Having a range of spiritual exercises for the different stages of the learning cycle can help energise our discipleship journey.
Exercises for Active Experimentation:
These exercises are where we ‘try out’, in the context of our daily living, the things we have learned in study. We seek to obey the injunctions in Scripture. We practise doing things differently, or at a different level. The list below is by no means extensive, but gives some helpful examples:
‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2:3-4). The discipline of submission can, and has been, abused. Yet Paul’s exhortation to place the interests of others above our own counters the unhealthy obsession with demanding that things go the way we want them to. It teaches us to value other people’s needs and plans, and celebrate when things go well for them. We learn to rejoice in the promotion of a colleague or cheer the successful outcome of their project.
Our workplaces are where we have a great opportunity to serve others through our work and in other ways. Yet, so often, the culture is one of self-promotion and rewards visible contribution. ‘Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness. The flesh whines against service but screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honour and recognition. It will devise subtle, religiously acceptable means to call attention to the service rendered. If we stoutly refuse to give in to this lust of the flesh, we crucify it. Every time we crucify the flesh, we crucify our pride and arrogance.’ (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline)
Many of us enter the workplace each day as the walking wounded. Wounds received through the actions, words, rejection, bullying or insensitivity of others, be they workmate or customer. And these wounds can become infected with ‘bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice’ (Ephesians 4:31). Infected wounds don’t heal. Sensitivities and intolerances develop leading us to avoid certain situations, people or relationships. The remedy Paul advocates is to ‘be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ (Ephesians 4:32). Unforgiveness is allowing someone to live ‘rent free’ in your head, potentially leading to anguish and even mental torment. When we forgive, we resign our role as self-appointed judge and jury and leave the court room. We tear up the charge sheet against the other person, not because it doesn’t matter – it does – but because we entrust the situation into God’s hands. However, we also exercise godly wisdom as to future dealings with that person.
When we are under pressure it is easy to develop a scarcity mentality. What begins with ‘there isn’t enough time’ soon develops into ‘there isn’t enough of me to go round’. From there it is a short step to ‘I have to guard the little I have’. Generosity counters this scarcity mindset. It is the habit of giving freely without expecting anything in return. Generosity can involve offering time, assets or talents to aid someone in need. It flows from both trust in God’s provision and compassion for my neighbour – be they colleague, customer or fellow commuter.