Several years ago I decided to embark on a career path in finance. Despite popular disdain for the industry at the time—and perhaps still to this day—I had heard the money was good and that the hours would be “ridiculous.” I needed the money and I thought a busy lifestyle would give me a sense of importance. The decision was very easy.
But I soon discovered a problem: it turns out I’m a reluctant overachiever. I’m an overachiever because I’m always pressured to accomplish great things, impress the people around me, and generally prove that I’m superior to others in some way. I get anxious if I’m sitting around not doing something “important.” At the same time I exhibit a spirit of reluctance to the point of laziness. I have a hard time buckling down to work through tedious or complex tasks until I’m forced to at the very last minute. This laziness comes from a fear of failure and disapproval. This fear, in turn, stifles me from focused productivity and, counterintuitively, leads me to over-commit, procrastinate, and cram—which, by the way, takes a huge toll on my sleep.
As a reluctant overachiever, I found little joy in my work. My day-to-day was characterized by highs and lows as volatile as the stock market. Success fed my ego, failure devastated me, and the uncertainty of pending outcomes kept me restless.
Through the four-week workshop on the Theology of Work offered by the Center for Faith & Work, however, I’ve come to see work in a completely different light. I learned that as we are created in the image of God, we are made to find joy and fulfillment in our work, as He does in His great works. But through the fall of man, caused by disordered loves and the idols we have created in place of God, work as God intended has been corrupted—not only in the sphere of our individual hearts, but also in communities and in the world (in an industry-wide or macro sense). The gospel is then the story of how God has redeemed us at all of these levels—hearts, communities, and industries—through the work of Jesus Christ.
My big breakthrough during these classes was how redemption should operate in my heart. By nature I want to work for recognition and approval (to gain a sense of self-worth), and for money (to achieve financial security and social status). But when I look at what Jesus has done, I am humbled by the extent of my deep brokenness which cost him his life, while simultaneously I am lifted by the extent of God’s incredible love for me. No matter how extraordinary my accomplishments are or how sweeping my failures are, I am utterly worthless yet utterly loved.
The identity I find in Jesus equips me with a new capacity to find joy in my work. I’m not pressured to prove myself, but I’m inspired to try my best; I’m not afraid of failure or disapproval, so I’m daring and enterprising. But change is gradual. All I can say for now is that I’m convinced God is taking me in this direction.