Slowing Down – Part 2
Written by: Andy
In one of the opening stories in Love Does Bob talks about his decision to leave home and become a rock climber. He stopped by a friend’s house on the way out of town to let him know he was leaving. After telling his friend his plan, which was little more that drive to Yosemite, try to find a job and climb rocks, his friend looked at him and said “I’m with you, Bob” and grabs his backpack and they head out. As you could guess this “Plan” doesn’t pan out for him but at every set back and every turning point his friend just sticks by his original sentiment, “Bob, I’m with you”. This idea really resonated with me. At the end of the story Bob points out that this is what love means, its not well wishes from afar, or “constructive criticism”; it’s getting skin in the game and actively supporting and helping each other, to quote Bob again, “Love Does”.
During my newly found down time I got to think a lot about my life. I would say having a live threatening disease makes you more philosophical, but this is my first time and Its not my place to speak for everyone, so ill say it made me think about life differently. I thought a lot about how I would be remembered, if this was the end what would people say about me, it’s a morbid thought I know but I believe it’s one worth pondering every now and then. I recognized that in a lot of areas of my life I was very negative and often hostile to those around me, especially at work. I don’t ever intend to come across negative, and I very rarely intend to be rude (I would say never it but if I’m honest there are those times when you really mean it that way). I think a lot of times it’s just a consequence of the state of busyness I create for myself. I’m constantly focused on what I’m trying to do and have very little time or patients for others.
As I started reading Every Good Endeavor, I was struck with the reality that I work for myself. By that I don’t mean that I’m on my own, be my own boss kind of deal, I mean that the focus of my career is me. How can I become more valuable, how can I do this project in the best way so I can get a promotion? What skills should I learn so I can be more marketable? It’s all focused on what I can get out of it. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. Obviously, we should strive to be the best we can, but as I reflected on it, I think that I was elevating the pursuit of success to the level of an idol in my life. After getting my diagnosis and the surgery it helped me realize that the money, position and skills were not nearly as important as the time I was devoting to them.
Every good endeavor is a great book and I’m sure every time I read it I will take something different from it, but this time my big take away was this; God gave me gifts to use to do my job to the best of my ability for the service of other people. I know it sounds surface level and trivial. In my current job I’m a design automation engineer, basically that means I work to make customer orders get through a system and be manufactured faster with less human interaction. How can that serve anyone? In the book Keller talks about the “masks of God” and how God uses the work of other people to meet the needs of his Children. Basically, I don’t have the means all by myself to go make a sandwich when I’m hungry. To do this, I would have to grow the lettuce, tomato and wheat, raise a turkey, bake bread and do something with an egg I think to make mayonnaise; it would take me a year to make lunch. On the other hand though, God could just make a sandwich appear from heaven without me having to do anything. But luckily neither one of those is the case. God gave other people talents to grow plants and raise animals, he made some people really good bakers, and he even gave someone the imagination to do something with and egg to make a delicious spread to top my sandwich with. God uses other people’s talents to meet my needs and through that I have the time to use my talents (which are not growing things or baking) to meet different needs in the society. When I looked at my job again through that filter, I realize that I have an ability to serve many different people by making it easier for them to do their jobs. The better the automation I create means the shop gets more detailed information making it easier to build high quality products. The more robust the automation is the easier it is for our reps to sell products knowing it will be on time and high quality, not to mention that the customer will receive a better product and all those people that were doing manual steps to the order process can focus on improving other areas of their jobs. When I realize that my job is indeed an act of service to many others it gives me a different perspective on the “frustrations” of my day. When my day is so busy completing my work that am angry, negative and hostile to people I missed the true point of my work, but when I can view my work as a service to others the busyness of what I’m trying to do diminishes in significance. Now when someone comes with a question or a new project or idea for process improvements my response should now be “I’m with you” let’s find an answer to that question, let’s concept that design or map out that process. Let’s jump into this together because my purpose here is to serve those who God serves.