Overworking for Less Fruit

The other day, I was meeting with a leader in a coaching session and we were talking about the challenges of doing our work differently because of COVID-19. I was sharing that I have refocused a lot of what I do towards more writing and more coaching. He shared the stress of living so much of his life on computer and phone screens.

 

After a bit more conversation, I heard myself say this sentence: “In fact, I have so much important work right now that I’ll never get it done if I don’t slow down.” I really believe this. If I was working on an assembly line, perhaps I could measure my productivity in the simple math of bigger numbers.

 

But my work involves listening to and caring for people. It requires creativity, insight and compassion. Hurrying up doesn’t get more of this kind of work done well.

 

In An Unhurried Life, I wrote these words in a chapter on Productivity:

 “Jesus saw himself as an apprentice to the Father in his work. He was not working on his own. Whatever he did was something he had seen his Father working at. I fear, therefore, that my own overwork is a failure of discernment. Am I following Jesus in my own way of working? Is all the work I’m doing in keeping with what the Father is doing and how he is doing it? Do I know what the Father is doing in the lives of people around me who are affected by my work? Am I working in concert with the Father or, perhaps unaware, in conflict with him? Might I find myself over-doing something God may later have to undo?” (An Unhurried Life, p. 46).

 

Those five questions that close the paragraph are important: 

  1. Am I following Jesus in my own way of working? 
  • This is the pathway of learning to work with God rather than for This is true whether my job has clear religious dimensions or not. Jesus learns to work as an apprentice to the Father. I can learn to do the same with him.

 

  1. Is all the work I’m doing in keeping with what the Father is doing and how he is doing it? 
  • I wonder how Jesus would do my job if he were me. How would he relate to all the emails, texts, voicemails and other communications that I receive daily? What would get his deep attention? What would he brush by quickly?

 

  1. Do I know what the Father is doing in the lives of people around me who are affected by my work? 
  • In prayer, I can come to discern the heart of the Father for another. It is going to be a heart of gentleness, kindness and compassion. I can work in that same spirit.

 

  1. Am I working in concert with the Father or, perhaps unaware, in conflict with him? 
  • How is my way of working united with the Fathers, and how might my way of working be in conflict with the Father?

 

  1. Might I find myself over-doing something God may later have to undo?”
  •  When the way I work increases anxiety, both mine and the anxiety of those I serve, then it’s going to need to be undone. I don't want to waste my time and energy on fruitless efforts.

 

For Reflection: 

  • Look back over those five questions from An Unhurried Life. Is there one that hits especially close to home?
  • What would it look like to live with that question over the next 48 hours? How might that question help keep you alert to how you might work even more in the spirit of the Father?

 

Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

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