I’ve got the best job in the world. When I graduated from seminary many a moon ago, I had no idea that I would wind up serving the corporate world. Weird, right? But God has a great sense of humor and for sure, writes straight with crooked lines.
I am a leadership consultant. I also have my M.Div. which means I can’t help but approach leadership as a journey into the soul: a calling that requires all we’ve got, emotionally and spiritually, even on days we got nothin’.
So I read, with great interest, the recent article in the NYT, “God is Dead. So is the Office. These People Want to Save Both” by Nellie Bowles. (read article here)
I welcomed this NYT piece. From where I sit we need more God, not less God, to find our way through struggle, uncertainty, and the collective grief that leaves us breathless.
And honestly, we need God to walk through the door, help us to lean in not tap out, make us some tea, and show up with love. Big love. So we can do the same because I can’t even … and the season we are currently in feels like chaos on steroids; a modern day version of the ten plagues in the book of Exodus. Water turning to blood, gnats, thunderstorms of fire, locusts. Death and destruction. Lord have mercy … sound familiar?
And this is not taking into account our own personal plagues. Alzheimer’s? Addiction? No money coming in? Homeschooling when we failed Algebra? Pick your shitstorm.
Faith Out Loud
And yet here is hope. Hope is not the same as denial or delusion. Hope is Helping Other People Everyday. Hope is believing we can awaken, dig deep, rise up, extend a hand.
And the promise of HOPE never manifests without the bridge of Connection.
You see, Connection is hope reaching out because our human need and desire to be full, whole, and complete needs to be nourished. In this way, connection is the antidote and we need it now served up on big platters, around tables where we come together (communion), sharing our stories (liturgy), and holding hands saying “me, too” (redemption). Even at work.
There are leaders who are finding ways to create more connection because they know their people are depleted, exhausted, overwrought, and barely holding it together. They know connection heals and that we need a balm for our souls, for this collective grief.
I am reminded of a client of mine who negotiates global deals with lots of zeros; he grew up in a close knit community, around a table. And to this day, he finds ways to bring his clients and team together around a table - any table - to share stories, celebrations, strategies, and a meal because negotiations are so much more collaborative when the table is heaped high with food and welcoming hands, even in the midst of really tough discussions. The table lives on in his life and work; it symbolizes communion. A communion with self, others, a higher purpose and God.
Communion In Corporations
I was raised in the Episcopal tradition for which I am down-to-my-bones grateful. I am not an organized religious kind of gal on most days but I do have a personal relationship with God. He rides shotgun with me. I see God show up every day with a quiet presence and some pretty damn amazing, can’t-deny miracles. God can be such a show-off. God can be a quiet whisper.
And verily, verily I say this: all is not lost as we witness the modern day version of the locusts descending. I see HOPE everyday in the leaders I chat with, the teams I work with, and the executives grappling with ways to provide meaning during this head-shaking-jaw-dropping-season. People are awakening; they really are.
This is how it is with spiritual practices and rituals of healing; they get woven together slowly to give us a comforting rhythm, a glimpse into understanding the mysteries, a need not to have all the answers but to double down on the questions. It is as if the rendering of our garments during this pandemic remind us that we need to weave new garments: garments stitched together with simple pleasures, a belief in something bigger than self, rituals that give deep meaning, and the importance of taking a knee when in the presence of an outer sign of an inner grace. There are Sabbath moments every day; may we bear witness to them.
Said another way,
We are church – we create community, ritual, and sacrament when we gather to serve, listen, ask for help, extend gratitude, express remorse, and search for the Spirit in everything.
And yes, this can happen at work even as we keep the eye on the bottom line, make painful decisions, find ways to give back, and profit honorably.
Leaders who appreciate the power of connection allow chaos and grief to be an invitation. And this is how we RSVP affirmatively: be a church, lead with more heart and less judgment, and keep three sacramental rituals alive at work and in life:
- Stay Awake. Those willing to learn from chaos and grief are loving warriors who are willing to stay alert and keep the vigil; they are focused on creating a deeper intuitive sense, an enhanced self-discovery, and a showing of grace, forgiveness, and gratitude everywhere … including our workplaces.
- Remain Connected. Those willing to learn from chaos and grief have daily, nourishing practices that strengthen mindfulness, God-connection, and an awakening. These routines help the connected choose courage over comfort and become church.
- Create Sacred Space. People are not projects to manage. We need time together. Stories. A passing of the peace. A check-in that offers empathy. An offering of our gifts. An acknowledgement that we stand on holy ground. A mindfulness about our desert times, top of the mountain times, and burning bush moments. And yes, our fancy modern day world still has these types of moments even as many now worship at the alters of all things-google-and-swipe-lefts.
Work is work. No one is saying it should be Vacation Bible School. That would be really weird even though singing “I’m going to let it shine” might be helpful when we are experiencing death by meeting or pouring over spreadsheets. Yet, we make work spiritual and meaningful when we create rituals that give pause, offer up talents, share life stories in ways that inspire parables, and energize others to love others the way we want to be loved.
Recently, I spent some time in Montana with my son and two of his friends: magical does not capture it. It was as if waters parted and we were led to the promised land. No joking; we soaked in the magic that is The Ranches at Belt Creek for a few days and God was present in nearly every experience.
There were no coincidences and some pretty hefty miracles. God came up in conversation often with the owner of the ranch, Mark, and his Director of Business Development, Brett; it is hard not to talk about the One who has done so much with and for us. Yet, even if God had not come up in conversation this is how we knew we were in the presence of leaders who behaved as if they were church:
- They were more than whatever labels life had put on them; this showed in how they interacted with joy, calm, generosity, and empathy
- They lived from a place of holiness: filled with gratitude, intuition, and presence
- They loved big … and as a result, their people gave their all
- Their work was a way to serve
All of this was evident in what the experience gave us. It was not just something to cherish, it was also something to crave and share. In short, leaders who lead from a spiritual well inside of them create businesses that serve people by connecting them to something beyond the product. This level of connection not only builds up people. It also builds brand, drives profits, and fills our need for meaning.
We become what we do. We strengthen what we practice. We are church. Amen.