Reflections in the [Bridge]Water – The Office

As the second community my series of reflections, the office has served as one of the biggest learning curves (and no, not the one with Michael Scott).

I received an offer for my first full time job outside of college internships early January of 2014, just a month after graduating. My mind has a hard time developing locational expectations for a new place, so I had no preconceptions of what work life would look like in comparison to university life.

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The first lunch in college on the first day of classes I ate at a table by myself (don’t worry, I think that was the last time that happened). The first lunch at work I ate with about a dozen +50 year-old men. Talk about some entertaining (and educational) conversation.

From here, I met dozens of my other 400 or so coworkers of various ages, walks of life, and interests.

It’s easy to describe what I learned technically and professionally. I think most of the questions you ask yourself in a first job follow a fairly universal trend. What’s my role? How do I interact with my coworkers? How do I learn as much as I can from the fire hose of information?

It’s a bit harder to express how I grew. “What’s my purpose?” loomed overhead everyday for me.

The very word “community” means to have a common characteristic or goal. In essence, work life is community life. This mindset seemed to kick in a lot quicker in college, but I realized quickly that it doesn’t look the same in a 9-to-5 setting.

Community living requires investment. Paul served as a great example of what intentional work life looked like in Acts:

“Paul went to visit Aquila and Priscilla. They were tentmakers, the same as Paul, so he stayed with them and worked with them… During the night, Paul had a vision. The Lord said to him, ‘Don’t be afraid, and don’t stop talking to people. I am with you, and no one will be able to hurt you. Many of my people are in this city.’ Paul stayed there for a year and a half teaching God’s message to the people.” 

Paul’s profession was a tentmaker (because that’s what people lived in then). He made money to put food in his belly and clothes on his back. That’s all. You can see it right there. One sentence attributes to his career, not an entire resume.

Paul’s mission was spreading the Good News of Jesus. What better way to get to know people and understand their needs than to work right alongside them! He didn’t concern himself about how good of tentmaker he could make himself. People were his concern.

On days where I had a difficult time going to work, this mission humbly reminded me that my job is not as important to Jesus as the people that he loves in the next cube down the hall. Should my sour attitude or personal work agenda affect the way I could love people that day, then I have vainly accomplished nothing.

With a heart full of joy, I leave this office and these amazing people only to continue loving new people with the love God has given me!

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Seeing Community Growth through Beautiful Demolition

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Mill City Museum | Minneapolis, MN

“Community only exists when action is taking place.”

I’ve thrived in seeing this phrase lived out among people I interact with in various communities. Most recently, I’ve had the joy and privilege of living it out with several colleagues from around the world over the past few months in a training program through my company. We’ve spent hours struggling through classwork and have continued to build relationships through other outside activities. It has been amazing.

Until a “bad” thing happened.

Our director sat the class down for an intense discussion regarding some perceived unprofessional behavior as a group. My heart sunk. In that moment, I could pin point exactly where I was guilty of giving a bad rep for the company. It made me feel ashamed that as ambassadors to this company, we had failed. Others around us couldn’t tell how hard we wanted to work to do well and to give the company a good name. I could do nothing but sit stone faced and feel scared poopless about where this conversation would end.

But somehow, as class members started to express various concerns, complaints, and compliments, I found myself incredibly joyful. It was one of maybe two moments I have felt intimately close to this group of people. In the middle of addressing a conflict, I was witnessing the process of our great relationships growing even more in depth.

I don’t believe action in relation to growing community is always “good.” Take for instance Jesus’ group of followers/friends. Sure they faithfully followed him around, but they sure didn’t do the “good” thing all the time. During his last night before the religious leaders put him to death, Jesus and his friends went to a garden to pray with him. Well instead of praying with him, like he asked, they fell asleep. Not quite the most “professional” or dutiful thing to do during a critical time.

Fast forward several years and we see that these very same nappers are the people planting the first churches in the history of Christianity. They are the leaders raising up more leaders to follow Jesus. Their very lives were at stake for the work they were doing and yet continued to fulfill it faithfully.

Guilt is no effective way to respond to doing a “bad” action in the midst of community. From the planting of guilt grows no “good” action for the future. Had Jesus’ friends let guilt bog them down, they would have missed out on being part of the amazing work he had set out for them.

I find it beautiful to see imperfect people mess up and through grace, have it redeemed as something incredible. Our little eclectic group is far from perfect, but throughout this experience, I believe that a strong sense of community is understood amongst all of us. Do I think this is the last time any of us will receive correction in our careers? Absolutely not. Will this group succeed through learning as a community? Yes, yes, and again yes.

Where have you witnessed growth in your communities? How do you see difficulties/joys affecting the way individuals interact with each other? Please share and I would also love to hear feedback!