Some people say that it is easiest to reach for God when they are hurting or upset.
I understand this. It’s instinctive, for me: when everything goes wrong, I run to God immediately. I have known for so long that He is my ever-present help in times of trouble that it’s foolish not to head for Him when it appears.
But I also have a tendency to run to God when I’m peaceful and happy: in Ireland, when I’m standing and staring at the sea; in the bathtub, when I’m listening to a podcast or reading a book; when I am crocheting or writing or absorbed in a work I enjoy doing; when I am drinking a cup of coffee and gazing out the back window at the wetland.
When things are great, and when things are terrible, I reach for God. It’s when I enter the day-to-day work stress that the wheels fall off.
Tish Harrison Warren writes in Liturgy of the Ordinary that
…there are people who face profound agony every day: chronic pain, heart-wrenching loss, desperation. In my own life there have been seasons of deep sorrow. But this is not that. This is not the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This is the roadside ditch of broken things and lost objects, the potholes of gloom and unwanted interruptions.
That is where I lose sight of God almost all of the time. Somewhere between the morning prayer and opening my first work email I’m doomed. And then I glance up at lunch and I am aggravated, harassed, and frustrated. The day that started off with “thank you, Lord, for this morning” has by noon rapidly deteriorated into “and she said she wanted the file Wednesday but all of a sudden she wants it today and it’s not like I have anything else to do, so yeah, no problem, I’ll get to that when I’m done these hundred other things on my list.”
It is not a good look on me. It has been happening more lately.
That’s at least partially because working remote is difficult. I do it now almost all the time and, though I had always enjoyed the random work from home day when I spent my life in the office, I am finding now that it isn’t as chill and relaxed as I thought it would be. I saw a joke on the internet that working remote isn’t so much “working from home” as it is “living at work,” and I am finding that to be uncomfortably true.
I’m working longer than I ever did in the office. I am taking the lead on high-stakes projects, which is in some ways a benefit – it’s nice to be trusted and given opportunities – but is also profoundly stressful. I attend more meetings now than I have ever attended in my life, which is draining for an introvert like me. Day to day, demands large and small pile up and up and up and my accountability for all of them only ever grows. Add to that a pile of colleagues and coworkers experiencing similar issues, and…well, it’s rough.
I don’t like the person I have become during and after work, lately. I am angry. I am bitter and resentful and sometimes barely holding back levels of hostility that for me are unusual. I forget about God, and peace, and intimacy. It feels very far away at those times. And it wasn’t until I took a week of vacation that I realized it doesn’t just feel very far away – it is very far away. There is literally no time in my day for God. Is it any wonder that my feelings are roiling up so much and overwhelming my ability to even sense His presence?
So I came back to where I find God the most: in moments of peace and contentment. And I began asking myself how I might build those into my workday, acknowledging that while I used to take breaks for coffee or to chat or simply to walk to meetings at the office, I no longer do that at home and am feeling it sorely.
What resulted was a project I am calling Investments in Joy.
Today, I wrote up a list of small items that I know will bring me peace and/or joy into the workplace. They are deliberately small enough to fit into the coffee/chat office breaks that were a part of my previous normal workday: a chance to break away from work and to take a moment to breathe and refocus. My list includes the following:
- a 10-15 minute yoga stretch for neck, shoulders, back
- a cup of tea (turmeric ginger, apple cranberry, or peach) or a cup of coffee that I take the time to walk downstairs and make
- a walk downstairs to say hi to my husband in his office
- a few moments to pet and/or play fetch with the cats
- a 10-15 minute break to read a small devotional or book chapter
- listening to a really good and calming song
- permission to not answer emails in five minutes after I receive them if I am busy with another project
- permission to unplug completely once I leave work for the day
I suspect at the very least these moments will allow me to reintroduce God into my day if the wheels, indeed, have started to fall off. I hope to choose two or three of them a day to give me something ot look forward to: investments in joy that will remind me to give God room to exist around me. If nothing else, I am hoping that they take the edge of urgency off work, round away the intense sense of pressure and overwhelm that happens naturally when you are literally staring into your computer screen and a nigh endless list of demands all day.
I don’t know if any of you are struggling with remote work, or perhaps with child care or the day-to-day grind that makes it difficult to focus your heart on God. If you are, please know you have my deepest empathy, and maybe give something like this a try. I have to remember that God will fill as much space as I give Him to fill–and if I let my work fill it all up, there will be no room for anything else at all.
And if you have any ideas for a list of your own, please, share them here so we can all steal them!