Shift 1: My friend John’s work has changed dramatically since the end of March. That was when Coronavirus lockdown orders began in earnest in the US. First, as an executive coach for a large consultancy, he had to take all his clients virtual, hope his speaking engagements would pivot to virtual, and figure out how to get work done in the New York City apartment he shares with his wife (who also works) and their 10-year-old son.
Shift 2: John is working more hours than ever. He rolls out of bed and he’s in his office. He starts at 7 am many days and doesn’t stop until after 9 pm. It seems there is more to do and less able to focus. Every day is a series of frantic sprints, but where is he going? Busier than ever but not more productive.
Reality 1: The novelty, excitement, and adrenalin of early lockdown are in the rear-view mirror. Exhaustion and irritation are rising for everyone in John’s household. How can sitting in a chair all day in front of a screen be so effective at wearing one out?
Reality 2: The reason John is working so frantically hard is fear. This fear is one part social and one part survival. The social dimension: he doesn’t want to be the guy on the team who is not pulling his weight, the odd man out. The survival dimension: he wants to prove to his company that he is an essential employee. Disaster is looming. The longer the COVID recession drags on, the more economically vulnerable John feels.
John is putting in more hours and feeling more overwhelmed than ever as a result of the COVID fallout. Like you, his work has dramatically changed. Like John, you may be working more than ever from home, through a screen. Or you may be in healthcare, logistics or technology lane, and busier than you ever imagined. Or a teacher trying to connect with your students over the internet. Then again, you could be furloughed with a welcomed pause or with no work on the horizon as far as you can see.
All of us share one thing in common: COVID-19 has changed our experience of work. This creates fear, stress, and fatigue. But there is something that is not different. Underneath the surface of this choppy sea, there are foundations that can provide you with stability. They did not change in March. I call them Anchors of Calling. They provide points on which to steady yourself. Hooking into these anchors will help you through this storm.
Anchor #1: A Robust Calling Framework:
Your calling has always included your work and has always been bigger than your work. Why is this helpful? Some of us have lost our work and we feel demoralized. Others of us have found that family concerns are crowding out work. Some are dealing with a not-so-difficult case of quarantine-itis. Others think someone snuck in and turned up the speed on our work treadmill. Still others are fighting to survive. Into this mix, we bring Anchor 1, five callings in two tiers.
If you are a Christ-follower, your first calling is to him. As Os Guinness says in The Call, we are called to someone before we are called to something. Your primary calling is an invitation and summons into a relationship with your Creator. This connection is begun and sustained on the basis of what God does for us in Christ, not our performance for him. Out of this primary relationship, we are invited and summoned to follow God in four key areas of our lives.
Family: parents, spouse, siblings, children. Most of us have found family dynamics have changed, some of us are doing a lot more work educating children, cooking all our meals at home, caring for a sick relative.
Church: this is your spiritual community. You are part of the body of Christ and called to use your gifts to strengthen the whole, even if you have to do so over zoom!
Neighbor: We are called to love those who are near, those whom we have the capacity to help. I have friends who are young and healthy delivery of groceries for elderly neighbors. Others are providing food to the homeless. Still, others are strategically giving to work that helps the poor and displaced. The urgency around the neighbor calling increases in times of great economic distress.
Work: God calls us to work, to use our talents and to take advantage of the opportunity in such a way that we are able to provide for ourselves and others. The shape of your work-life calling may be changing dramatically but that does not mean your calling is on hold. The work he gives you to do is still his plan for your life. The work you do now in the post-COVID economy is still working to which you are called.
This robust calling framework is an anchor point for your calling. It shows you:
What really matters more than anything, your primary calling into relationship with Christ.
That your calling is agile enough to adapt to the changing demands in each sector of your life.
That though the reality is very different than it was on March 1 and though the present may be very far from your career plan, you are still called right where you are, right now.
Consider the following questions:
How has your work changed since the COVID disruption began?
How has this affected your sense of purpose in your work and your hope for your career?
How would you summarize what God is calling you to in each of the four second-tier vocations: work, family, neighbor, church?
What habits or practices might help you strengthen your hold on this anchor of calling?