Things That Work Teaches Me

I used to work in the hallway.

On the first day of my current job, I was ushered to a seat at a small desk in the hall of our corner office, adjacent to the rooms my colleagues occupied. Adjacent to the coat rack and the supply shelves. Adjacent to the office kitchen, where CNN was on TV all day, ringing the world’s news into my ears. I’ve never been so up-to-date on current events nor the sounds of the microwave humming.

This month, I will celebrate two years at the communications agency that I work for out of that same corner office in downtown Denver (although I have since moved out of the hall).

When I started, I was fresh onto the scene of agency marketing, and was coming from a nonprofit where I felt constantly connected to the larger purpose behind my work. In my new position, I struggled to see how my duties in the corporate sector were contributing to the greater good.

As I’ve felt my perspective shift, and learned about the inherent gift and value of hard work, my job has started to reveal new meaning and depth. Or rather, God has revealed new meaning and depth to me. I’m more and more aware of the ways that my daily tasks contribute to the economy, commerce and culture, and the ways that my work contributes to the cultivating, creative work that God is doing in our world.

The realization of this gift – and this opportunity – began at that hallway desk.

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I’m in an industry where we serve multiple companies at the same time, all the time. People are in and out, going to meetings with clients and vendors, attending events one day and working from home the next. Thus, every day has a different cast of characters and a different agenda.

I’m learning that variety keeps me sharp.

I always loved school, and I was often afraid that my post-school life would be somewhat lifeless because I would be tied to one thing. Not so. Work allows me to collect information and to constantly discover new things about the world.

Work is the new school. Honing and refining the good, weeding out the bad, and encouraging me forward through the cadence of daily tasks and routines.

Whether your work takes the form of a 9-5, volunteering, several part-time gigs, parenting or care-giving, the daily rhythms of work are important to keep us focused on things bigger than ourselves.

Some days, when I feel like all I did was field emails, and I wonder about the point of my work, I think I stewarded the body and mind God gave me. Or I learned something new. Or I communicated truth to someone.

Though simple, these things are productive and valuable.

Some days, when I feel like I’m failing in my responsibilities, I am gently reminded that failure isn’t fatal. The hallway job and the corner market job and the nannying job are not opportunities to show off our talents and perfections, but rather opportunities to learn from and accept our imperfections in the pursuit of growth.

Jobs are hard at times. I have messed up a lot of things and arrived late for meetings and had to be corrected an embarrassing number of times.

After writing a post last February about living free and fearless and loved, I found myself standing at a work cocktail party flooded with shame. It was one of the biggest projects I’d yet worked on – a big happy hour gathering for members of the media.

I really wanted to do a good job that night.

But when it came, the clock ticked slowly forward and only a few people showed up. Much less than I had promised. And all I could think, as I looked at the sparse room, was how I wrote about living loved and then proceeded to let a bunch of people down.

I returned to my hallway desk thinking, What’s the point of this? How do I accept this and move on? 

God teaches me – gently, persistently, over and over again – that failure can be a catalyst for good. That letdowns are just invitations (albeit painful ones) to take a hard look at reality and then figure out how to move forward with grace and endurance.

In dusting myself off and continuing to show up to our corner office each day, I have learned that showing up is half the battle.

But when you do, and you ask for help from God and friends and mentors, you find that you gain footing, gain confidence, gain a perseverance of spirit through the power of allowing yourself to be helped.

There’s always another day, and another chance. 

In writing, planning, organizing, designing and presenting, my work teaches me that there’s always another chance to get it right. There’s urgency with each project, but there’s also room to grow.

The biggest challenge for me has been to allow myself that grace. To refuse the voice that says I have to show up perfect every time.

I used to feel so disheartened that I couldn’t show up flawless to work each day.
The freedom came when I realized that I didn’t have to.

Work, for me, is an ongoing lesson in imperfection and grace.

The variety, the learning, the messy growth. It all contributes to this lesson God is teaching me over and over, gently reminding me that my lack is an invitation to hold tightly to his abundance. Work shows me the value of daily faithfulness, the discipline of commitment, and the hope of serving others through my skills.

And in a beautiful twist of perspective, after entering my corporate workplace so pessimistic about the potential for public-sector work to contribute to kingdom-level change, I’m developing a solid belief that my work is good. My work is good because it mirrors God’s work. 

I provide for others, make things better, create and re-create, because God is provider, makerCreator and redeemer.

Whether from the penthouse or the hallway, we are called to be vessels of connection, truth and faithfulness through our daily tasks.

And with God’s ever-present help, I believe that has eternal value.

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