I have an affliction. There are times when I am so engaged in my job, everything else becomes an interruption, sometimes even an annoyance. It manifests when I am faced with co-workers that want to chat, or an impromptu meeting is called, or an unexpected phone call rings. My automatic response isn’t the result of cognitive thought; it just happens. I bet there is a clinical name for it; I just call it The Work Zone.
In the Zone, I imagine I am highly productive, deeply engaged, overcoming obstacles, pursuing perfect results, master of the madness. Interruptions throw me off my game. I get distracted, sometimes for hours. Getting back to the Zone takes effort. That’s why these situations can be annoying to me. Which makes me feel like a jerk.
I have spent some time dissecting this character flaw, to determine how to wrestle it into something less unpleasant; less jerk-ish. I found I was relying on the work – and the results of work – to affirm me. These activities provide a way for me to feel better about myself. Interrupting my self-affirmation cycle can be perilous. Thou shall not delay me in my pursuit of affirmation.
Another manifestation of this affliction is good works. In similar fashion to regular “work”, good works can make me feel better about myself. Even a bit puffed up at times. Don’t tell anyone… but sometimes I look around to see if anyone is doing good works better than my good works.
Things changed drastically when Jesus came. The mass slaughter of perfectly good animals is no longer a requirement. Perfect attendance and adherence to every single rule is no longer a condition of righteousness. Jesus pointed out doing good for the sake of looking good as what it is: hypocrisy.
Because of Jesus, good works is the byproduct in this new covenant relationship with the Father. We don’t do good works to get saved or forgiven; we do it out of our gratitude and joy. (Unless you’re looking around to see if someone else is better at good works than you. That’s competition, not joy.)
This Christmas I ask myself, what would I do in the presence of baby Jesus? Like the MercyMe song asks it: will I stand or will I fall, will I sing or be able to talk at all? I know this much from personal experience: when in the presence of Jesus, the farthest thing from my mind is work.
I am pondering this mystery:
In His presence, I don’t feel a need to be affirmed by anything or anyone else. The arrival of Jesus – on Earth, in my life, or in my presence today – is more than enough affirmation.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him