Work as Freedom: Hearts of Flesh (Part 2)

After starting a new series on hearts of flesh last week, I want to spend this post extending the theme into the workplace.

‘Cause truth is: While discussing theological intricacies has its place, if a Gospel principle isn’t tangible…if it’s ambiguous in application…one must wonder if we’re fully taking it to heart.

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Thankfully, we’re believers in ‘part 2’s here at His Girl Fryday. As such, the goal of this post is to discuss what hearts of flesh look like in the marketplace using the three core concepts of ‘part 1’ as a foundation.

Without further ado, let’s dive in…

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No question, we live in a complicated world addicted to hurry, prosperity, and high expectation. We want well, we mean well, we work well…but by day’s end, there always seems to more weighing us down than lifting us up. Ever wish you could fix just one issue knowing the ripple effect it could have? I know I do.

However, I also know at the core of many prevalent issues are hearts of stone burdened by systems of performance and self-effort. This arguably is no more evident than our cultural idolization of individual accomplishment over collective partnership. As a society, we say we value the idea of collaboration; we preach the principles of teamwork and leadership. But in an ‘I must get this done’ age, can we honestly say our bottom line emphasis is more ‘done’ than ‘I’? Or are we so caught up in progress and status, we’ve lost the point of why we work all together?

Regardless of where we’re at, as mentioned in ‘part 1’, there’s a common thread we can adhere to: By aligning ourselves to God, we can know not only is our salvation secure for those who believe (Romans 10:9-10), but our purpose, our destiny, and our future as well.

This has massive implications in the marketplace.

For starters, we can enjoy our work free from offense, agenda, and anxiety since our idea of success is rooted in worship and completion, not affirmation and accomplishment. Ever worry about your voice being heard or if ‘x’ project will get done? Perhaps you feel trapped knowing advancement can only happen is certain metrics outside your reach are met.

If so, dare to rely on God as your higher power in those moments. Put into practice, you’ll find this posture will not only free you from insecurity, but also redirect a fear of man/failure to a fear of the Lord.

As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12:11,13 (ESV):

“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Remember when we surrender our anxieties, when we cast our cares upon the Lord, we create space God can invade.

Note how 2 Peter 3:8-9 literally captures this in the Message translation:

Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness…He’s giving everyone space and time to change.”

Unfortunately, for many of us, this reality falls flat before we recognize it. We pray before each day, we ingest truth through the Word, and yet somehow the emotional gravity in conflict remains unchanged. Why is that?

I know for me after I graduated college, I’d feel guilty if I had time to kill or margins to clear. I’d think to myself I must be doing something wrong if I’m not productive or ‘on the go’ all the time. But looking back, I realize this burden was self-inflicted having believed no mountain to conquer was a sign of faithlessness. As I now know…

…voids created through surrender is an apex of spiritual maturity.

More specifically, to create voids righteously, one must repent and acknowledge God as the provider of opportunity, the way to resolution, and sustenance when either is lacking. True, our margins and capacities may vary (see parables of the talents), but it’s ultimately God who entrusts us with them. Knowing this, we can experience work as freedom by viewing business ethics, accountability, communication, and motivation as ‘fragrant offerings’ to God.

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Furthermore, if we accept our future as known and pre-determined rather than unknown and self-determined, then we can view our work as done since our purpose is already secure. Granted, this idea may be hard to grasp at first. I’m not suggesting you approach responsibility with a cavalier attitude; however, I am encouraging you to see aligning to God as a way we engage His fullness, faithfulness, and the belief that what good can be donewill be done.

If it helps, consider this: You are made a new creation. To be made is to have an identity. What you do is not your identity. Accordingly, what you make, what you earn is not your identity. So what is your identity? It’s who you are. God…God made you who you are. However, He also made work. Why? So people can know Him and discover their purpose. Hence, why work isn’t your identity, but working unto the Lord is.

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Knowing God is why we work means He’s the subject of our work. Our co-workers and supervisors? They are not the subject. They are the object…equal in value, diverse in function…just like you. Even the confusing characters, those who think success is all profit, position, and power, God sees the ‘finished them’…not only what they could be, but what they will be.

In light of this, we can embrace helplessness and accept weakness knowing we’re a new creation continually transformed as we receive from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Even when others condescend on weakness, we can take heart knowing the Cross has meaning and power because of it. Oh, how sweet it is to know this same wonder-working power can be alive in and through us…even as we work.

All that said, next time you’re on the clock, delight in the fact you can be open to constructive criticism since work is more than learning; it’s freedom. When you’re micromanaged, manipulated, or indirectly communicated to, rejoice. God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear on what your boss or colleagues can do to you, but of love, power, and a sound mind in what you can give back. Again, if you align to Christ, the reproach, the dying to self…it all takes care of itself. Besides, you can’t control what others do or think, but you can trust in God who works all things for good and is progressively transforming us into His image.

Cause to God, it’s not about the bottom line…or even the finish line; it’s about the finished line…

…a reality we can know as Christ’s finished work alive in us.

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In closing, I bid adieu with one last verse from 2 Peter…

With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.  So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.” ~ 2 Peter 1:8-11 (MSG)

Stay tuned next time when we’ll discuss how merging bottom lines with finish-ed lines ultimately sets the stage for cultural transformation in our arenas of influence. In addition, we’ll contract intimacy versus independence before relating each reality view to weakness (as Paul describes throughout 2 Corinthians 12).

‘Til then, be blessed and stay refreshed…

Selah.

 Cover photo creds: Steemit

 

One Voice Q&A’s with Cameron & Steve Fry

Cameron & Steve Fry talk Commission U and marketplace/bivocational ministry @ Messenger Fellowship‘s annual summit

Note: Apologies on the audio (especially the first minute); will aim to obtain higher quality when available.

1. Why is focusing on equipping people in the marketplace so vital for the church?

I believe if the church wants to equip people in the marketplace, it must embrace its transitive nature. The marketplace ministry problem, particularly in the western church, isn’t so much a function of not discipling saints to be like Jesus as much as it is not discipling saints to be like Jesus…within their respective spheres of influence. Considering 90-95% of congregations work in secular settings, we must bridge the disconnect and target these settings if we want to better reach the lost.

2. What is ‘bi-vocational’ ministry?

Bivocational ministry is ministry that bridges the sacred and secular. Whether you’re versatile in the marketplace working multiple gigs or have a foot in both church/workplace arenas, bivocational ministry not only empowers people to be like Jesus at their desks, but also teaches them to make the best possible use with the margins and bandwidths they’ve been given.

3. What have you seen in Commission U that is so helpful to marketplace people?

One of the advantages of Commission U (and courses like it) is how it acknowledges the priesthood in all believers while shattering the mold of ‘pastors do this/non-pastors do that‘. There’s a false paradigm that suggests only those with liturgical callings can be ordained, but with Commission U, as we experienced last night…

…we recognize all as partners in God’s ministry of reconciliation…all as effective ministers and child-like ambassadors…co-equal in value and diverse in function with a unique set of spiritual gifts designed for deployment wherever we influence. Ultimately, the heart of Commission U is to decompartmentalize faith and work so it becomes faith at work…at our work.

Graphic per Vicki Wilstermann/Ryan Hall

3 Ways to Handle Unfair Criticism

If you’ve worked a job long enough, chances are you know what it’s like to be falsely accused. After all, rumors, gossip, backstabbing = just another day in the workplace, right?

Yet, while we can all agree condemnation is never fun, not all may agree on how to overcome; still, as an advocate of reconciliation, I submit even on the darkest of days, there’s always a roadmap to resolve.

To get us there, here are three basic truths we can rely on when coping with unfair rebuke…

1. Don’t take it personally

Let’s be honest: when we receive unfair rebuke, it’s easy to lock into defense mode (i.e. shutting down, walling up, and basing every thought/action around hurt prevention). Sure, we may take the punches, turn the other cheek, heck, we may even get back up again…but at the end of the day, we’re often far too content remaining frozen in cynicism and analysis paralysis (i.e. over-thinking a situation towards indifference).

Perhaps you can relate to a colleague dishing out unnecessary criticism or a supervisor unwilling to hear your side of the story. Maybe you once wanted to rightfully confront an issue, but fearing job security, kept quiet in hope ‘this too shall pass’.

If so, then it’s important no matter what situation you’re in to not take it personally.

‘Cause while offense may feel good in the moment, truth is: it’s never the answer to reproach or resolution.

But Cam…all I want is to be heard and understood. What’s so wrong about that?

Technically, nothing; however, if offense is your default reaction whenever a finger is pointed at you, are you not doing unto the ‘offender’ what you don’t want them doing unto you?

Bottom line: Rather than stack shoulder chips, dare to defend against offense rather than with it. That way you deactivate pride and open the door for humility1 to enter, which as I’ll explain in my next point, makes taking offense a lot harder.

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2. Respond with class

As mentioned in point #1, when unwarranted criticism strikes, human nature often gravitates towards silence. For some of us, this can be a good thing initially (key word) as ‘quiet time’ allows us to process and collect our thoughts; however, at some point, it’s important we respond to critique rather than sweep it under the carpet pretending it didn’t happen.

Case and point: A few years back I had a supervisor who called me out in front of some colleagues before apologizing on my behalf without my consent. At first I was offended.  Not only did I have no idea what I’d done wrong, but also why my supervisor would jump the gun without discussing the matter with me one-on-one.

With the wind knocked out of me, I sank in discouragement…disguising hurt as focus. Yet, after realizing my processing was teetering on pouting, I decided if I didn’t want a repeat, I had to confront the issue head on in humility.

To do this, I first acknowledged what I could have done better to diffuse defensiveness and establish submission. Then, I addressed the misunderstandings in a way where context could be delivered and exchanged. Granted, I could have started the dialogue here and the conversation turn out okay; however, I knew if wanted to better learn where my boss was coming from, I had to lay down my walls first.

Thus, if you’re like me in the sense you crave context, always ensure it’s both deliverable and receivable when discussing difficult subject matter. That way you come across as understanding, not withstanding.

Bottom line: In the wake of reproach, keep your responses discernably demonstrative, not irrationally remonstrative.

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3. Follow through

As a basketball connoisseur, I’ve always been fascinated with jump shooting. I remember as a little kid riding my bike to the library each summer, picking up some VHS tutorials of Reggie Miller and Ray Allen, and watching them over and over until I mastered that elegant, fluid release (i.e. ‘follow-through’; see definition/instruction/animation below).

How to follow-through (basketball)

  1. Your wrists should be floppy (relaxed).
  2. Fingers should be pointed at the target (rim).
  3. Finish high. You should see your fingers at the top square of the back board.
  4. Hold your follow through position until the ball hits the rim.

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What does this have to do with handling wrongful accusation, you say?

Well, in the same way the follow-through allows the hand to maintain motion and guides the ball’s trajectory closer to the basket, focusing on smaller wins2 (i.e. baby steps/progress points on your way to recovery/restoration; see examples below) can maintain confidence and guide selflessness after a bruising experience.

Remember who you are is loved and what you’re called to is love. So if you want to ‘peace’ yourself together, why not give yourself an outlet to express that? Yeah, I know it can be overwhelming at first to reach out, especially when you’re trying to mask pain, but as I’ve learned in recent years, when you invest in those small wins, it’s amazing what can result.

Bottom line: If you’re unjustly critiqued, don’t stay low, finish highand follow-through.

Footnotes

  1. Humility = the pathway to ‘nowhere but up’
  2. ‘Small win’ examples = initiating conversation with colleague, seeking advice from mentor, reading the Word/referencing God, praying, taking ungodly thoughts captive, random acts of kindness, re-focusing energy and attention away from pain, etc.)

Cover image creds: Psychology Today (edited by Cameron Fry)