by Scott Sutton
As The Grove Church continues its “Be Still” series, I was asked to write a blog piece about being still at work. I jumped onto it because I see so many of us struggling with this facet of our lives. I know what some of you have to go through and who you have to go through it with. Every. Dang. Day. It’s difficult to be still when you are surrounded by toxicity. And that’s where my mind initially went: “How to be still in an unstill environment.”
But what started to take shape as I went further down that road was essentially a glorified “Stress Management Techniques” piece. And while there is a TON of value to learning and practicing effective stress management techniques, there are also already a TON of articles, blogs, and videos that teach these techniques, created by people far more qualified than I am on the matter. When you want to dropkick a co-worker to the head, when the workload is more than you can bear, when your computer decides that the best time to crash is right before a deadline and after you haven’t saved for 8 hours, those calming techniques can be invaluable to you and well worth your time to learn.
But calmness and stillness are two different things. And this piece is about stillness. Stillness comes from a different part of our brain, a different part of our soul. It transcends calm and stress. It transcends circumstances. It even transcends work itself.
And I think much of the root of our struggle to be still at work comes from the same place where we came up with the phrase “Work/Life Balance”. So, if we wish to be still, we must first dispel the myth of “Work/Life Balance”.
Now, don’t get me wrong…balance in our lives is good. Sleeping is good…though, sleeping 20 hours a day can be a sign that someone is unwell. Eating is good…though, eating 20 hours a day can take a physical toll. Recreation is good…though, recreation 20 hours a day can be a form of addiction. When our lives become too wrapped up in any single thing, we have lost balance. And all aspects of our lives should be held in healthy balance.
The myth of “Work/Life Balance” doesn’t reside in the use of the word “balance”; rather the myth resides in the use of the slash (the “/“).
The slash reinforces this idea that we live two lives: our work life and the rest of our life. As though we flip a switch the moment we step into our workplace and and live one version of our life for the next 8, 9, or 10 hours (I see you, Walmart) and the moment we leave we shed our work life and step back into our other life, our personal life, our life that matters. And I think much of our struggle to be still at work is that we find ourselves in work situations where we don’t quite see how the work version of our life fits with the other version, other than funding it.
If this is you, maybe your first step is a step backward to ask yourself, “Why do I exist? What is my purpose?”
If you are struggling with where to even begin answering that question, spend some time meditating on chapters 1 through 3 of the book of Genesis, where we gain some insights into God’s design for us:
1. We are here to relate with God and honor him (verses 2:16-17, 3:8-9)
2. We are here to honor, help, and relate with others (verse 2:18)
3. We are here to be creators, just as God is our creator (verses 1:26. 2:19-20)
4. We are here to enjoy God’s creation and care for it (verses 1:26, 2:15-16)
Pursue these things whole-heartedly – to love God more deeply, to love others more deeply, to enjoy creation more deeply, and how your Creator image most meaningfully expresses itself. Continue pursuing them until you find stillness in them. How each of these practically looks will vary from person to person, as each person is a unique creation of God, a unique configuration of DNA, a unique set of experiences and circumstances.
The deeper you get into this pursuit, the clearer the overarching place and purpose of your life will become. The ability to be still in our lives will strengthen. And the parts of our lives that steal our ability to be still will become glaringly evident. You may discover that you need to make a wholesale change to your workplace or your career. You may discover that you are exactly where you need to be, but just need to practice some of those calming techniques. You may discover that your work might not be the most fulfilling aspect of your life, but it provides you with resources, relationships, or opportunities that enable you to fulfill your overarching purposes…and you can find stillness in knowing that you are working for a single, greater, eternal purpose.