“I’m giving up chocolate!”
“No coffee for me for the next forty days!” (I’m shaking at the very thought of such asceticism, and so are my coworkers who fear the agony of being around me when I lack sufficient caffeine. Bring me the bed of nails or hot coals to walk on before you mess with my java.)
“This year, I’m keeping my wine and chocolate, but giving up all social media. Goodbye, Facebook friends! See you after Easter.”
“No thick, juicy steaks on my plate for six weeks.”
With the start of Lent this year, I have heard such predictable declarations of devotion and also a number of unique, extra-creative statements of intentionality. I must confess that my own spiritual heritage did not include practicing Lent or Ash Wednesday. My religious tutelage also held no celebration of Fasnacht Day. Now, I must shout “Yea!” for the donuts’ great holiday. I have come to highly revere the sweet holiness of this fine tradition, especially when accompanied by a latte. Seriously, in recent years, my own appreciation for the potential benefits of Lenten observance has increased as I have witnessed people’s personal denial of self-consumption. I have seen meaningful, challenging levels of personal progress through such deliberate actions.
This year though, I cannot help but wonder, “What might it look like to dig several feet deeper, to apply Lenten disciplines in the workplace?”
Instead of giving up something that represents primarily a sensory, consumer appetite, what if my zone of self-denial dared to include a core choice of the soul? How about contemplating what might be one or more of my deep-down personal ruts, a deficiency in my character relating with my coworkers, or even some often overlooked, warped, or misguided workplace values?
What about giving up water-cooler gossip and competitive character assassination?
Could I dare to begin each of the next forty days by prayerfully laying down my arrogance?
How might your productivity increase if you gave up your patterns of procrastination, to passionately attack your to-do list—especially your most dreaded tasks—even daring to do the worst first?
What healthier habits might take root in your heart if you laid aside the workplace lust you’ve flirted with way too frequently in recent months?
Might I sense a deeper connectedness with Christ, with family, and friends, if I choose to give up workaholic tendencies, to practice the sacred rhythms of Sabbath?
R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung supply a convicting list of nine workplace struggles, dubbing them “deadly work sins.” Pride. Greed. Lust. Gluttony. Anger. Sloth. Envy. Restlessness. Boredom. Their powerfully persuasive call to surrender these vices takes the conversation beyond the predictable “stop that” or “cut it out!” Ung and Stevens winsomely analyze the fresh fruit of the Spirit as life-giving antidotes. Joy. Goodness. Love. Self-control. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Kindness. Patience. Peace.
One of my friends reminded me yesterday that as we enter Lent, a truly Christ-focused approach should be something vibrantly different than gloomy, grey, boring, and dismal—an outlook consumed with only short-term self-denial. Instead, Lent actually comes to us like the beautiful harbinger of springtime—potentially leading us toward brighter outcomes—resulting in a more Spirit-led life. Who knows? Perhaps such enriched Lenten practices in the workplace might stretch beyond forty days, changing us at the core of who we are, transforming how we work, and even multiplying our Christ-like impact on others.
Let’s dare to embrace Lent in our workplaces this year, in a fashion that addresses those much-needed places in our souls. I sense that will be far more wonderful, life giving, and joy-producing than my giving up coffee—both for me as well as all my coworkers.
R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung. Taking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace. (Eerdmans, 2010).