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At Work As It Is In Heaven

January 31, 2012

A friend leaned over the table at Starbucks yesterday morning, and confided, “You really don’t want to know what goes on in this space above my shoulders…”

He is the Chief Executive of his organization, and we were talking about the psychotic warped thinking that can unravel in the mind of an otherwise confident leader under duress of stress and confrontation.

He was joking of course, but not really.

The two of us who had joined him for some pre-commuter banter and strong coffee both rolled our eyes in instant recognition.

I don’t care how it looks from the outside, even the most high-powered rollers are plagued from time to time with insecurity, doubts and the dreaded Imposter Syndrome, which says, “OMG! What were they thinking when they put me in this position of authority!? What have I gotten myself into?! I’m going to fail! Fail, I tell you! Fail!”

As for me, I am also subject to the tyranny of an inflated ego and the insecurity of being defined by what I produce. However, as a (somewhat) spiritually intentional leader, I am gradually learning to manage the beast by constantly reminding myself about the greater purpose of my work. Which is to say, it’s not about me.

It’s about everyone else. Giving, encouraging, building up, creating, helping.

This enlightenment is not a one-time revelation that appears with a bolt of lightning, or from reading the latest work-faith book that somehow has almost the exact same unimaginative title as every other work-faith book that has ever been written. I must keep reminding myself over and over and over again.

To deal with the constant rash of self-centered and negative mind-chatter, I have taken to saying tiny micro-prayers at various points throughout the day: prior to walking into a difficult meeting; in the midst of same meeting; before presenting a Big Idea to the Big Cheese; while staring blankly into my computer; or just about any time when I suspect there might be head-butting and ego-clashing walking down the hall.

The idea is to detach, to unlatch my ego-driven agenda from the situation, to make it about the possibilities of God’s presence and opportunities for the spirit to shine rather than about me getting my way.

So today, I found myself spontaneously saying a segment from the Lord’s prayer before entering a meeting: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven.” Then, without thinking, I immediately switched up the second part to “…at work as it is in heaven.” Because I was at work, and at the moment, that was exactly where God’s will was hopefully getting done. It was my place on earth, and I was bringing His kingdom to that meeting.

I told Susan DiMickele yesterday that after years of struggling, I think I am finally getting the idea that my work is God’s work.  I no longer think it strange that my corporate management position is anything other than revealing His kingdom at my workplace, as it is in heaven. Just like he taught us to pray.

PS. Wouldn’t this post’s title make an excellent work-faith book title? Just sayin’.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2012 9:38 am

    Great post and I can’t agree more on how helpful it truly is to pray throughout each day… particularly before those difficult discussions or big presentations. It’s also encouraging to know that even those at the top struggle with the same thoughts.

    PS- yes it would!

  2. January 31, 2012 10:44 am

    Ok – my last comment is somewhere in cyberspace. Here goes again.

    Right now, the Imposter Syndrome is frankly where I’m at most days. But I like what you said — it’s NOT about us. The Imposter Syndrome tells me it’s all about me. Me, me, me!
    But when I realize it’s not about me I can get beyond work dualism. And frankly it’s a daily struggle but one I am fully committed to see through.

    And thanks for the shout out!

  3. January 31, 2012 11:04 am

    Yes! It is an excellent title.

    The woman who helped me rent/buy gear yesterday was a blessing in her work. She was knowledgeable about the products and could sell without being pushy. I was happy to slap down my Mastercard.

  4. January 31, 2012 11:56 am

    That’s pretty good stuff. The Impostor Syndrome is something that I struggle with as well. And you’re right – it’s ultimately a form of pride. And that fear can drive us to be so irrational, to be so timid, to be so ineffective. Taking our egos out of the equation actually frees us up to pursue ambitious courses with perseverance.

  5. January 31, 2012 8:27 pm

    your mention of self-centered and negative mind-chatter made me think. hummmm…i haven’t put negative and self-centered together for awhile. i more often think of self-centered when someone is thinking to highly of themselves. but, both negative and positive thoughts can become self-centered mind chatter.

    you also mentioned the greater purpose of your work. i understand where you’re coming from. the expectations of others, that can become so much a part of who we are. it’s good that we have something that consistently measures and nudges…measures and nudges…

    if one were to write something, for business leaders, that would be helpful, it would not be a book.

    it would be a daily, light-hearted, encouraging tidbit… a daily mini power poem, or your tiny funny thought, something handy…YOU know what i mean.

  6. January 31, 2012 8:30 pm

    something to keep the old brain from taking over the heart.

  7. January 31, 2012 10:10 pm

    Oh, yes. Now THAT sticks.

  8. February 1, 2012 12:29 am

    I had coffee with a friend yesterday, too. As a pastor for many decades, he mentioned that he sees an unprecedented movement of God among lay ministers. In the garage, at the conference table …

    For too long, the blue and green ball in the “on earth as it is in heaven” looked more like a block of pews from the balcony. But your mission toward “at work” feels like we’re finally approaching planet earth. Maybe it’s time to take off our moon boots, kick up some dust and then stick a flag in it.

    And that might be worth a book or two.

    • February 2, 2012 7:58 pm

      I’m with you, Matthew. I think a book or two on this whole theme is a grand idea. Maybe a collection of reflections on how we can/do pastor everywhere we are from a wide variety of voices? That ‘line’ between professional and lay needs blurring, I think. Having become ‘professional’ at midlife, I value the service and contributions of the ministry greatly. BUT I was struck all the way through my career at how very many parallels there were between pastoring and parenting. In a good way – not a patronizing or condescending way. I think there’s reason for the liturgical tradition of ‘father’ and now ‘mother’ for the priestly role, so as well as the paid workplace, I see the home as a place of pastoral work, too. Perhaps a primary place. I watch that happen at this stage of my life as my husband, a long-time investment advisor in his work life, gently pastors the small granddaughter we care for two days a week in our retirement. I think it happens in myriad ways and I think it could be really encouraging to read about them in one place. That’s one of the things I love about THIS place.

  9. February 1, 2012 1:50 am

    Love this – we’re all stuck in the Imposter Syndrome somewhere. And arrow prayers throughout the day is such a good way to remember that God knows exactly who we are and is ever present with us. Thanks for this.

  10. February 1, 2012 9:02 am

    Wait. So you’re saying the Imposter Syndrome isn’t my own personal delusion? You’re so right; those feelings of inadequacy are all self-centered. Christ knew what I was when He called me. I’m guessing He meant that, “apart from Me you can do nothing,” thing. And yes, yes, yes! It’s an excellent book title. I continue to see articles scroll through my various feeds suggesting that church leaders could use a little help teaching the members of their congregations to integrate faith and work. Double up on the Starbucks and go to it!

  11. February 1, 2012 9:06 am

    Imposter. Yup. It’s a paralyzing kind of selfishness.

  12. February 1, 2012 1:53 pm

    For me, the process of letting go is not easy. I am so sold on my own abilities — I can create, I can execute, I can do — that the idea of my work being God’s work is a huge blow to my ego.

  13. February 2, 2012 9:11 am

    Brad – I said I appreciated your perspective on Twitter, but I’m going to be carrying this one with me for quite a while. It’s weird how I can relate to a CEO-type like you, but I run my own business and make my own decisions and tell people what to do and how to do it and I’ve just been asked to be somebody… My ego is TRIPPIN’, and the only clear thing I’ve had for the last month or so is that my work and my life need to be about others.

    This post speaks directly to that, in a way I can embrace and put into practice. I have a lot of room to learn that my work is His work, and not my own…

  14. February 6, 2012 8:04 pm

    I’m going front to back, but loving these posts…I find myself looking up toward God and smiling…where ever he may be at that moment…

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