11 April, 2017

Not working too much

"Can I be so bold as to ask, what's going on with your world of work: Is your life of work balanced appropriately? Do spiritual and relational commitments suffer because of your job? Could it be that you're asking work to do for you what it cannot do? How often do you feel torn between the demands of work and the responsibilities of family?" from Awe by Paul David Tripp p. 170.*
This is from a book we received for Christmas (I wrote a little about it back in January in A Coffee Date?). The whole book is challenging but the chapter on work is making me think about my responsibilities as a manager. This question bubbles up: If I am expecting so much of the people on my team that they are neglecting their other responsibilities, am I doing the right thing?

The books says that when we look to our work for our identity, we find it hard to resist the pull of the challenges, demands, and rewards we get from there. After all, work can offer us achievement and success, that can be a powerful temptation. Work can offer you power or control. This too can be a dangerous temptation. Work also offers us affluence and possessions, which we all know is difficult to resist, but it also is not a good place to find our identity.

Working too much, Tripp says, is a problem when awe of God is replaced by awe of something else. When we consider how glorious God is, we can get things in the right perspective. Here are some areas Tripp points out:

1. The gifts you have that enable you to do your work come from God. By using them we are being wise stewards and glorify him.

2. All of our time is God's. The time we invest in work is God's. I have a certain amount of allotted time (and energy) and God has called me to do certain things in that time, not all of it is work. In my case I have my marriage, children, and I have other relationships as well. I am wise if I search out God's will for how I use all my time, acknowledging that, as a finite being, if I spend more time in one area, it will impact other areas that God's also called me to invest time in.

3. Life is not all about me, it is much bigger than that. I'm in the service of a great King, going after personal glory should not be my goal.

4. I'm under God, that means that my success and power is not for me, indeed it is small in comparison to God's power. I'm to use that power for God.

I think this next point is what's hitting me most:

5. "God is too wise and loving ever to call you to one area of responsibility that will necessitate you being irresponsible in another."

That's thought provoking, especially when I know that many missionaries feel overwhelmed and that they have too many responsibilities. It is also challenging when I think about the team I manage for the production of Japan Harvest.

Many of my team members are keen to help with the magazine, in fact they are passionate about it. I'm very thankful for that. However several of them struggle to find the time to do what I ask them to do. My job is to keep them on track. However, am I encouraging them to do something that they shouldn't be doing? I cannot tell. 

I know from watching my teenagers at the moment as they struggle to meet deadlines, that their struggle (most times) isn't because they've been given too much to do, it is because they've been poor masters of their time. They've wasted time in various ways, but usually, on electronic devices.

Now I'm not accusing my magazine team-mates of doing that! But I really cannot tell from my angle if I'm asking them to do too much. We're adults and we need to make those decisions for ourselves. In thinking this through I think my responsibility is to be sensitive and continue to question them as to whether I'm asking too much of them. I also need to be careful in not setting the standard too high. I think we can be guilty of striving for too high a goal and spending too much time trying to get there. Are we doing that because we crave the achievement, the success of having a great product (in this case)? Or because we desire the praise of others?

So then there's this heart-searching statement:
If it seems impossible for me to balance my life of work with doing what God calls me to do in my family and church life, I am in the situation not because God's calls are unmanageable but because I am seeking to get things out of work that I should not. And when I do that, I will work too much and too long, and other places in my life will suffer. (p. 180)

*I do have a problem with this quote that doesn't quite fit into this post, and it is about parenting. Our family often is also our work. Last night I sat supervising homework in our dining room until 9pm (context here being that I usually go to bed around 9.30/10 and generally supervise much more loosely, but I could sense rebellion in the troops, plus I was on my own last night and had no hubby to relax with). 

To stay sane I played card and word games on my phone while I sat with the guys (otherwise I would have been an impossible nagger, for it was simply not fun to watch the work). To their credit the boys didn't complain about me doing "fun" activities while they worked. If they did I had an answer: I wasn't enjoying sitting at the dining room table any more than they were. I was longing to relax after a day of work, but my work wasn't over, my work at that moment was helping them stay focused and get their work done. 

Family is work too, even when they get a bit older. The first part of this post is not so applicable to mums who find the demands of their kids overwhelming—they don't have many choices when it comes to dealing with that. We do live in a broken world and our work burdens are often hard to carry because of the imperfections around us and in us. That applies to the family too. If we and our spouses and children were all perfect, family life would be a whole lot smoother though. However, we do know that God promises us these things:

"It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure" (Ps 18:32 NIV).

"God is our refuge and strength, an every-present help in trouble: (Ps 46:1 NIV).

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10 NIV).

That doesn't exempt us from making wise choices about what we say yes to, but it does give us hope when we are struggling to cope with what God's called us to do.

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