When work is like the Christian life…

The first time I saw this photograph, it was on my sister-in-law's cell phone. She said my nephew had shot the photo, but since that time I have seen it  in various places online and am now unsure as to the photographer. However, I am clear as to the Creator of the sunset -- and the alligator, in the clouds and in the Florida waters mentioned in this post.
The first time I saw this photograph, it was on my sister-in-law’s cell phone. She said my nephew had shot the photo, but since that time I have seen it in various places online and am now unsure as to the photographer. However, I am clear as to the Creator of the sunset — and the alligator, visible in the clouds and in the Florida waters mentioned in this post.

“Well, if I don’t get eaten by an alligator, I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon.”

That was the marketing associate’s attempt at humor when we discussed her abbreviated schedule on Friday. She was just directing a photo shoot in the morning — but it was at a local lake known for its alligator population, thus her comment.  I countered her humor in kind, knowing there was no real danger from the alligators.

“No, you can’t get eaten by an alligator,” I protested. “I don’t know enough yet.”

“Yes, you do!” she responded, cheerfully, not offended at all by my selfish reasoning. “So that settles it. You know enough, so if I get eaten by an alligator, everything’s OK.”

“No,” I disagreed.

I completely disagreed. As a newbie, I view my trainer and supervisor as “an ever present help in time of trouble,” and I was anticipating working without her presence with less than enthusiasm. She would be gone Friday morning and then the whole of the following week.

“I don’t know enough,” I pressed. “The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.”

And with that thought quickly followed another, though unexpressed.

“My work life is so much like the Christian life.”

Over the weeks, my supervisor had praised me numerous times for the job I was doing. More than once she’d greeted me enthusiastically with “I’m so glad you’re here,” almost as if she were surprised I’d returned for more. The interns I supervised seemed to be warming up to me. My colleagues in the office were slowly introducing themselves, some saying they’d heard I’d jumped right in and was doing well. I loved what I was doing, and I’d been growing more and more confident in my position as a technical editor the past three weeks — even to the point of believing that I had some ideas that could make operations run more smoothly.

But that particular day had been tougher than usual at work for me — good overall, but with enough reminders that I am not yet perfect at what I do. It was just a moment (or two, or three) in which I saw I didn’t know everything or do everything perfectly. So by 5 p.m., I was ready to call it a day. Not a bad day. Certainly, a productive day. But a day that made me a little uncomfortable with myself and more dependent on following the Standard Operational Procedures (SOP) manual. In fact, it was a day in which work was a lot like the Christian life. (And I know I’m saying that as if it were a bad thing.)

I was beginning to understand that the more I know about my job, the more I realize I don’t know.  Wisely, my boss didn’t just hand me the entire workload I will eventually carry. She gave me training; she handed me the printed manuals; she gave me space to read those manuals and get my bearings; she walked me through processes; and she let me set out on my own. Sometimes I asked a lot of questions, sometimes I timidly ventured into new territory, and sometimes I plunged ahead, thinking I knew what to do — only to find out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

The Christian life is like that.

It seems too often that just when I think I’ve got the Christian life — or some aspect of it mastered — that I blow it (or merely see with more clarity and realize how wrong I am). It’s a bit humbling.

One particular time in my life was during those single years I experienced after the death of my first husband. It was a time of pain, of struggle, and, thankfully, of spiritual growth. I felt I was able to look away from things of this Earth — that aren’t lasting — and focus on my dear heavenly Father as the source of true joy. I was growing in my faith; I thought I was pretty close to maturity. After all, I’d survived the loss of the love of my life and was managing to trust God with all my dashed hopes that had included marriage and children. When I bought a house, my sister told me I’d elevated the “eligible husband” field to men who owned homes. When I adopted a cat who then left toys all over the house, I thought that God was preparing me for children.

Apparently, we were both right. I met and married a homeowner, who was also a widower with four children (who were exponentially more messy than a cat, mind you) . When he proposed marriage, he said it would be “an excellent opportunity for personal growth.” I thought I was grown up and took the challenge. While I went into the marriage courageously, the cat panicked and then returned to live with my former roommate. It took only weeks into the marriage to realize that the cat was smarter than I was — and how far short of “spiritually mature” I was. In fact, through the years, as I’ve entered each new stage of my life, I’ve discovered I’m really not all that spiritually mature. But I usually determine that only after that whole “pride” followed by “fall” thing.

The Westminster Catechism in a question-answer format responds to questions crucial to the Christian faith (as set forth in Protestant Calvinism). It says that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” (The thought is based on Scripture such as Romans 11:361 Corinthians 10:31, and others.)

Knowing that helps me — as I struggle to do better at work and be better at the Christian walk of faith. My “chief end” isn’t perfection in the workplace or even perfect character demonstrated in spiritual maturity in my Christian walk; it is bringing glory to God wherever I am and enjoying Him in the process.

I figure I can do that in my workplace — not necessarily by being perfect, though that will remain my aim, but by humbling admitting my failures, working to remedy them — and probably by making the occasional brownie or two. (I’m sure that seems random, but you’d be surprised how much glory God gets from a simple brownie.) 🙂

In my Christian walk, I can purpose to bring God glory and to enjoy His presence on a daily basis. He is so close that He truly is my “ever present help in time of trouble” — not my wonderful supervisor, who might be absent due to a photo shoot or conference or vacation or an untimely death by alligators.

(She survived the photo shoot Friday, by the way.) 🙂


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