Spiriturality@Work: 10 Ways to Balance Your Life On-The-Job
Flynn, D M
Spirituality@Work: 10 Ways to Balance Your Life On-The-job. By Gregory F. A. Pierce. Loyola Press: 3441 North Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657, 2001. Pp. 168. Hardcover. $17.95.
All of us hunger for meaning in our lives. We long for the ability to integrate our faith and worship into our everyday activities. But can we really find God while changing dirty diapers? Is it possible to connect with God in the midst of chaotic calendars? How can we look at our belligerent boss and see the image of God?
Spirituality@Work addresses our need to assimilate our faith into our work by providing guidelines to begin the journey and by giving encouragement to follow one’s own path: This book is an exploration of the spirituality of work. It is an attempt to investigate whether and how the reality that we call ‘God’ can be ‘accessed’ in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our daily lives” (p. xiv).
Gregory Pierce is well qualified to explore the topic. As a husband and father, writer and editor, businessman and volunteer, little league coach and wearer of many other hats, he shares the struggles of his readers. With chapters such as “A Spirituality for the Piety Impaired,” “Deciding What is ‘Enough’– and Sticking to It,” and “Balancing Work, Personal, Family, Church, and Community Responsibilities,” the reader is assured that this is a realistic and readable book.
The author’s basic premise is that contemplative spirituality is simply impractical for the average working adult. Pierce contends that if one can find God only by flight from the world, then most of us will never achieve union with God. About ten years ago, however, he began to explore the possibility that one could indeed experience the presence of God through one’s daily work. That awareness gave rise to an online discussion group, and eventually, to this book.
In the introductory chapter, “A Spirituality for the Piety Impaired,” Mr. Pierce notes, The spirituality of work that interests me is one that comes out of the work itself, one that allows us to get in touch with the God who is always present in our workplaces, whether “bidden or not bidden.” This kind of spirituality has little to do with piety and much more to do with our becoming aware of the intrinsically spiritual nature of the work we are doing and then acting on that awareness. Authentic spirituality-at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition-is as much about making hard choices in our daily lives, about working with others to make the world a better place, and about loving our neighbor and even our enemy as it is about worship and prayer. (p. xiv)
Mr. Pierce’s style is conversational and his presentation is methodical. He begins by defining terms: “The spirituality of work is a disciplined attempt to align ourselves and our environment with God and to incarnate God’s spirit in the world through all the effort (paid and unpaid) we exert to make the world a better place, a little closer to the way God would have things” (p. 18). His concept of work is broad, encompassing not only those in the corporate world but also homemakers, volunteers, and retirees.
“How Can Work Be Spiritual?” is the question raised in chapter 2. “How much we connect to our work in a spiritual sense is determined by how we answer five major questions,” beginning with “What is the meaning of our work?” (p. 22). The list continues with five criteria for developing the disciplines of the spirituality of work.
Chapter 9, “Deciding What Is ‘Enough’-and Sticking to It,” addresses the battle cry of the third millennium: “I’m so busy, I have no time!” The author notes, “We will never have enough time until we decide what is enough time to be spending on the various activities of our lives. The disciplines of the spirituality of work can help us to do that, and they can help us carry out our decisions” (p. 110). Chapter 10, “Balancing Work, Personal, Family, Church, and Community Responsibilities,” builds on this concept: “One practice that might help us balance our responsibilities is the simple act of saying ‘no.’ Many of us get ourselves in trouble just because of our inability to say this little word often enough” (p.119).
Each of the twelve chapters begins with a quote from a luminary such as Margaret Mead and William Tyndale. The chapters are subdivided and laced with quotations, set in visually appealing boxes, from participants in “Faith and Work in Cyberspace,” a free online discussion group that the author maintains. Each chapter concludes with a section called “Practicing the Discipline,” which gives concrete suggestions for implementing the discipline discussed. The book ends with an invitation from the author to join him in continuing the discussion.
The epigraphs that open each chapter are not referenced, and quotations within the chapters are not numbered, thus making it difficult to match the endnotes with a particular text. Perhaps this is a personal pet peeve. Still, it is a glaring inconsistency in a book that devotes an entire chapter to giving thanks and congratulations in the workplace.
The reader who seeks an instant spirituality would be wise to search elsewhere. This book does not provide a shortcut to divine warm fuzzies. Instead, Pierce escorts his readers as they travel toward God who is always nearer than we sometimes imagine. While the author provides specific disciplines for becoming more aware of the Divine Presence, he recognizes that each pilgrimage is personal. Therefore, he encourages readers to modify the disciplines to individual circumstances. Still, discipline-but especially selfdiscipline-requires responsibility and commitment. That said, readers who long for a closer union with God in the midst of daily endeavors will find Pierce and friends to be competent and compassionate companions for their journeys.
D. M. Flynn is a classical musician and a freelance writer who served for over twenty years as a liturgist, church musician, and music educator.
Copyright Spiritual Life Winter 2002
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