It was after nine o’clock at night, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of hopelessness. No matter how hard I tried, it seemed that I wasn’t spending enough time at work – or at home – to be successful.
Of course, it wasn’t just work and home. I had gone on a retreat the previous year that had rekindled my desire to live the faith. Yet my prayer life was struggling. Despite only being in my 30’s and healthy, I was physically worn out. The financial obligations kept piling up. If Christ was at the center of my life, it sure didn’t feel like it.
Something had to give.
In looking back, I can see that my professional aspirations, drive for financial success, and relentless daily routine created the perfect storm for a gradual loss of perspective. Although my faith was real, it tended to be compartmentalized. In my zeal to succeed at work, I sometimes forgot about faithfulness.
Have you ever noticed that when we’re not exactly where God wants us to be, He still invites us back on the right path? Sometimes, it’s like a gentle tap on the shoulder. This time was more like a two-by-four upside the head.
I’ll never forget the moment of impact – when we were expecting our seventh child, my wife (oh, did I forget to mention her and the kids?) found out that our baby had some major medical problems. Our world changed in an instant.
Actually, our priorities changed. Despite the harsh circumstances, it was like the lenses of my life suddenly became clear. I prayed constantly. My marriage was more important than my career. Family and kids really mattered. Sure, we all say it. But I didn’t always act like it.
Our son David, now almost nine years old, serves as a reminder to keep my priorities in order. Through grace, and the prayers of many people, he overcame many of his challenges – thanks be to God.
Yet through the circumstances of his birth, it became evident that I couldn’t sustain a CPA firm lifestyle, a family and a faith in the way I had been attempting to do for many years. It also became clear to me that success is useless without faithfulness.
The universal vocation to holiness entails allowing our faith to permeate every aspect of life, including work.
Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time praying, thinking, reading, and discussing the topic of faith in the workplace. As the son of a former Presbyterian minister with a Ph.D. in business, the conceptual confluence of faith and work seemed natural. Living it… not so much.
This Lent, I would like to invite you to think about ways you can become just a little more faithful in your daily work. Not just thinking about it, living it. If you’re struggling somehow, like I was nine years ago, perhaps this is a little tap on the shoulder. Don’t wait for the two-by-four!
Here are just a few things to consider:
· Begin the day with a morning offering, a short prayer offering the entire day to the Lord
· Build time into your daily schedule for quiet time and prayer – and don’t be shy about praying for what’s going on at work
· Turn your work itself into a form of prayer by doing your absolute best – and pray about your priorities, especially when you’re busy
· Treat colleagues at work with the dignity and respect Jesus demonstrated towards even great sinners – and forgive those who hurt you
· Attend a spiritual retreat – they’re great to help discern long-term career questions
These are just the tip of the iceberg – there are countless practical ways to gain perspective and ensure that your work and your faith are harmonized. In fact, by living out our faith at work, we can become more effective in both practical and spiritual terms.
This Lent, seize the opportunity to be more faithful at work – it will help you find greater purpose, turn some of the problems you encounter into real opportunities, and most importantly, bring you closer to our Lord and Savior. Let’s pray for one another!
Note: With gratitude to Catholic News Agency for publishing this post in March 2012.