November 2016: Finding God Where I am

Click clack. Click clack. Glance at survey. Click clack. Click clack. Glance at survey. Tab. Enter. Repeat for 7.88 more hours.

One of my first tasks as a FaithJustice Fellow was to transfer all of the JusticeworX and ServiceworX surveys from 2011 to 2016 into the Google Drive. Luckily, Tara, CFJ Executive Associate, was along this journey with me. Our goal was to analyze the data before the Board of Trustees’ annual retreat in late November. Together, we were going to present our insights to the Board. While the meeting went well (the Board liked our presentation!), this is not the focus of my reflection.

Instead, I want to focus on the work that led to the presentation – the mindless, mundane, and boring data entry that seemed to never end.

While I had other responsibilities that took my time away from the surveys (prep for MLK Jr. Youth Day of Service, search for articles for Friday’s weekly Facebook post,etc), I have to admit – most of my time was spent on data entry. I was bored. And that was the challenge.

In many ways, this experience also parallels my spiritual direction with Widian, or more formally, Dr. Widian Nicola. In our second monthly session, Widian suggested a challenge: no goals for my spiritual direction.

No goals??!?!?! Is that possible?!

Both my professional and spiritual work have illustrated many things about myself, the way I work, and the nature of service.

I like challenge. I miss learning. I miss being challenged intellectually (and I never thought I’d say that after feeling very burnt out at the end of senior year of college). I like setting goals for myself. I am a bit of a dreamer. I gain validation from the work I do (evidently, too much, as God was trying to show me). Service isn’t about what I want to do, but about how I can serve the CFJ’s needs at this moment in time. It’s hard to find motivation when the work isn’t exciting. And so on…

What I think this task has showed me, along with my spiritual direction, is that I always try to look to the next “step” or “goal”, instead of finding satisfaction and even, God, in where I am. As I entered the surveys into the computer, what was pushing me along was looking forward to the analysis. It was extremely difficult for me to find joy in data entry.

And usually, when I can’t define myself by the work I do, I lean on community. However, in November, I still felt like a newcomer at CFJ, Soups and Psalms, and Visitation Home (where I did my weekly service). Of course, everyone was incredibly nice, friendly, and welcome. It just would take a little longer for me to feel it deeply and truly in my heart that I was “part of the community.” And this left lots of room for me to base my identity in something else, God.

Regardless of what I do or who I am with  I am loved by God. And when something I easily identify with – the work I do – was no longer pleasing to me, I saw how much I based my identity in my work and goals.  I think this is the lesson God was and still is trying to teach me. It’s a work in progress, but I’m trying!

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