What does winning at work look like?

Like many people lately, I’ve been caught up in the drama that is my job as well as in our local, state, and national politics. My work life exists in a place where nothing is more important than making money. Making money is a meta-game. It’s not just about profits or cash of the brand I work with. It’s about playing with investments and tax laws and international laws to find the way for the investors to get more subsidies and avoid paying one penny more than needed.  Don’t get me wrong; I love competition, beating goals, navigating that one path to victory against all odds. I recognize that the leaders I work with are all children of God, even if they don’t see themselves that way in their quest for power. I also recognize that I am living in this world and need to provide for my family. Yet sometimes the tension between striving and sacrifice is too much for me, and I need a break. So as I write this I’m looking over Duck Lake in Michigan, enjoying apres sunrise while my family wakes up. Jeb is puttering in the kitchen, starting breakfast. I am incredibly grateful to be in this moment.

It’s easier to be close to God while I’m on vacation. My sense of perspective is returning to me. I feel like I am laying down a burden of heavy rocks or unwieldy sharp sticks.   Being able to love God, love my neighbor, and love myself is coming a bit more naturally for me. Self care is not just a habit or ritual I force myself to do because it’s good for me; instead I can breathe and listen. I’m hearing some interesting things.

On this trip my daughters and I have been reading Exodus together, a chapter a day. Each day helps me release my cares and worries a bit, as I’m reminded about how much we humans stay the same over time. In Exodus, Chapter 1, there were several things that stood out to me; one of them is verse 16. In it the King of Egypt is described as an awful slave master. As I read this (and also Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi), it occurred to me that the whole world and human race has a history of slavery – not just the US, not just the twentieth century. When I see the tensions #blacklivesmatter addresses, it’s easy to think that only our country and our time suffered these problems. It takes a ton of work to heal, especially when it seems that human nature is to own people/have dominion over those who have less power. At work, I joke about how much I want someone to run my calendar and be my email butler. Obviously everyone at work is getting paid, so drawing a comparison to slavery is risky, but the urge to have someone at my beck and call is strong. On the flip side, it’s easy for leaders to expect their folks to work around the clock to deliver one of their whims. Here I am typing this and even now I describe people as property – “their folks.” It is hard to see each person as a child of God, regardless of how good my intentions are.

God’s love in my life looks like being able to “Come to the waters…” Isaiah 55:1, and improve my focus to center on loving God, my neighbor, and myself. I need to rely on God to help me avoid getting caught up in power games and keep treating my neighbors as God’s children: not opponents, not resources, not consumers, not pawns, not idiots, and not bad guys. The trick is to bring this focus and clarity with me as I return from my peaceful retreat and go back onto the speeding highway that is my job. With God’s help, I can bring His love into an arena that frequently does not recognize that we are neighbors to each other – workaday life in corporate America. Maybe I can be a messenger of love in an environment where money and power are the prevailing gods, and this will help keep my neighbors and me on the high road, instead of giving in to the darker aspects of our human nature. Let’s pray for each other on this road.

Anne Brack is a devoted spouse, working mom, urban farmer, amateur chef, and flawed human.