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I’ve always been a bit suspicious of those who paint too rosy a picture of the life of faith. Early in my Christian journey one of the popular evangelical sayings was that God has a “wonderful plan for your life.” Turns out, “wonderful” must have meant something entirely different than what I thought the word meant!
Each of us has a history – personal, familial, organizational. Psalm 78 tells Israel’s history with stark honesty. No attempt is made to “spin” its story to make God’s people look good. The bulk of the psalm is a long litany of Israel’s failures despite God’s mercy and continued faithfulness. If for no other reason, I like this psalm because it reminds me that all my history can be faced. In a contemporary leadership culture that tends to hide its failures and weaknesses, this is refreshingly good news.
Keeping your head down at work — while perhaps unavoidable on occasion — is not a good, long-term posture. Instead, Psalm 111 reminds me that thankfulness—an upward orientation — is the key to a truly human life, to truly human work.
So what has been forgotten and lost? What can we learn from an older, biblical vision of human work? In today’s text, Paul picks up the original creation story imagery of human work as gardening. While Paul didn’t work in an actual garden, he saw his gospel work imaginatively within that framework.
As any gardener knows, while we can plant, fertilize, weed and water, there is another sense in which a garden grows entirely independent of us as human beings. Gardening reminds us that God is the one who is the author and sustainer of life. While we can participate with God in the work of the garden, no gardener I know has any illusions that they “make the garden happen” by themselves.
Meaningful engagement in institutional life – being part of a marriage, a family, a local congregation, a company, a charitable organization, a local community, a city, a state, a nation – is some of the most challenging work we do as human beings. And yet, as today’s text reminds us, that is where God’s word is to be inscribed, “on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.”
What in your journey might you use to recollect who you are and what you are called to do in your work of leadership? Perhaps it’s a photo, a piece of artwork, a book, or a saying. How might you find a place in your workspace for such a reminder?
Our task is to give witness to Jesus as Lord in the midst of the public square. As today’s text reminds us, despite our track record, abandoning the public arena is not an option for faithful disciples. In the context of each of our leadership responsibilities there is a public dimension to our faith. How are we to live it out?
Leadership, for those of us who take the Bible seriously, means connecting our voice with our touch. What we say and how we act are meant to be congruent with one another. Today’s text reminds us that the commandment to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might,” is intended not only for us but for those who follow us –
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