Sunday, January 30, 2011

Musings on Our Daily Bread

The Lord's Prayer, a popular passage of the Bible, asks that we be daily given our "daily bread". In my morning meditations today, I considered the question of what is my "daily bread". I have, since childhood when I first learned this prayer, always though of it in purely material terms; food, shelter, clothing, etc.. This morning it occurred to me that my "daily bread" is more those physical, spiritual and relational gifts that are provided that allow me to get my daily bread, as well as to enable and provide other's daily bread. This realization then led to the question of how well I use my "daily bread" to get, enable and provide daily bread. Hmmm.

Further consideration pressed me to inventory all the skills, relationships, knowledge, and wisdom I have to leverage, and all the needs, problems, dilemmas and evils in the world I can leverage my "daily bread" inventory on, in exchange for my "daily bread".

So often, we have enough "daily bread" but 1) we discount what it is, 2) we don't know who most wants to buy it, 3) we are unskilled in how to sell it, and 4) we can be lazy about continually improve it. I am convinced that we if we were more aware and skilled on all these points, our self-esteem, value to others, sense of purpose and meaning, and ability to provide for ourselves and others would improve, and not just materially either.

May we become better at using and offering the "daily bread" that we are all daily provided.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Waiting (Well) At Work (& Elsewhere) For What We Want

The last 2 years has put me through a difficult and edifying exercise in patience that has left me, well, more patient. I want to share it with you here as well as the list of lessons I learned in hope it will be helpful to you in your own trials of patience at work, as well as in other areas of your life.

In brief, I had a situation at my job where I deserved a promotion based on my performance relative to the requirements of my position, and I had been repeatedly passed over. Some of the reasons for this were known and others not but that is less the point than that at the end of the day, I was not promoted because, I believe, my maturity was more important than a promotion.

Its difficult to bear with not getting something you know you deserve. It hurt my ego, and in this case, my pocket. It was embarrassing on some levels (said my ego which is is embarrassed whenever its expectations are not met on its timetable). It was unfair on other levels (said my ego which is far from omniscient). I believe (and especially in retrospect) it is what was ordained for me though.

During this time of waiting, I persisted in working to understand why the promotion was delayed and doing those things required to obtain it. I was angry, and tempted to a poor attitude, but I was continually reminded by Psalms 75.6-7 that promotion comes not from the east or the west but from the Lord, by Jer. 29.11, that God knows the good plans He has for me, by Galatians 5.22-23 that the Fruit of the Spirit is patience and self-control (temperance), and by Romans 8.28 that all things work together for good. I am happy to say that recently my patience was rewarded with a promotion, and more importantly with the lessons below. Trust me when I tell you that the lessons are far more valuable than the promotion, though the promotion is not bad.

Lesson #1: God promotes, not our management (Psalms 75.6-7). I was angry with my management but was continually reminded that if there was anyone to be angry with it was God and that I should avoid the habit of being angry with people for situations that are ultimately out of their control but rather follow through with passionate detachment to do what I had been hired to do.

Lesson #2: Look to make longer term spiritual gains, when taking short term ego & material losses. In this case, I have gotten a result of a promotion but also another degree of spiritual maturity. In the short term, I lost money, but gained temperance, patience, perspective and a renewed confidence in God's plans for me.

Lesson #3: Align your story with God’s. Our wishes are not God’s command. So often we are frustrated by the story we tell ourselves about what we see of our situations. We forget that the story we tell is optional, either positive or negative, and that we never see the whole story. Sometimes waiting saves us from unseen grief and unwanted situations we cannot foresee. I found that telling myself a story of God’s benevolence and protection, rather than neglect and unfairness, helped during my wait. If we believe God loves us, we have to then work at telling loving stories to ourselves and others. We have to align our stories with God’s Word and not with our ego.

Lesson #4: Longer waits yield greater appreciation and maturity. Enough said.

Lesson #5: Behaving wisely while waiting provides advantage. Such wise behavior is credited to David in 1 Samuel 18.14 and a good model for us to study and imitate. When David was not getting what he wanted from Saul, he conducted himself in a manner which maintained goodwill and which God use to turn the king’s heart his way (Proverbs 21.1). We create the same effect when we do the same. Doing this yielded the result I wanted and an improved relationship with my management, I am happy to say.

Lesson #6: Make good with what we have versus what we desire. Luke 16.10-12 says that if we cannot handle a little, how will we handle a lot. So often we desire more money, status, titles, responsibility, etc., but are not handling what we have as well and gratefully as we could. I believe that waiting, challenges us to make better use of what we already have. In these cases, it is good to take stock of what we have, being more grateful for it, and making the most of it.

When in the midst of waiting these lessons were not apparent to me. It is mostly after the fact that they have occurred to me. I hope they are helpful to you in whatever situation you are waiting, whether at work, at home, in some relationship or otherwise.