It was night already, I had just finished a meeting when I got a call. “I’m really upset.” Carla said with her very obvious upset voice. “Is it true that you allowed this?” she asked.
“Yup?” I said. “Why? What’s the problem?”
“This thing is not inline with our values.”
“Why not?” and I proceeded to explain why I didn’t think we weren’t crossing any lines.
She replied with her own explanation of why I was wrong, and why we needed to correct what I had green-lighted. After some discussion, it became clear that she was right and I was wrong. So I admitted she was right, we agreed on the proper next steps, and then I called two other team members who were directly affected to clarify the situation. Then I took a cab to my next meeting, finished that, did my evening routine and went to bed.
The next day, at our daily 7:00am huddle (Yes, we start at 7:00am), I shared the incident with the team, owned up to my mistake, and commended Carla for confronting me. I did this so that every single member of the team would know that not only is it possible and accepted to correct your boss at Bridge, but welcomed. I want them to be using their brains. I want them to sharpen their minds and use them to sharpen mine. I want them to know that it’s not only safe to question but beneficial, that debating doesn’t have to be disrespectful but is an important part of discovery. And I want them to know that I’m not infallible, that I need every single one of them to step up, to become really smart, really strong, really courageous, really excellent, really hard working, and really wise for their customers, for each other, and for me.
I did this because I want them more loyal to our mission and values than to me. And I told them so. “Your loyalty is to Bridge not to me. And what is Bridge? It’s this team embracing one mission and sharing distinct values. If you find me doing things that don’t make work life better for others, correct me.”
I think they got the point. I hope they got that point.
But then I explained my next point, “These tensions make us great. These seeming contradictions, Jett pushing the sales to the edge, Carla pushing compliance, Eric pushing technology, Janna pushing process, all of us are pushing to make our diverse responsibilities work, to make sure we’re the best at our individual domains, because there’s no room for second best. Keep pushing your domain forward. And in our pushing on all fronts, naturally, tension will arise, and during this tension, we will need to learn how to come together and briskly discuss the pros and cons in light of our values and mission. We can’t just jump to conclusions. we can’t just fee bad or feel good. We need to explore what we’re facing. It’s this process of cooperation amidst conflict that leads to breakthrough. So let’s get used to it.
Be so excellent in your field that you can’t help but challenge each other. Be so clear with our mission and values that we can’t help but refine our decisions with them.
We’ll be more than fine. We’ll be great.”
I didn’t exactly say it that way (I tend to ad-lib), but those were my notes. t hope they got that point too.
It’s these tensions that make us great. It’s these challenges that we overcome that lead to mastery, and mastery leads to confidence. I’m glad I have growth-oriented people pushing the boundaries. And I’m glad that the conflicts are settled with conviction and cooperation. I’m confident that someday when the world looks back, it will be glad that we did.
“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.”
Ephesians 6:5-9 ESV
Reflection Question: Is my work worshipping God?
I thought about this after reading the verse above, and I think it’s a great question for anyone who calls himself a Christ-follower. While I don’t believe that there are “Christian companies”, just as there are no “Christian bands”, or “Christian T-Shirts”, there are Christian people, and only Christian people. A Christian is someone who folows Christ, not someone who is affiliated with a certain group or organization, neither is it a t-shirt or piece of music as neither can follow Christ, even as they can be used by a human Christ-follower for worship. So while a Christ-follower may be affiliated with an organization, it doesnt mean that being affiliated with that organization means thst a person is a Christ-follower. I say all of this to make one point: the responsibility of thriving as a Christ-follower is on each individual, not on the groups they are affiliated with. The sincerity, progress, amd impact of your spiritual life has more to do with your own submission to Christ than your pastor’s, small group leader’s, or family’s.
In other words, your work matters greatly. This is both a good thing and a threatening thing, but before I expound on why, let me provide a more useful defintiion of work, as many simply think “my work is my job”, which is wrong.
DEFINITION: My work is the collection of every prodcutive act I engage in.
My productive acts are anything I do to develop, forward, or expand the different facets of my life, mainly:
So when asking myself the reflection question, “Is my work worshipping God?”, I can rephrase it to:
“Is my (collection of every productive act) worship to God?”
And even, “Are the physical, mental, spiritual, social, and emotional things I do worship to God?”
As we can see, when we deepen our understanding of work, we realize that it is impossible to separate worshipping God with our work without engaging in the development, forwarding, and expanding of the different facets of our lives.
We also need to deepen our understanding of worship from just singing and dancing, but to:
sincere, extreme adoration, honor, and submission
The person, thing, or idea we sincerely, extremely, adore, honor, and submit to is what we are truly worshipping.
Going back to the question, we can rephrase it again to:
Is my work (collection of every productive act) worship (sincerely, extremely adoring, honoring, and submitting) to God?”
And, “Are the physical, mental, spiritual, social, and emotional things I do sincerely, extremely adoring, honoring, and submitting to God?”
Like all verses should, Ephesians 6:5-9 moved me to reflect on my work, not so much how satisfied I am, or how much I’m making, or whether I have work life balance, but whether I am truly worshipping God. Working for God means I should be most excellent because the One I’m trying to please is most excellent. When I complain or grumble about my work situation, about my team, about my customers, and about my great effort, I’m forgetting that I’m supposed to be working for God, and should I not strive to give Him the very best of me at work? And should I not fix my diet, fix my routines, and adopt healthy habits for these allow me to give God better worship? Shouldn’t I also order my mental life, read books, study, make myself wise, as these can also be used develop, further, and expand my worship to God?
If we are to worship God with our work, and work is every productive act we engage in, should we not engage in more productivity than anyone else, for we are driven not by mere necessity nor love for ourselves but love for God and others? Should we not be the hardest working and most productive people in the world?
I think we should. And I think we, as so-called Christ-followers, should never be idle, never wasteful, nor selfishly living off others (including their parents if they are adults, or riding on the coattails of colleagues at work when our own contribution is tiny), just as we should never be greedy, never unkind or mean, never usurious, and never unfair.
Here’s some notes I gave myself to make this verse practical:
Let me summarize:
Get a job or make your own (that’s an Entreprenuer). Be the best at it, whatever it is, not according to your cheerleaders but according to your customers. Order your life to be productive. And do it all for God, not man.
But let’s not talk about glorifying God with work, if we’re not even engaging in productive activities. That’s what you call lip service.
When we were kids, my parents told us a story of an eagle egg that got mixed up with the eggs in a chicken coop. When the eggs hatched, the mother hen simply raised them all like chickens. Of course as time passed the eagle grew bigger and stronger, but because it thought like a chicken, it did the things chickens do and don’t do. It clucked, it strut, but despite its large wings it never flew, because chickens don’t fly. He never even tried.
One day while playing with his chicken brothers and sisters, an eagle flew over their farm. All the chickens watched the eagle soar, none was more stirred than the young eagle on the ground. “What’s that?” He asked. “That’s an eagle.” The mother hen told him. “Wow he said. How’d he get so high?” He followed. “He’s flying, son.” She explained. “I want to fly too.” The eagle said without thinking, and this caused his chicken family to laugh, “You can’t fly. You’re a chicken like us. Chickens can’t fly like eagles. Come on, let’s go back to playing.” The young eagle took one last look at the soaring bird in the sky, turned around and went back to play with the chickens, never realizing that not only could he fly, that he was meant to fly, simply because he listened to the chickens.
I remember what my parents would remind us, “You boys are meant to be great. You’re Eagles. But if you think like chickens, if you hang around chickens, if you do the things chickens do, you’ll end up a chicken. And just like the young eagle, you’ll watch the other eagles soaring, and know somewhere deep inside that you should be flying, because you know you’re not a chicken, but an eagle, and that you were meant to soar.”
I don’t know if this was an original story of theirs. It probably wasn’t. But its lesson stuck with me. Actually, it haunts me.
Whenever I find myself thinking or acting like a chicken, whenever I’m spending too much time with chickens, I can hear my parents voice and the same images in my head that I had as a child imagi ing their story, “If you think like a chicken, even if you’re really an eagle, you’ll act like a chicken. If you surround yourself with chickens. You’ll think like them.”
So I make adjustments.
They’re right. When you’re an eagle, and I believe we’re all meant to soar, watching someone else fly high tugs at us. We feel both admiration and sense of envy. That admiration, if unchecked, will lead to idolatry. That envy, if unchecked, will lead to covetousness. Either one, or both, if unchecked, will turn us into chickens, people watching others soar, clucking to ourselves with opinions, criticisms, and admiration, yet never realizing that we were meant to be that person touching the sky.
Here’s today’s reminder: There be eagles. They’re rare but you’ll find them. They’re not doing what chickens are doing. They’re not buying into chicken-thinking. They’re soaring at heights very few reach. They’re doing things chickens can only watch and wish for. Yes, there are eagles in this world. My hope is that you’ll realize, before it’s too late, that eagle is you.