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Monday, July 4, 2011

Becoming a Door of Hope to Others

“At that time Jesus said in reply, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”” (Matthew 11:25, NAB)

Slightly more than 13 months ago, I made a huge decision to un-trap myself from the corporate world.  I wanted to find more time...more space for myself, my family, God…to do stuff that gives deeper meaning to life and make this world a little better.  It was a brave step on my part and it took a lot of prayers, listening and discerning with the Lord for me to arrive at the decision…not to mention, a lot of support from my family.

Throughout my life, I have always held on to the belief in the value of each person, no matter what their abilities, “different”-abilities, culture, race or religion.  Under the one God of Love, we are all called to grow in love, wisdom and acceptance of others…growing together in solidarity…trying to live the message of Jesus Christ.

However, my life in the corporate world was often blurred by management “concepts”, technicalities or principles, influenced by supposedly, what most people would term as, management ‘gurus’ (fad of the season, more like it).

The common element of all these “flavors of the month” is seemingly to become more productive, effective and efficient…and “profitable”…at the expense of “others”…our neighbors.  The corporate world today often "crucify" Jesus over and over again, in the name of profits!

Worst of all, if one has an immediate superior who daily feeds on finding fault in others…creating unnecessary “pressure” and encouraging values which are inconsistent with our spiritual being.  Our life then, becomes so much more stressful!  Yes, the heartless corporate world has its ways of tempting, seducing and luring Christians in high positions to become un-christian in so many different ways.

I believe that if a job and the people you work with are unable to bring out the best in a person, then that job is not worth hanging on to.  Life is simply too short to be held to ransom by some corporate hypocrites!  How can one wake up each day to do something which is in direct conflict with the values preached by Jesus?  What then will become of the meaning and purpose of our journey through life??  When it comes to following Jesus, there is simply no compromise with the ways of the world.

The corporate world forces upon us to group people into various categories – talented and not-so-talented, specialists or managers, promotable or not promotable…entitled to bonus or vice versa…CEOs and the non-C-class ranks or simply plain employees with just an identification reference.  Who are we, mere mortals, to disrupt God’s equilibrium of His beautiful created human race?

These words of St Paul to the Corinthians ring true for me throughout my tenure in the corporate world.

“Consider your own calling, brothers.  Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28, NAB)

Back in employment then, it became quite challenging for me to balance the cries of the Spirit within, against the corrupt and emotionless “rat-race” environment of the corporate world.  On the one hand, the Church is teaching me to be attentive to the weak and the vulnerable, those in whom Jesus Christ rejoices because they see what has been hidden to the clever and capable. On the other hand, a whole load of corporate jargon and rules.  What a contradiction!

The noises of the corporate world distracted me so much so that it did not help me become a better human being, a better child of my parents, a better parent, a better spouse…most importantly, a better disciple of Jesus Christ.  Whilst I wished I was “empty” before my God, it was filled to the brim with assignments, projects, initiatives, business trips, deadlines, etc.  So often in the corporate world, I find that leadership and discipleship seems to collide.

Why imprison myself in such a cruel corporate environment?  This culture seems to bring out the bad or the worst in me.  By God’s grace, I came to be aware of how far I was drifting apart from God and, in the process, I have not been listening and responding to Jesus’ call to radical discipleship. Jesus constantly invites all of us (me) into a mysterious path of growth in love and compassion.

The Spirit of the Lord disturbed me so much that I finally found the courage to let go and surrender everything back to God and empty myself once more; try to get my life back in order.  Despite many objections from my superiors about me being a talent and the potentially having a “bright” future ahead, I voluntarily put an end to everything. I simply quit and took a sabbatical break. No work, no income…just a time for vacation with the Lord…  Looking back, I have absolutely no regrets!

During this past one year, my life, although emotionally and financially, challenging…taxing…lonely...many a times – the direction was clear…live simply, quietly, prayerfully and poorly as Christ did…live with the poor, my neighbors, in order to live with Jesus Christ…this took a lot of courage, believe me!

I have found much growth in my spiritual life…prayer life…becoming more aware and trusting of God’s presence in my life.  For me, it was such a fulfilling time…spending it with the Lord and my loved ones...also being able to share my humble thoughts in this simple blog.

Looking back, I see that the mad corporate world, created by mankind, likes to compete…always achieving something at the expense of something else…pleasing someone at the price of someone else…“opportunity” cost, the economists would term it to justify.  Clearly, the world just does not understand the message of simplicity, peace and harmony…the very heart of the Gospel message.

It will not surprise me if Jesus weeps over the state of our world today…weeping over individuals, corporations and countries where inequality, divisions, discrimination, exclusions, marginalization, profitability have become so dominant.

Jean Vanier, a Canadian Catholic philosopher and humanitarian, once shared that human beings have turned our world into a place of competition, rivalry, conflict and war between races, religions, social classes and countries.  How true!  On the flip side, there is simply a lack of sincerity and “heart” in executing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives…all done because “management” wants it.

During my time in employment, much of what I stand for and hold dear…appeared to be very foolish because the Gospel message is truly a message of folly in the corporate world!

“We find it difficult to give life, to hold and carry people in their weakness.  We are often frightened of reality because reality can be painful and a source of disappointment.  We tend to escape into a world of illusions and to seek refuge in dreams.  We bury ourselves in ideas and theories or fill our days with distractions.” – Jean Vanier

God calls us today, as Christians, in the corporate world, to shine forth so that the environment where we are may be transformed into a door of hope for others…each one of us revealing the Word of God to touch someone else’s life in any small way.

“All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race…  And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:4, 14, NAB)

No person should be made to feel too insignificant, to unimportant or unworthy.  In the Bible, we know that God calls everyone…God does not choose only the talented, the rich, the strong, the most influential, the most learned or just the CEO…but rather, the weak, the humble, the most needy, the simple, the quiet…people who recognize and acknowledge their own “poverty” – not just material poverty but their own inability to cope with life…having to depend on a God who loves and cares for them.

I have grown to learn now, in a very intense and experiential manner, that God’s ways are not my ways, God’s choices are not society’s choices…during my time in the corporate world, there have been many times when I have unnecessarily put others down, forcibly changed their course of life, refuse to admit my own weakness, my own poverty…preferring to hide behind my corporate rank…  People respect you purely because of the rank on your business card.  Beyond that, sad to say, no one genuinely cares enough to want to know.

Now I know even more clearly that we are all members of the one community…the one human race…because God has created and called each one of us.  We must not be ashamed or frightened to leave the familiar corporate world…to let go of what we used to know or held on to…to lose everything…to discover the restlessness, loneliness and poverty of our soul…it takes time…but we need to learn to put down roots, attachments, ranks…to give up control…and let God take control.

Throughout my sabbatical break, the Lord has shown and taught me (and is still showing me), in so many ways, how to live…so that my whole life, my whole being becomes a sign of the Good News.

I am humbled to know that when I welcome God’s call, something beautiful happens inside me…daily, there is a “letting go” of attitudes, prejudices, fears, security, the need to be in control, just be a child of God…free from all fears…placing all my trust on Him alone.  Because I took that first small simple step, the Lord has completely disturbed my established order of things and replaced it with a radically new order.

I share with you the following simple words...

“People often prefer to keep Jesus in the churches and places of worship, where they can go and see him from time to time, when they feel like it or when they feel the need.  But to have Jesus in their home – which is also the home of their hearts – that is harder to accept!  When we welcome Jesus into our “home”, he transforms us and he transforms our way of living.” – Jean Vanier

Depending on what the Lord has planned for me next…whether He wants me to remain as I am or He calls me back to the corporate world or something radically different…one thing remains certain…I will not walk the journey in the same “worldly” manner…I will take courage to always be God’s foolish but obedient instrument of peace…become a passionate sign of the Good News…becoming an open door of hope to others.

Come what may, I remain God’s humble imperfect servant, always at His disposal…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done.

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