‘God's work’. That’s what’s on my mind this week. I'm not talking about releasing plagues of locusts or curing ancient ailments, though that would be pretty cool and Lord knows, there's some people who deserve a good smiting.
I'm talking about something different. I went to a ‘Women's Leadership’ workshop a few months ago (don’t judge. There wasn’t a tampon or tambourine in sight) and this phrase 'God's work' came up over and over again but the facilitator wasn't talking about water into wine or smashing up temples, she was using the phrase in the context of a calling, the career or pursuit you were built for.
Now before we go any further, I’m well aware the very mention of the G word is enough to blow an existential gasket in the heads of abject atheists but I’m using the word not to describe the plague-making guy in the sky but that entity greater than us and in all of us. Therefore ‘God’s work’ is just what it is we were meant for in honour of that great Infinity. When you see God in this blog think 'Universe' or the more catchy 'infinite field of possibility' rather than old white guy with a beard (That guy has too much vengeance for my liking. Honestly, in some chapters of the Bible he sounds more like Lex Luther than the Alpha and Omega).
So if you atheists and hard-core religious types can set aside your fundamentalism for a sec and sit with this definition, you’ll be fine.
OK, good, so back to the workshop. Though the concept of 'Gods work' wasn’t entirely new to me, I did genuinely think, for obvious reasons, it was more to do with work within your own faith-based community i.e. spreading the word, missionary work, prayer, preaching of the whatever. I never saw it as something that was applicable in the lives of the secular.
The facilitator’s proposition was that we are all called to do something with our lives and that one of the most powerful things we can do is come into alignment with it.
What muddies the waters is all the crap that goes on in our heads. This can be an overwhelming white noise which makes even the loudest calling inaudible.
But what is this white noise constituted of? A huge dash of fear, a smattering of ‘I’ll show them’ (usually channeled towards a parent, bully or ex), a sprinkling of ‘I'm not good enough’, and an array of beliefs that are outdated, limited or limiting.
But the most pernicious thing about the white noise is, we often don’t know it’s there. We all laughed heartily at Donald Rumsfeld when, on the topic of Middle Eastern countries and their nuclear capability, he said there are things that we don’t know we don’t know but that is exactly the place where the white noise lurks.
And it is this cloud of something other, the as yet unnamed that can be the nebulous barrier between you and your God's work.
And indeed, it was on the second day of this three day workshop that proved to be the most challenging because this was precisely what we are invited to look at. On day one, participants explored their life ambitions but on day two we looked at what was in the way of making these ambitions a reality.
Through skillful facilitation and some committed self-inquiry many of the attendees faced some as yet unacknowledged aspects of themselves. It was cathartic, painful and for some shocking but in turning the spotlight on these aspects of ourselves, our shadow sides or egos (which often amounted to childhood energy or pain trapped within us) it freed us up to really look at what the Universe (or God - see, they work interchangeably, don’t they?) wanted from and for us.
Day 2 was a pretty dark day. Taking a rare look at the underbelly of our consciousness takes a degree of humility and courage which was shown in shed loads by these brave women.
With my own breakthrough, I saw that, due to that character-forming moment of my father leaving the familial home, some of my white noise included the belief that I was 'not wanted'.
This meant that, from then on, I entered many interactions with this preset programming. Be it on stage, in a meeting, in a workshop, at a party, my core assumption was that I was not wanted and subsequently I developed strategies for dealing with it, sometimes over-compensating,sometimes being aloof. This was often my defence mechanism against a world that didn’t want me – or so I thought but the craziest thing... not only did I not know this was how I thought but I didn't know that I didn’t know.
Affording some air and breathing space to that part of me that held on so tightly to the false belief was hugely healing and on day three left me open to taking an honest look at what was next in my life from a more whole place.
But how to get any purchase on what that elusive calling could possibly be? A calling sounds very grand, like it should involve global recognition and adulation but actual it can be modest too but no less powerful.
One of the attendees at this workshop was a tax accountant. She loved her job and actually got very emotional when talking about it. Far from it being a Shylockian penny-counting endeavour, for her, it was about helping families manage their finances. It wasn’t about taking tax, it was about adding value and expertise to people's lives so they could get the most out of what they have.
It was also, at this workshop that I heard the phrase, your wound is your work. This was another new idea but it made perfect sense, the notion that the painful experiences we go through can inform the contribution we make to the world. We saw this in the work of mother of murder school girl, Sarah Payne as she worked tirelessly to bring in Sarah's law. Her life would not have been steered in this direction had she not experienced her tragic loss. Her wound became her work.
In all our lives, the thing that we fought to overcome have furnished us with skills we may not fully appreciate or be utilising but may be one of the landmarks indicating where we may discover our own calling.
There is in all of us a true vocation or occupation and the beauty is, because we're all so different, the vocations will all be different. In the age of almost back-to-back talent shows, we've been seduced into believing that singing cover versions in front of a studio audience is the sum total of all our ambitions. It isn’t. There are many people with a desire to perform, certainly, but there’s many who don’t. Some amongst us long to work with and care for children, some with animals, some in the great outdoors, some underground, some in or under the sea, some in space, some in a laboratory, some have a natural affinity with parenting, some want to help others become parents, some to care for others, some to bury those who’ve passed. There are as many vocations as there are desires and when you come into alignment with yours, there’s a certain magic that radiates from within.
Too often we settle for what we have even though it’s not what we want because we've been led to believe that is all there is.
It is a fallacy that you cannot have the life you dreamed of. If you are willing to get creative, look at your current resources and make them work for you, you can have your dreams too.
And all that's required is the willingness to tune out, even for a moment, from the white noise and into the messages broadcasting live and direct from the infinite field of possibility inviting you to indulge in the highest expression of yourself, that happy you, doing what you love and living the richest statement of yourself possible. Carpe Diem my friends, Carpe Diem (which is Latin for ‘just bloody get on with it’)