If you were to pinpoint when your professional life solidified, you might name a workplace manager or mentor. Or you might think of a college professor who inspired you. You might even go back a bit further to name a high school teacher or your parents.
Although there are likely many influences, the shaping of your career still took plenty of work and dedication on your part—schooling, studies, work ethic, and the like. We still had to show up to class and study. We had to make connections and take chances. We had to get to work early and be willing to stay late.
Our professional lives are a direct result of our hard work.
But we forget something in this equation, something highlighted in Part 2 of Timothy Keller’s Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, for this week’s The High Calling book club discussion.
We forget about grace.
Without grace, all our dedication and wisdom and willingness to work would make little difference. Not so sure? Listen as Keller exhorts:
“You worked with talents you did not earn; they were given to you. You went through doors of opportunity you did not produce; they just opened for you. Therefore, everything you have is a matter of grace, and so you have the freedom to serve the world through your influence, just as you can through your competence.” (124)
His words sucked the wind out of my chest. It is so easy to think that my own smarts and wit and dedication got me to where I am, doing work that I love for organizations that make my heart sing.
But this view ignores the many blessings bestowed upon me. Here in the United States, we are blessed with food and work and homes and water and transportation and libraries and TV and health care. I had parents who helped me and invested in me. I had work opportunities given to me. All these nurtured my abilities, cultivating them, growing them, so that today I could use my love for words and writing to help organizations with their communications.
I am not smarter or more dedicated or more resourceful than people who live elsewhere and have no access to the grace I’ve been given. It is likely they would surpass me in those areas.
Knowing that my work life is not the result of my own awesomeness strips away any right I have to use this grace for my own advancement. The gift of grace is something to steward to serve the world through whatever influence and competence I’ve been given.
After this week’s reading, my work is at once bigger and smaller, in all the right ways.
Grab a book and dig in to learn more about grace in our work. Next week: Part 3, Chapters 9–12.
Image: Opportunity Ahead, Richmond, Virginia. Personal photograph by Erin Straza. 2011.
Quotation: Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2012).