Working from home: Where is God in all of this?
Jon Cho // May 19, 2020, 4:19 pm
For as long as I can remember, being able to work from home feels like winning the lottery. For that reason, I thought it would be a walk in the park after the nation-wide directive was given.
The dread of heading back to office on a Monday after a nice weekend with the family was now eliminated – I’d get to be with them all the time. All. The. Time.
A dream come true, right?
As part of BCP (business continuity planning), I started working from home for a couple of weeks before the Circuit Breaker started. All I can say is that the reality of winning the lottery was nothing like what I imagined.
I lost all sense of boundaries – and in a strange way, all sense of time as well.
Instead of asking, “Is it weekend yet?”, I found myself asking: “Is it the weekend already???” Either way, it seemed to make no real difference.
In all brutal honesty, my first week of working from home felt like a total mess. It certainly wasn’t as simple as retreating to the desk in my room at 9am to start work and only returning to the family in the living room at 6pm.
As I’ve learnt, the family (or the kids, rather) comes to you. I found myself shuttling to and fro emails and client calls while carrying the baby or keeping an eye on my Lego-smashing toddler. Multiply that by seven days a week and you can sense the fatigue it causes.
Thinking of my desk in office felt like a wellspring in the desert (and I trust that I’m not entirely alone on this).
As the chaotic nature of my outer life became a daily scene, the inner frustration and grumbling in my heart became a daily sin.
My life suddenly seemed more cluttered and disorganised than I remembered it to be. I suddenly found myself with more ownership over my time in some ways, but less in others.
Where was all my time going to? It seemed like I was focusing more on things that couldn’t earn an income – my “work” – and it greatly frustrated me.
As this seemingly chaotic nature of my outer life gradually became a daily scene, the inner frustration and grumbling it surfaced in my heart became a daily sin.
In all this, I quietly prayed and yearned for the voice of God – for Him to help me make sense of the frustration. Well, He responded – only to whisper a quiet challenge to my soul.
“Jon, what do you consider ‘worthwhile work’? What do you consider to be worth spending your time on?”
While the issue of priorities was not new for me, there seemed to be a different dimension to the question, given the fact that I was now working at home all the time. As I pondered over this, I’ve learnt a couple of things that I will certainly carry away beyond this Circuit Breaker.
Being forced to completely douse myself in home life has allowed me to appreciate the imperfect ordinariness of everyday life, even more so than before. In the seeming mundaneness of the routine ‘eat-feed-work-sleep-repeat’, I somehow find myself more attuned to how God is present and perceivable in small pockets of what appears ‘ordinary’.
As someone who serves frequently in church, I was reminded by God that He isn’t just found in the big things. I’ve learnt that He likes to appear in the small things as well.
Our “work” perhaps lies in learning to find Him all around us. As Jacob said: “Surely, God was here and I didn’t know it” (Genesis 28:16).
So here are three ways through which God has made Himself known to me while working from home.
1. GOD THE FATHER HOLDS US
This is true, whether we realise it or not.
What is it that makes my children feel safe enough to lean into me and find rest? Perhaps they’re simply exhausted, fatigued and need sleep. Whatever it is, I’m reminded that it is always a father’s joy to watch their children at rest and to be in a position to offer them the comfort that they need.
More significantly, it’s the Father’s great delight to be with His children in their rest.
2. GOD CAN HANDLE OUR MESSINESS
I don’t mean sloth or laziness, even though I believe that there is a certain grace for those things. Human life is messy and sometimes chaotic – being at home confronts me with that reality.
But God can handle it. He shows Himself willing to get His hands dirty in picking up the pieces we leave behind. He’s done it so many times throughout human history. What parent isn’t compelled to help a child clean up their mess?
He also involves us at times so that we can understand His heart better – His desire for order, peace, justice and mercy in the lives of people around us.
The only difference between us as human parents and God the Father is probably the emotional stability He has when He cleans up messes, and the fact that He’s not just involving us because He feels lazy Himself or needs help!
3. GOD IS LIGHT
There’s a certain sense of reassurance in seeing a glimmer of light when you’re surrounded by complete darkness.
Yes, some of us would hate to be rudely awakened by the glare of sunlight in the early morning (let me sleep in!), but it is also true that the gentle introduction of sunlight to mark the start of a new day gives us the rhythms of life that we need and which God has created.
Whatever the mistakes of yesterday might be, we can wake up and find that there is another chance to try again. This has become all the more real to me as the routine of each day at home can seem like a scene out of Groundhog Day.
Unwittingly lost your temper at the kids/spouse yesterday? Try again today. Missed a chance to show love or gratitude for a cooked meal/something done in the home? Do it today.
The fresh light as morning dawns reminds me of the mercy that greets us afresh and is made available every morning; it reminds me that there is life and light beyond the darkened places we see in front of us, which we tend to focus on more than we should.
Most remarkably, having to attend all cell meetings, ministry meetings and church services online or from home forced me to consciously invite God into my home and to consider if I ever have actively welcomed Him in. This might perhaps be the greatest irony for anyone serving in church.
As I attended these online worship sessions or ministry meetings with my two-year old toddler next to me, I began to learn how to involve her directly and to demonstrate to her what life in God looks like at home – not just in church.
The removal of boundaries in my life allowed me to give her access to portions of it which she would have never been able to see and create a different kind of credibility for her.
It gave me a chance to introduce worship into my household in a totally new way and to make it a part of our weekly (if not daily) lives. And as I do so, I realise that I’m laying a foundation in the lives of my children to help them understand that God is in our home as much as He is in the church, and that home must be a place where worship is also frequently engaged in.
In this season of working from home, God has no doubt shifted my paradigm once again to reconsider and re-evaluate what I have come to consider “worthwhile work”.
As someone who runs a business, I’ve come to realise the subtle and hidden lie that has seeped into my belief system, that “worthwhile work” is paid work.
Instead, God has shown me that “worthwhile work” is simply the work that He gives us to do – whether or not paid, whether or not in relation to our vocations – we do whatever we see our Father doing.
And in the last few weeks of working from home, I’ve learnt how to rediscover what it means to do the difficult and worthwhile work of building a family, loving my wife and children, bringing up my children up in the ways of God, and finding God in the everyday ordinary life. The fruit is sometimes unseen and intangible, but of great eternal value.
And perhaps, this is what God is drawing our attention to during this time – to “break the circuit” of a life we’ve gotten used to in order to show us the true life He has to offer us.
THINK + TALK
- What does “working from home” mean to you?
- Have you paused to reflect on how God is working in your life as you spend time at home?
- How has this Circuit Breaker opened your eyes to new truths about God or given you the chance to rediscover old ones?