Living as Apprentices
In his book The Walk, The Life-Changing Journey of Two Friends, Michael Card describes a time in his life when he was frustrated and bitter about the state of the Christian music industry. His emotional state was affecting his work and his relationships. His mentor, Bill Lane, who had experienced the same emotional stress in academic and church settings, gave him some unforgettable advice: “Let the excellence of your work be your protest.” He went on to say, “Take the energy you’re wasting with complaining and bitterness and focus it on your craft.”
This strikes me as a useful strategy when we feel wronged or unappreciated or demeaned in our paid work or volunteer responsibilities. It allows us to act while staying out of the fray. We can protest the situation and still maintain our integrity.
It is also a very difficult thing to do. Closing our mouths, remaining pleasant, and concentrating on our “craft” are much harder than obeying the fight or flight impulses that drive us when we are attacked or ignored. This strategy is also a great example of what the the Apprentice Series teaches about changing through indirection. Instead of trying to pump up our will power to stop us from attacking back, acting defensively, pouting, or ignoring the situation or the people who created the situation, we concentrate on something positive we can do: letting the excellence of our work protest for us.
This mature attitude requires what every challenge requires: surrender. Our power comes from our acceptance of our powerlessness. We cannot change people or situations; we can only change ourselves. We do that by giving our challenges to God, following the model of living we see in Jesus, and allowing the Holy Spirit to heal our hurts and teach us how to respond with love, patience, and forgiveness. I hear the “pie-in the-sky” idealism in these words. But I know from Scripture, from my life, and from the testimony of others that as we make small choices each day, each choice strengthens us for the next and the next and eventually we find ourselves living in grace.