One of the most damaging myths about being a follower of Jesus is that we will get MORE of God's love in us AFTER we do things for Him.
It's rarely said as clearly as that, but I've been around many Christian communities and heard speakers imply that the reason we aren't connecting to God's love and experiencing His presence is because we aren't doing enough for God. I'm quite sure that's known as Pharisaism (impressed by my large theological vocab word?), and it's an evil idea.
In the first part of this six part series on Starting Everyday Spiritual Conversations, we're going to explore the idea that before you attempt to share God's love with others, you need to experience it yourself.
Prodigal Son, by He Qi www.heqigallery.com
Honestly, I wish that the myth were true. I wish that I could control God by doing things for Him- when I want, what I want, and with whom I want. I wish that when I felt empty inside, all I had to do was go share the gospel with someone or go befriend someone who doesn't know God yet.
But it doesn't work that way. God doesn't work that way.
In the story of the Prodigal (Luke 15) the most striking and shocking moment is the Father's unequivocal acceptance of his younger son who rejected him. Almost equally as shocking is the older son's decision to reject the Father's acceptance and stand outside of his Father's love. It's a story about acceptance- God's radical, shocking, unexpected and underserved acceptance of his children exactly as they are.
If you're like me, you might have grown up with a God-is-out-to-catch-you mentality and theology. A little bit like Santa Claus ("he knows when you've been naughty"), and a little bit like a stern dad ("you just wait until your father gets home!").
But something I've been learning as a dad is that I'm actually DRAWN TO my kids when they're acting disobediently. There's something inside me that is sparked when my kids throw fits, tell lies, make messes, and slow me down. It's affection. As much as I dig them and who they are when they're being cute, funny, or creative, I'm learning that I'm also drawn to them when they misbehave. Pure acceptance: for better or worse. No hint inside or expressed of condemnation, rejection, or shame.
God's the same way with you and I. He's not repulsed by your bad behavior or screwed up thinking or messy heart- he's DRAWN TO you out of pure acceptance and affection. He loves you. He actually likes you. Really.
Before you make a list of the people in your life who need God's love, and before you start praying for them, and before you start strategizing how to talk to them and what questions will be best to start spiritual conversations with them, experience God's ACCEPTING LOVE of YOU.
Try this: open your hands. Close your eyes. Turn off your phone, and your email. Get quiet. Let your mind sink down into your heart. And just say quietly (out loud or to yourself) "Come Lord Jesus, let me know your love for me." Repeat that phrase 10, 20, 30 times for a few minutes. Each time believing more in your heart that it's true. That you are totally, absolutely, unregrettably loved and accepted by God who sees you and knows you.
I wonder how many times I've disqualified myself from stepping into my potential because of the negative and limiting thoughts I've held onto about myself as truth. Quick, subconscious thoughts that flash across my mind in moments of decision and opportunity:
"I'm not as gifted as he is."
"I don't have enough experience."
"I'm too much of a procrastinator."
"I've made so many mistakes before."
The story of Gideon in Judges chapter 6 in the Old Testament is the story to dive into for those of us who've struggled to see who we really could become.
Gideon saw himself as the "least" in the smallest family of the "weakest" tribe. Who he was had already been decided, and even when God sends an angel to visit him and give him a supernatural call to be a hero he doesn't buy it. How could anything else be true besides the way he sees himself?
The angel tells him: "Mighty hero; the Lord is with you!"
Maybe the angel was smoking something. Gideon couldn't have been far off in his self-assessment: he probably was pretty small, in a tiny family, and everyone would agree: 'Yep- Manasseh is the weakest tribe, alright.'
Assuming the angel wasn't high (which is a safe assumption throughout the entire Bible), the only way he could get away with calling Gideon a "mighty warrior" was if he saw something and knew something that Gideon didn't.
[Can't you just imagine God giggling each time right before he sends someone a message that their past doesn't disqualify them from their future? I can imagine God grabbing an angel and saying, "Watch this! This guy's about to be blown away by how powerfully I can use him!"]
God always, always, always uses the small, ordinary, no-name, insignificant, weak resume, and sketchy guy to do extraordinary things.
Frankly, can't sucks. Don't buy it. Don't listen to it. Don't act out of it.
When you're tempted to hide like Gideon and believe the hype, take a minute to listen to God's voice whispering in your ear about who you can become through Him.
I had the privilege of going to a school
and studying in a major
where getting a job after school was close to guaranteed. There were recruiting events that local firms would attend, sponsored and hosted by the program I was in. My part was to show up, shake hands, study hard, and go to the events. Then, I'd get a job.
I did. I had a full-time job offer before a month passed into my last year with a great salary, perks, and security. Even though I declined the offer and took a completely different career path
, I adopted a mindset that I share with most people in my generation: Be awesome and someone will discover you.
It's taken me a few years to shake off this philosophy, but for a season I can remember bouncing between resentment
("don't people see how amazing I am?") and insecurity
("maybe I'm not that talented"). What I've been learning, though, is that my future opportunities are more in my control and responsibility than I assumed.
For you, too.
Do not wait for doors to open, recruiters to call, someone to discover you.
Ask. Knock. Seek.
Email. Show up. Email again. Call. Ask. Show up. Ask questions. Add value. Start something. Measure results. Email. Make friends. Seek to understand. Help. Email again. Ask. Call.
It might be tempting for you to fall into the resentment trap or the insecurity trap. You might also be stuck in the comparison trap, especially if you have friends who have already been picked up, recruited, or well on their way. You might not have as many natural opportunities or advantages as the people around you.
Don't let those things disqualify you from your destiny and passion and calling.
In the words of Bob Goff
, if the door in front of you looks closed, try "kicking it a little".
In our attempt to capture the stories of Faith@Work'ers, today we're taking a look into the life and story of the man, the myth, the legend: Jordan Hayes.
Two legends together: Steven and Jordan
What have you been up to since graduating?JH:
Finding a job, getting more involved in church, continued education, playing basketball, learning new rhythms of life, developing new community and connecting with old ones in new ways, and all in all try to figure out how to do this new season life...well :-) F@W:
What's been the biggest surprise, for better or worse?JH:
"For better": Finding a job in my career field of interest. How it happened is a whole other story, but it's truly a gift. (Deut. 8:18)
"For worse": You always hear about how dealing with the transition of community post-college can be difficult, but what surprised me was just how strong the sentiments of loneliness and purposelessness can be. I'm sure this doesn't happen for everyone, but it seems that many of the college-grads I've talked to have had to wrestle with this to some degree. "For worse" turns to "for better" because loneliness and questions of purpose point out my deep need for the Lord. Through these I'm compelled to "seek first God and His kingdom" and put secondary motivators in their rightful place. F@W:
What steps have you taken to figure out the REAL YOU and your calling?JH:
(1) Spending time away away from a formal leadership role. I don't think this is for everyone, but I needed to see where I was at with questions like "Where am I at with God without the commitments/structure of 'leadership'?" It was an important time, and enabled me to reengage leadership refreshed and re-centered.
(2) Through meeting others and learning about both what they do and what they love to do, I've come across things I'd have been passionate about long ago--if only I knew they existed! Example: A friend shared that she puts her public relations skills to work for a nonprofit children's reading campaign. I love reading, and value its role in the lives of kids and adults alike, but I had never connected the dots and considered acting on this passion by volunteering with a link-minded org. Now...maybe!
(3) (In process) Writing a mission statement. "Who am I/What do I want to be about?" It's easy to run circles in my head asking/answering these questions...putting it on paper forces clarity, and serves as a nice check point to see if I'm running in the direction I want to be, or if perhaps my values/vision have changed. F@W:
What's the biggest questions you're sitting with right now?JH:
"Can God be my everything?" By 'everything' I mean the foundation of my heart from which all other 'loves' stem. And the question isn't really "can He" so much as "what would it take for him to be"? F@W:
In what ways have you noticed God's presence in the workplace?JH:
I think day-in-and-day-out I see it in His Word redeeming my perspective of work. The difference between a day of joyful/wholehearted work (and rest) and fearful/mediocre day of work (and rest) is his Word...Significance/Integrity: "Work...as unto the Lord" (Colossians 3:23-24); Calling: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance" (Ephesians 2:10); Identity: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph 2:8-9); Rest: "Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." (Gen 2:3). Of course it's important not to take passages out of context, but it's eye-opening to read Scripture in light of work! F@W:
What encouragement or advice would you give a college student just starting their senior year?JH:
I know that, for many seniors, post-college life seems either too far off to worry about or so near that it's overwhelmingly worrisome. The reality is...it's what next, and has to be dealt with sooner or later! To be honest, there's probably a lot to deal with: career, location, community, family, expectations, academics, applications, interviews, networking, money, success, failure, hope, disappointment. On that note, two quick pieces of advice:
(1) Start now. Because...you probably won't get it right the first time. It takes bombing 9 interviews to do the 10th one well, and it takes facing and processing fear in order to receive peace. So start stepping into whatever seems to be on the 1-year horizon for you, and embrace every step you take in this direction as an opportunity to learn, grow, and walk out a new, challenging, exciting part of life with God.
(2) DO IT IN COMMUNITY. As I was typing this, a friend happened to walk by and we shared the challenges we're each facing in the workplace. We talked about it for a few mins, considered what God had to speak into the situations, prayed, and both left encouraged in about 5 minutes. We don't have the same job, aren't in the same industry, and just met a couple months ago. But relationships like this enable us to encourage one another to keep moving forward and not give up on God's best for life after college and in the workplace.
(3) Connect with mentors (like Scott...or someone on the mentor portal
...or friends a year or two down the road...) who can support you in this season and shed hard-earned wisdom on walking it out well. Sure, you'll want to put your best foot forward. But there's no need to pretend like you have it all together. "I don't know what I don't know...What questions should I be asking?" is a GREAT place to start.
When I was starting my senior year in college, I knew instinctively that it was game time. The moment that I'd been waiting for and delaying: deciding what I was going to do after school. BIG DECISION!
As I start having conversations with seniors around San Diego, I'm realizing that what they need is a roadmap or a checklist for the things they should begin doing and by when. So, here's my attempt!
1. Decide that you're going to do this year well.
You need to make a decision that you're going to make good, healthy choices and do all that you can to transition well. Only you can make that decision- not your parents, friends, or professors. You need to decide that you're going to put the energy this year requires.2. Develop new spiritual habits.
Engaging with God looks different to every season of life. In this season of discernment, decide how, when, and where you're going to engage with God. Enlist a prayer team. Buy a new 'discernment journal'. Spend time reviewing different stories in scripture about calling. Buy a book (Courage and Calling, by Gordon Smith
, or Let Your Life Speak, by Parker Palmer
) and read it with a friend.3. Find a mentor.
Or two. Or four. Mentors can help you reflect on your strengths and abilities and possible career path. They can open up doors for you. They can introduce you to others. 4. Engage on campus.
Do you know what types of students make the best transition to the workplace? The ones who are the most engaged as seniors- in their classes, with professors, in group projects, and at their internship. The ones who develop the deepest and healthiest friendships with peers. Don't be like most seniors who disengage and check out early. Pour into the campus and your life as a student.5. Get an internship.
Research over the past few years is clear that only the students who have the word "internship" on their resume get job offers. Get an internship!! NOW!! Talk with your professors, career services, or inquire with friends, family, and church leaders for connections. An internship (or two) in a relevant field that you plan on going into is obviously key, but even any internship will do. 6. Practice spiritual leadership.
God invites everyone who follows him to have spiritual influence on others. Spiritual leadership in the workplace, however, looks WAY different than it does on campus with college students. But, again, the students who make the strongest and quickest transition are the ones who faithfully take risks in reaching out, blessing others, and starting spiritual conversations with friends, classmates, professors, and internship supervisors. Now, think about this: Wouldn't it be cool if....
- you had an answer when your crazy uncle asks you at Christmas dinner: "So, what are you going to do after you graduate?"??
- you learned new ways to connect with God and your relationship with Him grew??
- your network of friends and mentors actual ends up getting you your first full-time job??
- through your friendship and risk a classmate/professor/friend (or more than just one) starts a relationship with God THIS YEAR and your confidence and trust in God surges into your new professional life??
WHAT WOULD YOU ADD TO THIS LIST?
After spending a couple years focusing on helping graduating seniors make a good transition from student life to 'real life', it's time to start checking in with a few of them about their lives post-college.
Steven Yuan stands out as a guy doing his best to lean forward into living life well. He's passionate, creative, and very entrepreneurial. It's been a blast to watch Steven experiment with his career and throw out more than a few lines into the water to see what he catches. Enjoy this snapshot into his life, and take a few moments both to pray for Steven but also to reflect on what his life sparks in you:
SS: Tell us about your career path since you graduated from UCSD, specifically the twists and turns that you didn't expect or plan on when you were still in school:
SY: Since graduating, I've bounced from your typical office job doing graphic and web design, to campus ministry, to start-up competitions, to music production, to even my own t-shirt company. It's been a year of trying many different things, and feeling out my different passions.
I honestly think the most unexpected twists and turns came from the people I met. Just talking to people I normally wouldn't, and letting them know what I wanted to do, connected me with so many random people that took me down so many unexpected but exciting paths. One of the highlights was my friend Eileen, whom I met through a couple of mutual friends. She was extremely involved in the music industry and I didn't know anything about the SD music scene, but within a couple of weeks of sitting and chatting I was playing a show downtown, meeting all these crazy DJs and producers.
SS: What have you learned about yourself since graduating that you wish you knew back in school?
SY: I think the main thing I learned about myself was the entrepreneurial flair I have. I wish I knew that earlier before I embarked on pursuing a major in art haha, I think I would have joined a lot more clubs related to that as well.
SS: Being a creative type, how does your creativity intersect with your faith?
SY: Oh man where do I even begin? I think the idea of even being able to create is key component the the basis of my faith. I have been created by a God that loves creation. And because of that, I have been given the awe-inspiring right to create just like my maker can create. That is an mind-bending truth that He has instilled in me.
In addition, a big portion of my creativity stems from idea creation and making connections. So everywhere I go, I constantly see ways that Jesus connects in this way or that. Or I'll randomly think of new ways that people can encounter God and meet with Him. I feel as if my creativity intersects with my faith by allowing me to see how God Himself intersects with the world around me in unexpected ways.
SS: We know that God is into changing the whole world, but what's the specific slice that gets you fired up the most?
SY: There are many "slices" that move me, but I think the slice that gets me fired up the most is when people are redeemed of their sense of worth, and concurrently when people see what they are capable of in terms of loving others. I think a good example of this comes from my time doing campus ministry. One of the people on a team I was leading had come to faith his freshman year - I still remember speaking to him before he was a believer. While on media comma team his third year, a dream of his was to shoot a documentary about a thriving homeless community that worshipped and fellowshipped downtown on a regular basis. By the end of his time on the team, the dream had become a reality in the form of a 45 minute documentary detailing the lives of the homeless leaders and student leaders that had partnered together to make the fellowship a reality. Stepping back and seeing the transformation from when I first spoke to him freshman year to when he finished the documentary, I was blown away by how God had transformed this man to transform others. And I was blown away that I could be a part of that. This is just one for a few stories that really capture what gets me fired up. Stories of people realizing their potential to be used by God.
SS: What's challenged your faith the most since you graduated?
SY: The most challenging thing for me since I've graduated has actually been grappling with the feeling of needing to be accomplished in some shape or form. Often times, I feel like I don't have enough time to do the things I want to do, or I feel like I am falling behind in the goals I want to achieve. I feel that especially in our American culture of striving for excellence, I often get caught up in focusing my energy on my own abilities as opposed to focusing on what God is capable of. So I get discouraged easily when I compare myself to my peers who seem to be "farther along" in life than I.
SS: In what ways have you seen God use you to impact others through your work, and where do you feel like God might want to increase your influence?
SY: I think the most tangible example I have of God using me to impact others has been while I was doing music production and performance. The underground music scene wasn't necessarily a place of very much light, but I was able to bring of piece of that light just by being there and being a friend. There was one time when one of the local producers committed suicide and it rocked the music scene in San Diego. I was able to attend his memorial and though I didn't necessarily share the gospel to everyone, I was able to be there with his friends and his family to shed a bit of God's love and peace. In terms of where he might want me to increase my influence, I believe that he wants me to bring more of His presence into the office I work at presently. He's been calling me to be more relational with my co-workers and just get to know people. I feel like He's leading me through a season of what it looks like to be a co-worker that not only does his work well, but is also genuinely caring of the people he works with.
SS: What advice would you give for a college student getting ready to graduate and trying to figure out what to do? What should they consider when thinking about life after school?
- Try new and different things, you can't find your passion until you try it!
- Focus on where God is bringing you, not on where you need to be compared to your peers.
- Find an accountability group that can help you process and discern what God has been doing in your workplace
- Be attentive to the opportunities that God presents to you, whether that be in making relationships or in moving forward in your career.
- Pray daily, you will be able to hear God clearer.
- Take Sabbaths, you will not regret it. You are never too busy to spend time with God.
- Expect change, life after college is exactly that: Life after college. The 9 to 5 is very different than college life. Don't dread it, just be ready to adapt.
- Finally, rejoice in every circumstance! No matter what God is bringing you through, he is gonna bring you through it. Keep your eyes on the hope that is in Jesus Christ and you won't falter. "3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5
, I wrote about the crucial first week of work, when the office culture you're stepping into makes its biggest attach on the real You.
Now, I want to get even more specific (because a good friend of mine is starting his first full-time job....tomorrow!) Your first day of work is the most important day of your new life.
: you knew I was going to say that, didn't you? I don't just mean the obligatory "bless my day, Lord" prayer, I mean spending some time the night before and getting up extra early to sit and spend time in God's presence. Of course you should tell God about your anxiety and worries for the new job, but spend the bulk of your time trying to listen to what He's up to, what He's calling you to, and what it means to walk in harmony with His presence. Also, it would be a GREAT idea to ask a few close friends to pray for you throughout that first day, too. Get snappy
: this one's a surprise, right? I don't think it's unspiritual or heretical to admit that "the clothes make the man", and we feel
better and walk with confidence when we're dressed well. Maybe go out and spend a few (future) dollars the day before on an outfit that's going to help you feel good. Prepare questions
: you know you don't know anything. They know you don't know anything. So why spend energy pretending like you know? Prepare a few important questions, the obvious ones like, "What's expected of me today and this first week?", and the not so obvious but really obvious ones like, "Where's the best bathroom in the building?" or "How long do I have for lunch?" Asking good, inquisitive questions will speed up your learning curve, and help you gain the confidence that you need to get competent at your job. Initiate
: even though you're new, it's your opportunity to start new friendships with your co-workers. Initiate with them, both at the copier and water cooler but also by asking them to lunch. For more ideas, check out a great post by Eric Scofield
, Regional Director of Young Life in SoCal.
Your first day is so important. It sets the tone for the rest of the week, and your time working for that organization. Plan it out, don't just wing-it.
If you're about to start your job, what do you need to do to get ready?
For those of you who are already working, what do you wish you had done differently that first day?
Awhile back I was spending time with a recent grad early into his career and helping him think through his new rhythms of life and brainstorm how to continue to grow in his relationship with God.
His challenge: long, long hours at least five days per week if not six, and constant busyness and demands for his attention. In college, he had long hours of uninterrupted prayer times, spiritual conversations with friends, Bible studies, retreats, weekly worship services, and more. Now, he could barely wake up in time to shower, shave, and get out the door- getting home at night was about finishing the laundry and paying bills.
Can you relate?
Christians in the workplace share a common barrier to staying connected with God: time. There are deadlines, stress, projects, meetings and interruptions.
Carving out space before or after work to sit down, breathe slowly, meditate on scripture, and connect with God's presence through prayer is also extremely challenging. There are distractions and noises and sleepiness and traffic.
So what options do you have? Quit your job and enter a monastery? Tell your boss that from now on you need to focus on spiritual growth, so you'll be taking a half hour longer at lunch to pray and study the Bible?
Back to my friend. When we were trying to figure out his life and schedule, one thought popped up:
I said, "How many times a day do you go to the bathroom?" (yes, he looked at me strangely)
"Oh, maybe five, six, or seven times over the course of a long day. Why?"
I said, "Well, let's assume you have a couple minutes every time you go. Seems to me like that would be a great time to have a 'moment' with God."
So began the Potty Quiet Times.
A couple minutes a few times a day to take a deep breath, invite God's presence in, catch up your heart to where it's been over the past couple of hours, maybe repeat a scripture verse a couple times (or maybe even read a quick, short devotional on your phone), and invite God to lead you and guide you for the next couple hours.
Maybe it's a little unconventional, a little profane even. Or maybe a little creative...
In a negative sense, there's a lot of pressure in being a Christian. There's pressure to do a lot of stuff: go to church, read your Bible, pray for your friends and family, pressure to give money, pressure to serve, pressure to be kind, pressure to be moral...
And when you start your first job or internship, there's pressure to be a spiritual influence on those around you and be a leader. You might have Christian friends or a pastor ask you: So, who are you reaching out to at work? Or, has anyone accepted Christ yet in your office?
But I'm not so sure God wanted it to feel like pressure for us. Do you think Jesus felt pressure?
Here's what Jesus said about the kind of pressure he felt to fulfill his calling:
“‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.’ ” John 5:19-20
I don't think he felt pressure in the same way you and I feel it. He seemed at peace, unhurried and unburdened in his interactions and the way he kept his relationships.
Here are some practical ways you and I can get into the same flow that Jesus had:
1. Pray less but more frequently: I know, it sounds mildly heretical, but what I mean is what if you experimented by praying more often throughout the day, like every hour for a minute or two, rather than try to cram all of your prayer requests in on your commute to work. It might shift prayer for you to be more relational and conversational, and you might start catching glimpses of the things God is up to throughout the day. Your life with God would become less compartmentalized.
2. Think like a Spiritual Director: a good spiritual director recognizes that his/her role is to help you identify the movements of God within and around you, and respond to God appropriately with courage and faith. They ask great questions like: Where are you sensing God draw you into relationship with someone? Where are you feeling his invitation to bless someone around you?
3. Use your imagination: what are the things that God is into? Probably things like: being kind, using your words to encourage others, helping people experience acceptance, being a source of healing, working with excellence....when you start living out of a sense of imagination, I think we start catching more glimpses of what God is up to.
What do you need to start or stop doing to experience less pressure but more connection with God?
It's rare to find someone who would admit to not wanting to experience God more regularly in daily and normal life. The fact is, experiencing the presence of God is what fuels our faith and ignites our passion for the things that God cares about. Being used by Him, seeing Him work through your prayers, receiving moments of supernatural coincidence- we hunger and thirst for more of those.
For many, though, there's a false belief about where and when we can experience God the most. We all tend to believe, and the message is reinforced at church, that God's presence dwells more in religious settings: worship services, retreats, quiet prayer times, small group meetings, housebuilding projects, etc.
Unless Jesus was lying (not a great premise to get yourself trapped in...!), his presence was and is available fully at all times and in all places.
But what about in the workplace?
Is it possible
to experience God-- in a cubicle
To encounter God and hear his voice-- while in a meeting
To see the fingerprints of God-- while staring at your computer screen
To experience more of God's presence, we need to be watchful
for Him to show up. Good, proper theology (thinking about God) would say God's presence is everywhere, always. To connect and tap into it, we must be mindful of him, consciously becoming more aware of Him and inviting Him to reveal Himself to you.
Many people have found it helpful to shoot for the Brother Lawrence or Apostle Paul goal of "praying without ceasing"- consciously offering more and more of your mind and heart to be tuned into the frequency of God.
An intermediate step could be to appoint regular times to pause and pray throughout the day, similar to what monks would do in a monastery. Put an alarm on your phone, or an appointment in your calendar.
A simple prayer and a minute or two might be all you need to reorient yourself to God, reconnect with His presence, and become more aware of what He's up to. I would HIGHLY recommend Pete Scazzero's website Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
, specifically his guides for daily prayer in your everyday life
What works for you to connect with God's presence more often and more powerfully? What do you need to do next?