Humble Worker

I didn’t think that I was selfish or proud when it came to my job. In fact, I thought I was humble. After all, I freely admitted my mistakes. I never assumed that people thought highly of me. Wasn’t that humility?

Humility, I am learning, is a state of the heart, rather than actions. Sometimes an action can seem humble, but a person’s heart isn’t lining up, which was my case.

The truth was that most of my actions had a selfish motive. I offered to help others, said yes to projects, and joined committees because I wanted people’s approval. I felt invisible and wanted the higher-ups to see me.

The Bible Says . . .

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

Philippians 2:3-7

Excuses, Excuses

I took these verses seriously (or so I liked to think), but if I felt convicted about my behavior, I was full of excuses that it didn’t apply at work. I work in a corporate environment, after all. Puffing myself up was par for the course. I didn’t want to be a servant, I wanted to climb higher! Paul clearly missed that disclaimer, Does not apply if you work in a big corporation.

I was nothing like Jesus! Can you imagine being the CEO of a company (which is certainly a dim comparison to God) and putting yourself on the level of an entry-level position? I’m mid-level management – not even on the level of a CEO – and I couldn’t bring myself down. I convinced myself I was a “servant” because I mentored other managers, and I truly wanted others to succeed . . . so long as their success did not surpass my own.

This is the exact opposite of humility. Looking back, I can see how the Holy Spirit was trying to show me this, but the scales were over my eyes, and I couldn’t see it at the time. Sometimes it takes a real eye-opener for me to grasp what God is trying to tell me.

Where Does it End?

In addition to puffing myself up, I took on more work than I wanted, and I felt resentment about it. Instead of risking losing favor and saying “no,” I kept on taking on new projects, and I used these opportunities to toot my own praise. Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a strong grasp of my strengths and weaknesses and being honest about those, but, again, my motive was corrupt. The more projects that I took on, the more entitled I felt for a promotion or at least a pat on the back from the higher-ups. I lived for their praise.

At an awards ceremony, where I won Manager of the Year, I felt the Lord say to me, “When will your need for praise end?” I saw other managers there in positions that are higher on the corporate ladder than mine, and He said, “You could become one of them, but once you’re at the top, how will you be satisfied when there is no where else to climb?” Ouch! That hurt and made me contemplate my job. Was I really only happy if I was receiving praise? My eyes were slowly opening, but they weren’t quite open.

The Revelation

My eyes opened when a co-worker received an offer for a position, and I didn’t. Now, you would think that I would be happy for my co-worker. But my pride would not allow it. I was angry and bitter.

Now here comes the kicker, the part that I really don’t want to admit because it reveals just how corrupt my heart was, I didn’t even want the job. I didn’t want the job that would require more travel and more hours. I could’ve applied for it, and possibly I would’ve gotten it, but I didn’t want to. The fact that I wasn’t considered first triggered my reaction.

My pride hurt my co-worker. If I was this upset about a promotion for him, did this mean that I didn’t think he was capable, he wondered.

Can you imagine how awful that would be if a new supervisor saw something good in you and offered you a promotion and your co-worker and friend focused too much on themselves to be happy for you?

I want to put a palm to my face when I think of this now. That’s the thing about pride, it can make me feel so entitled to behave badly, yet in hindsight, I never feel justified. Pride will never leave you feeling proud when it’s done with you.

A Servant’s Heart

What this experience revealed to me is that I couldn’t deal with being number two. I came unglued. I had puffed myself up so highly that I couldn’t handle perceived rejection. Suddenly, I questioned everything about my job. Was I named manager of the year out of obligation? When we received a glowing letter from HR about our collective work, was it really just him they were talking about? I had no self-esteem.

Since my job was my identity, I felt lost and depressed. I didn’t know who I was. This isn’t the first time that I’ve been in the throws of an identity crisis, but it was the most surprising time because I didn’t realize how much I cared about what people at my work thought of me.

The Good that God Does

The great thing about God is that He can turn our weakest moments into spotlights of His strength. It surely wasn’t comfortable seeing myself react in such a strong way when I didn’t get my way, but it revealed my heart, and I was able to bring that to God. I began to see how little I knew about God’s vast love for me.

I currently work at the same job, so now what? Now, I let go of my selfish ambition, and I let it go again. What I mean by that is that my desire to climb rises within, but now I check in with God. What is my motive? Do you want this for me? How do you want me to respond, Lord?

In God’s economy, the highest rank is at the bottom, and that is determined by one’s heart, not title. I’ve seen people in great positions of power who are truly humble. I’ve seen people, such as myself, who act like they should run the world though they’re low on the totem pole. I’m learning to be ambitious in a new way . . . eager for my will to line up with God’s.

Today, I will align my ambition with God’s.

Being the least, is a great opportunity.

Choose Peace Over Productivity

The last few weeks have been rough.

I cried in a crowded Costco because my 2-year-old was screaming incessantly at the top of her lungs because she didn’t want to be in the cart. I continued shopping, trying to soothe her and grimacing as I passed people who turned their head to see what was wrong. A woman came up to me, patted me on the back, and said, “We’ve all been there, Honey. It’s okay.” Her words were so reassuring, but they made me cry. It’s weird how sometimes comforting words can do that, make me break.

The next weekend, we spent the night at the coast with some friends. We had joined hotel rooms with three kids running back and forth. Instead of embracing this chaos and having loads of fun, I felt like my nerves were shot. Every time one of our children playfully screamed, I had the same sensation that I would get if someone ran their fingers across a chalkboard or chewed yarn, my whole body was having a sensory reaction to the noise. By lunchtime, I was so grumpy that my husband asked me if I needed a break while they all went out to eat.

And when I’m in that mood of just complete irritation, I tend to lash out because I feel insecure when I’m obviously not okay. Thankfully, that day, I didn’t go down that road, but I did take my husband up on the offer. I was full of bitterness and self-pity as I let them all go out to lunch, and I went to Starbucks and drank a cloud machiatto in peace (poor me!). Let me just say that no matter how delicious your five-dollar drink is, if you’re drinking it while stewing, it won’t satisfy. However, I felt much better after that small break, and I felt convicted about my attitude as well.    

Then came last week. I took my girls to the library, and while we were there my 4-year old threw herself on the ground and proceeded to have a very loud tantrum. That was fun. At home, when I would try to make dinner or do the dishes, my 2-year-old would follow me around repetitively crying out, “Hold me. Hold me.” Day after day, I tried to make my plans work, and I ended the day feeling frustrated that my kids were not on board.

Then I got sick. Sore throat, headache, fatigue, the whole shebang. I missed a day of work, and I felt miserable in my body and my mind. I kept ruminating on the stack of work that was piling up from missing a day. The next day was Saturday, and I was alone with the girls while my husband was out of town. Their normal, but difficult behavior, continued even as I was sick (those Dayquil commercials are so true, you don’t get sick days from parenting). Finally, I had a tantrum of my own in which I yelled at my kids to listen to me, hit a plastic container with my hand, which made a loud startling sound, and then broke down crying.

I felt so guilty about this display of anger. Here I was repeating the kind of angry lashing out that I experienced and hated as a kid. Why was I doing the same thing?

I immediately went to my children and apologized for not expressing anger in an appropriate way, but the guilt still clung to my insides. Later when my husband got home I cried as I told him that my patience is gone and I don’t know why. How could I expect my small children to control themselves when I can’t?

I asked God to forgive me and to show me what is going on. Why am I having such a hard time with my kids lately? That sense that something is wrong with me continued to reverberate throughout my thoughts. Generally, I love hanging out with my kids. I love doing crafts and singing and playing and making huge unmanageable messes. I love taking naps and reading books over and over. So why has it been so hard? What is wrong with me?

I felt like God was speaking a lot of things to me when I opened up to him.

  • I am too distracted. Sometimes I trick myself into believing that I am spending time with my kids because I am in the same house with them, but usually I am doing something that doesn’t involve them. I am on my phone, or cleaning the house, or making dinner, or attempting to write, etc. My kids were craving my one-on-one attention, and I was trying to fulfill this need by being near them without giving up my attention from the things that I wanted to do. God placed on my heart to spend more time playing with them. Not scheduling things to go do, not having them play while I clean, and definitely not staring at my phone while they play next to me, but sitting on their level and just playing whatever they want to play.
  • I have too many things on my plate. Sometimes I have a plan, and I try to force it into fruition even if all the signs are screaming bad idea! It’s often a good indicator if my kids are already throwing a tantrum when I am getting them ready in the morning that a day out and about isn’t going to go well. I have different reasons why I over plan. It may be because I feel obligated to spend time with a friend, or I just want to do more than is possible in a day. I used to include my kids in doing the dishes, for instance. However, their involvement was time consuming, so I stopped doing it. I’ve been too preoccupied with crossing things off my to-do list to take the time to include them. I need to learn to let go of my own agenda, and be okay with slowing things down.
  • My patience is a gift from God. The past three weeks have helped me see that patience is a gift from God and also a fruit of relationship with Him. He can take away his grace in a particular area if He needs to open my eyes to something. I felt that my grace had been removed when it came to patience because He was trying to teach me these lessons, and He was trying to show me that He deserves the glory when I am good with kids or a super patient person. It is not me, it is the good of Him in me.
  • There is nothing wrong with me. It’s okay to fail. Sometimes I will fail. I won’t behave the way I wish I would’ve, but God still loves me, and I can love myself even if I’m not perfect. God still cares about me. He is a forgiving God, and He does not condemn me, but He uses my mistakes to show me areas where I can grow if I will listen to Him.
  • Self-care is not optional. I need self care. I live in a body that has needs. If I have unmet needs, then I’m going to have a harder time being useful. I was sick, and I needed rest. I was stressed, and I needed quiet. Jesus took breaks, God rested after he made the world. If God needs rest, then you bet that I do. Mark 6:31, says, “[Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while’—for there were many [people who were continually] coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.” I can relate to not having any time to eat. There have been countless times when I’ve skipped breakfast because I’m rushing off to work, or I’m shoving the leftovers of my toddler’s half-eaten burrito down my throat instead of sitting down to my own meal. We have a responsibility to take care of ourselves. There is nothing wrong with taking a break from external responsibilities to focus on internal responsibilities. Rest is a necessity.

This week, I worked an 11-hour day on Monday, and a 12-hour day on Tuesday. A friend asked me to attend a special event on Wednesday, my day off work, during the time my daughter naps. Typically, I would abandon her nap to do something fun, especially for a special event. But, I decided to listen to God. I told her no, that it was during my daughter’s nap time.

When i woke up on Wednesday, I stayed in bed and snuggled my two-year-old instead of hopping into my routine. I made breakfast for us, and we ate together. I tried to read my Bible, and I let it go when my girls wanted to climb on me and play instead of letting me read. I played with them and made fun crafts with them. I did some dishes while they played, but I didn’t continue cleaning when they wanted me to snuggle with them and read to them. I made lunch, and we ate together again. We laid down and snuggled as they napped. It was more than a good day. It was an awesome, super, amazing day!

Their attitudes were better. They were happier. I was happier. It was not a productive day, but productivity does not produce joy. It merely produces satisfaction. I don’t want to be merely satisfied. I want to be joyful! That requires resting when it’s time to rest. Yes, there will be days when I can accomplish all that I set out to do, but if it’s not happening, I need to remember to let go and not try to push my will when God’s will isn’t lining up with my to-do list.

If God needs rest, then so do I.

Today, I will choose peace over productivity.

Let Go and Let God: Learning to Rejoice during Trials

Rejoice in the Lord!

There is a saying in recovery groups to “Let go and let God.” This mantra reminds me that I am not in control, God is. This is a good thing! God loves me so much! He has a good plan for my life, and the faster that I can let go of my own desire to control – whether it be people, outcomes, or even my progress in an area – the faster I can experience his peace in the midst of not having my desires fulfilled.

Philippians 4:4-7 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Fear competes for my faith. I can believe the lies of fear, or I can believe God, but I can’t do both. I fear that my marriage won’t work out. I fear that I’m not doing a good job raising my kids. I fear that I’ll lose my job. I get angry when I want something to go my way and it doesn’t. I have opportunity after opportunity to complain, and I have equal opportunity to be thankful. There is so much peace that comes from saying, “Hey, God, thank you so much for my husband. He is such a great guy. I pray you will strengthen our marriage” rather than mulling over what a particular tone meant.

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way that I wanted, and I don’t understand it. There were times in my life when I was betrayed by people whom I loved, and I couldn’t comprehend it. I’ve lost people whom I loved dearly. How can Paul, the writer of Philippians, possibly expect me to rejoice during times when my heart is shredded and God feels so distant? It seems ludicrous, even cold, but the truth is that rejoicing in the midst of a storm is stepping out in faith. It is saying, “God even though this situation is awful, You are good. I will cling to your goodness.” It’s that sort of mindset, putting my faith and hope in God, that has been a light in the darkest times.

Paul doesn’t say to rejoice in your circumstances, he says to rejoice in the Lord. God is good, and I always have a reason to rejoice in Him. That means that my circumstances can bring tears to my eyes and gut-wrenching pain, but my lips can still sing God’s praise.

I can let go because God is in control.

I can let go because God is a good God even if my circumstances aren’t.

I can let go because God’s peace will fully eclipse my limited understanding.

Begin With God’s Love

To know that God loves me overwhelms me at times. He carefully planned and created every aspect of this universe from the stars and planets that have fascinated people from the beginning of time to an array of flowers that brighten the world. Yet, He created people very special – in His image.

God shows His great love through creation, and it doesn’t take much to notice how amazing His work is. I was recently staying at the Oregon coast, and from my room there was a beautiful forest scene. I saw spruce and pine trees crowded together like old friends, Douglas firs towering over clusters of ferns, some just starting to unfurl their tendrils, and red-breasted robins playfully singing under the ombré blue sky, delighting in spring’s arrival. Then, I heard the pad of footsteps as a child ran across the carpet of needles towards her father, laughing and excitedly retelling an encounter with a squirrel. God created all of this – nature, the girl, her father, me.

Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. “

God does not create trash. We are wonderful creations, made in His image.

Nature is evidence of the great lengths God went to to prove his works are wonderful, so how much more wonderful are we, whom He has created in His own image, whom He has individually formed and knows.

It may seem counter-intuitive to focus on how much God loves me as the first step towards humility, but I firmly believe this is necessary. To recognize that God loves me is to remove my works out of the equation completely. What I mean by that is that my achievements don’t make Him love me more. My failures don’t make Him love me less.

I can’t buy His love any more than I can bribe the clouds to rain. I can’t stop His love any more than I can halt the tides of the sea. I can’t diminish His love any more than I can dim the sun. I cannot change it, but it is guaranteed to change me if I accept it.

When I puff myself up or attempt to prove that I am better than someone else, often this is because I am insecure. In our world there are hierarchies, and it is difficult to not buy into that belief. But in God’s economy, we are all created and loved equally. That is the mindset that I need to embrace when I am insecure or self-righteous – I am no better and no worse than anyone else. That is the way the Creator views me.

So, if I find I am acting selfishly or have myself on my mind – worried how I will handle something or if I will be okay – then it’s a good reminder that I do not need to worry because I can rest in God’s love.

He loves me as much as anyone else.

He has a good plan for my life.

He will take care of me.

I am in his hands.