A Reflection on the Faith & Work Conference
By Jakki Kerubo
The week leading up to the April 13-14 Faith & Work Conference was a hectic one for me. Work deadlines and moving apartments had me exhausted. I was eager to hear that God wanted me to strive less and spend more time running on the beach.
This vision of bliss was quickly shattered when Pastor Tim Keller spoke about a myth of the Golden Age: that paradise was a place without labor. "God created the world to be a good place, for man to toil in it. It's dehumanizing not to work," he said.
Like most New Yorkers with numerous commitments, it was comforting to learn that a 16-hour workday was, in fact, a blessing. As long as I allowed God to work through me, "to strengthen the bars of my gates, be it in leadership or diligence in my calling."
But work is fraught with conflict, diverging visions, and duplicity. I still get emotional when I recall the time I was passed over for a promotion and the job given to someone else.
Katherine Leary Alsdorf reassured conference attendees that our faith is formed in the crucible of work. Every vocation has heat, a crisis through which we're forced to transform.
"Many leaders govern with a limb caused by a history of betrayal. But we must own the world's brokenness and lead in forgiveness and reconciliation. To do this, we need less of self-protectionism and more humility and the ability to bear pain," Ms. Alsdorf said.
Reading my mind, an audience member asked how to handle vexations at work. Pastor Keller answered that one must enjoy their vocation, grow in perseverance and skill. Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, who walked us through the history of Central Park, reiterated this wisdom with her three Ps for seeing a vision through: patience, passion, and persistence.
I had signed up for the Trading Floor Insider View glimpse on Saturday morning, but a furniture pick-up delayed me. I was on edge and terribly cranky. So when the glimpse leader Mylo Cheng called to confirm if I was still attending, I thought he was a telemarketer and yelled at him, "What do you want from me?"
God provided an opportunity for me to apologize profusely by having Mylo at the entrance of the church when I arrived that evening. Through this terribly embarrassing incident, the Holy Spirit had prepared me for Pastor Kim's closing remarks.
"Work is a gift from God, and our point of reference toward it should be His glory. Work done is a particularized expression of God in each individual. Can you behold the synchronicity of your connecting train arriving just as the one you're in is pulling up?"
Can you? I certainly can, since my train often suffers signal problems. A bigger lesson for me was to consider that I, too, may have wounded others at work. I'm grateful for God's grace that allows me to be transformed in the crucible of work, where as iron sharpens iron, so we sharpen each other. Yes, even telemarketers.
Jakki has an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University. Her forthcoming novel, The Rules of Shame, is currently in submission. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Golden Handcuffs Review, Stir Journal, and Huffington Post, among others. Jakki's work explores ideas of home and displacement in a globalized world, and how these ideas play out in the larger context of wholeness and being.