caused the disconnect between humanity and God to happen, they had a peaceful existence in the luscious paradise. They were living perfect lives with the perfect God. They had everything they needed and could want right at their fingertips. They sat around and did nothing all day, right? Wrong. According to the book of Genesis Adam and Eve had a job, and that was to tend the garden and look after it’s animal inhabitants. So even before the breach between humanity and divinity took place work was a part of the picture. Likewise, while even the great Christian teachers can only speculate about this, it is unlikely that heaven is a kind of existence where we will just sit around on clouds playing harps for eternity. Whatever stage or part of life we are in, God has work for us to do.
I’m sure I don’t have to press you hard for you to admit the inevitably of work and its essential role for human living. Work provides us with the means to support our families, to have shelter, and to contribute to the wider world in some small way. But how on earth are we to have a sense of God’s presence in the midst of our hurried, sometimes boring and often stressful workdays? First of all, we need to remember that God is present everywhere in all places. While we can never limit God’s activity or nearness to any one place, it does remain true that certain environments facilitate a better awareness of God than others. Wherever you work, God is there. Remember that God is personally interested in you. God is so interested in you that He is willing to go to work with you. Depending on what it is you do for a living, you may now realize how wonderful God really is! Many people bring their cell phones with them to work. At some workplaces you are not allowed to answer your cell phone during working hours, at others you are required to have a cell phone, and at many places of employment you can sneak away to answer or make a call if you like.
God is constantly calling you and always attempting to get hold of you. The challenge is that at work, among other places, we usually keep our spiritual cell phones off. People often believe that God is somehow not welcome at work or in public life at all. If you and I were honest with each other, sometimes we don’t want to be bothered by God while we are doing our jobs. No matter how hostile your work environment is toward God, don’t believe the lie that there isn’t a chance of experiencing your spiritual life at the “office”, whatever form your office environment might take. Take for example this experience I had of God while working in an unusual “office” environment.
Another explosion went off as I leaned against the thick cement wall. From where I was I could see the gray sky of that chilly day through a bare opening in the building. I don’t know why but in that moment I had a sense of being a part of something greater than myself. It had nothing to do with my environment, the clothes I was wearing, or what I was about to do. It was God. I think I was aware of God’s presence only because I was looking for it, willing to take the time to pause in the midst of activity and focus on something else besides the immediate concerns of the moment. I moved down the line as an another explosion went off. The next guy disappeared ahead through the doorway, I was about to go next. My conscious sense of God ‘s closeness had to be suspended for a few moments as I darted ahead through the doorway. The Drill Sergeant yelled at me to move forward to the ditch while he proceeded to hand me a live hand grenade. I pulled the pin, counted the appropriate number of seconds and tossed the grenade in the arching motion I was taught. It exploded and I repeated the procedure before jumping out of the ditch and back to the cement building behind the firewall.
Much of what is required to sense God’s presence at work is the ability to take a step back from the immediate moment you are in. It might be as simple as taking a few deep breaths and looking out the window. It might be in marveling at how well everyone is working together and sensing that God is in the midst of that unity. Much of the challenge of our work day is that we don’t bother to check our spiritual cell phone messages. We don’t turn the radio off for a few moments while driving from one meeting to the next. We don’t bother to look up at the sky as we head from one part of the construction site to another. We allow ourselves to be totally immersed in what we are doing from start to finish. Now don’t get me wrong, often absolute focus and attention are required at work. Don’t go closing your eyes in prayer or seeking God’s active presence in your life while you’re holding a live hand grenade!
The spiritual life is about balance: sometimes you need to place all of your attention on the immediate task of the moment, but at other times you need to step back to focus on the great mystery of God’s presence flowing through your life. So when the opportunities come to check your messages, don’t just check to see if your significant other called, check to see what God is up to. On your lunch break take a couple of moments to check in with God and tell Him how your day is going. If you don’t take a lunch break, figure out how to start taking one. The reality is that God is always seeking to enter the experience of your everyday life, through the circumstances, the situations, and even the people around you. So try to be a little more alert the next time you’re at work; Jesus might be in the next cubicle.