Like A Tree Planted By The Water

I dislike starting off an entry with a negative, but I feel that it’s necessary to say this: Don’t compromise your time alone with God.

Some of you are thinking, “Wow, I should probably set aside time to be alone with God.” Yeah, me too. Others might be thinking, “Wow, I should probably set aside time to figure out if I believe in God.” or, “What do I believe about God?” While some of you might be thinking, “Wow. I’ll never read another word this idiot writes.” I’m all right with all of those responses and any of the ones in between that I haven’t mentioned.

I find that in particular moments, I become disciplined in my relationship with God. Moments when I no longer squeeze in a last minute prayer right before bed in an effort to appease my religious conscience, but instead actually set aside a specific portion of my day that is dedicated to spending time reading God’s Word and praying. You know, Christian stuff at its most basic and fundamental level. Times when I am no longer fitting God into my schedule, but when He actually becomes a part of my schedule, or better yet, I allow Him to dictate/change my schedule.

Now looking back on my life, it used to be an accomplishment of sorts that I spent a few moments reading my Bible and praying on my own. (However, God has a unique way of showing us a different perspective on an issue).

I am currently being a “good” Christian on the most fundamental and basic level. I say that because reading your Bible and praying as a Christian and being impressed by those actions, would be like congratulating someone for eating their breakfast in the morning. Eating food is human. It’s just what we do. Praying and reading God’s Word is Christian. It’s what we do. Basic. Fundamental.

Now, sharing your faith, giving to the poor, turning the cheek, more proactive actions that require your faith are still fundamental and basic, but often viewed as more radical or clergy-oriented elements of being a Christian. They are not; they are Christian. Then again maybe today those actions aren’t Christian. Maybe in post-modern, western Christianity, they are something completely different. Maybe today in this context, being a Christian is avoiding sex outside of marriage and not being gay. Maybe today’s Western Christian believer is not about “doing,” but rather it is about “avoiding.” I’ll let you decide. If that is the case, however, then I no longer want to be considered a “Christian.” I am more concerned with becoming a follower of Jesus.

Returning to my original reason for writing this: “Don’t compromise your time alone with God.” I have noticed that when I am spending time with God, it will usually start off great. A lot of what I am reading just seems to be perfect for my day and whatever situations I have been facing. My prayers seem focused and in-tune with the needs of the people around me, and what they’re going through: real encouraging stuff. Then, I begin to shorten my time and realize how many things I can accomplish during this time since I’m getting up earlier. Then the worship music begins to take more and more of the time, and soon I begin to incorporate teachings, and preaching, and conferences, and seminars, and books about God, and suddenly my time with God has become my time with God’s friends. God’s friends and I begin to sit around all morning contemplating God and talking about God in great and profound ways. We study what God is like, what God isn’t like, what God likes, what He doesn’t like, and the list continues.

Then it hit me.

Would I like it if the person that I care most deeply about on the planet Earth—the person that I was willing endure unimaginable pain and suffering for, and even to die for, in the hope that he or she would one day, turn a thought towards me, love and accept me—never spent any time with me? What if, even those of them who called me by name, said that they would visit with me (and at times they did) but slowly our time together, when it was supposed to be just us, suddenly became filled with distractions and people. I became someone you talked about, but no longer called. Someone you said you loved, but no longer spent any time getting to know better. How would that work? What level of friendship and trust would that invoke?

Simplicity with God leads to profound moments, so try never to forget the basics: prayer, reading God’s word, fasting, and listening (in no particular order). All of which can be done with only a Bible, but be aware of how difficult this can be to accomplish. Even as I write this, I am completely distracted by the world around me, (and my latte was a decaf). But, when I set aside time with God, I am in pursuit of a time with Him that is without compromise. Now, if I want to watch a sermon or read literature that is theological, I do it at a time that is separate from my time reserved for the One whose affection for me is without compromise.

Here We Go

It is interesting to see how often, we as people, sit around thinking about what we should be doing, often without doing what we know to do. I find myself thinking about writing a blog, or biography of sorts, or a short fictional story, but I have yet to accomplish or even attempt any of those things in recent months.

It’s a small victory that I am sitting here writing right now. The number of distractions that continually race through my mind are impressive: “I should put on a pair of socks because my feet are cold; I should check to see if the mail has arrived (for the third time today); my goldfish, Dr. Pepper, needs a new light bulb and potentially a new swimming companion. Or should I get him a larger tank first . . . I want to go for a walk while it’s somewhat sunny and not raining; this computer screen is too bright; Man, do I hate Microsoft Word.”

Not one of those thoughts or activities has much to do with writing, at least not on the surface. Although, I certainly could use each of them as a writing exercise or a space in which I could develop my thoughts or characters, but realistically, they have nothing to do with writing. The best part about everything that I have written so far? It has nothing to do with the real reason I sat down to write. Nothing. It is all a clever way to, again, distract myself from the task that is at hand, which is to write about life.

Now to begin…

I currently work at a job that I used to hate, for a company that I used to despise, for a boss that has the likability factor of one who clubs baby seals to death. Aww. Now just to clarify, I still work at the same job, for the same company, for the same boss, who given the right opportunity, I believe, would club a seal pup to death. All of the factors that cause a person (specifically: me) to hate his professional life are still alive and well, and functioning in my career. However, I don’t care anymore. Let me explain that last sentence before moving on.

I’m still shaving, still showing up to work on time, and still wearing a tie everyday. So remove, “The Big Lebowski” image of me from your head and smell the freshly applied deodorant. When I say, “I don’t care anymore,” that simply means that none of the aforementioned factors (job, company, boss, etc.) are a controlling influence in my success or value as a person or professional any longer. That is not to say that they are not an influence, because they most certainly are; but, it is to say that they no longer hold or wield the power that they once did over my life. Why? I took the power from them.

I could write a booklet detailing what I loathe about my company longer than their Policies and Procedures Manual, and I work for one of the largest and most regulated industries in the United States. Focusing on the things about my company that give me an upset stomach won’t remove the ache or the problem. I do not ignore or pretend that those things no longer exist, but I will not give them more purchasing power for my attention than they deserve. It’ll ruin you if you allow it to. Instead focus on what you can control and yes, this includes your bad attitude. If your boss is making your life at work so bad that on Friday nights you begin dreading Monday mornings, than this next part is definitely written for you.

Do not lose your composure. Your ability to remain stoic when battling thoughts of getting fresh air by throwing your office chair through the nearest window (if you’re having thoughts like that, stop reading this and strongly consider writing a letter of resignation now) is imperative. You cannot let your emotions undermine your influence. You’re going to be angry at times, so use those moments to your advantage. Most people are a little bolder when they’re upset, so use that opportunity to tell your supervisor, or whoever is causing the harm, the problem and that it needs to be remedied. Do it calmly to avoid the situation from escalating, but firmly enough so that they know you are serious. Most people get pushed around because they never push back. Even aggressors are like most people and hate to workout, so if you give them one, they’ll quickly become tired and focus on someone else to harass.

Avoiding a person is one thing; being scared of them is quite another. I do suggest trying to avoid putting yourself in situations where you are going to have to deal with the problem child, because that will only waste your time. However, when you do have to interact with them, give them your undivided attention and look them so squarely in the eyes they’ll be reminded that they used to have a soul.

Now during these interactions, conversations can become childish or passive aggressive. Never meet the aggressor on their stage; it’s where they’ll perform best. Force them to your level and if you are comfortable, I highly suggest calling them on every inaccurate or disrespectful comment they make during the conversation, until they become honest and respectful. If they refuse, simply tell them that your time is valuable and in an effort to preserve it, the discussion is over until you can pick it back up with a superior present.

I believe that you can outlast just about anyone if you want to badly enough. The power of perseverance is incredible and if the offender can’t see your frustration visibly, they will begin wondering if you’ll ever quit, which forces them to change the way they approach you or give up entirely. Most people quit when there is no end in sight, so avoid giving them a finish line.

You are going to sweat, and you will get tired, and you may want to flip-out or quit occasionally. When you are in that spot of wanting to give up and just want the misery to end, use that to your advantage and speak your mind (respectfully, but brutally honestly. Pretend you’re British). What’s the worst that can happen? They fire you. Good.  Now that you have accepted that firing is the worst thing that could happen, use it and be free!

Now try to enjoy the workout because it’s going to make you much stronger and it won’t last forever. The water break is coming.

This is not a manifesto on how to work a job you hate. This is how to work in a hostile environment and not only survive, but thrive while calling the shots and deciding on your own terms when to leave, if at all. Not because they ran you out.