It was the first day of Lent. And my first Ash Wednesday service, complete with the sign of the cross lightly drawn on my forehead with ash mixed with olive oil, along with the other 20 or so gathered at a dimly lit Bangsar Lutheran Church.
I’ve been thinking about these few things I learned at school work, a lot. Not sure why they pop up.
1. Marketing is about serving needs. A marketing textbook.
2. Sustainable business is the triple bottom line. The same marketing textbook.
3. Being a public affairs officer (a communications role) means you need to be aware about everything on the ground, that you’re on the pulse of everything in the industry. My first CEO, Ms Ng.
4. A good worker is one who frees up her boss to do her own thing. My second employer.
5. When submitting a work, aim towards simply having your boss sign on it, without corrections needed. My second employer.
6. Public policy will change the way you see life. You will suddenly think differently from all your other friends, even for the most mundane things. My lecturer at policy class.
There are countless other things I learned from my previous jobs that were precious. I learned how to be detailed, meticulous and to go through things with a “fine-toothed comb”, often being yelled at, having my work struck off or rewritten. Precious, precious lessons.
A couple of years back, I attended a Global Leadership Summit. It might have been Bill Hybels who pointed out that there were two things that motivate passion projects: anger and zeal to fix a problem; or/and a dream of seeing what could be.
There were a few past conversations that I am reflecting on today, and that is, what propels me – love or anger? And is anger (or, ahem, “zeal”?) part of love? Maybe angered passion is a passion that lacks trust in God, that must be assuaged with prayer.
A friend asked me: “What motivates you?” I said, “Recently, anger.” Anger makes my blood boil, amassing energy within me to act against the things that p*** me off. “What angers you?” “Injustice. And people who don’t care about justice.” I could see the fruit of this in activism and teaching – two matters I put my energies into.
In another conversation, I shared a reflection with a mentor that I try to live out of love for God and neighbour. That without love, all labour is pointless. But I added a question to her – could my anger also be in love?
Today, I noticed that working out of anger and working out of love are two distinctly different experiences. Working out of anger is draining and always not enough. There is never enough work to solve the problems that anger me. There is always more to do, and more to fix. Perfection (whatever that is) is required to solve the problems. The stats are never good enough, there is never enough work being done, and never enough people to do the work, and not enough money to have it done. Adrenaline flows from a certain restless hot-bloodedness. It is reactive.
But working out of love is peaceful and sweeter. It is life-giving. It is transformative, for me at the least. It allows me to work with my Maker. It allows me to reflect, to enjoy the moment, even if in solitude. There can be lesser done and what is not done will be taken care of eventually.
Could my anger also be something borne out of love?
Maybe, but perhaps anger taints love. It makes the problem mine. It makes me the saviour. It makes me the answer. And therein lies the lie. The truth is, the problems are complicitly shared in a messy web. I am not the saviour. I am not the answer.
Working in love is one that rests in the surprising grace that such a work could be bestowed to me. It respects the work, and it respects the One who gave it. It maintains a healthy distance with the work, trusting that the One who commissions the work knows what He is doing.
What do I do now? Perhaps it is time to be circumspect and to ditch the anger. To instead make room for genuine love to surface, to power such passion-endeavours.
So today, I was in a conference call at home for the short course I am taking on Lutheran theology organised by the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva. As the students introduced ourselves and our backgrounds, Mum overheard me describing myself as a Methodist, who is also ecumenical in outlook.
Over dinner, she asked me about it, wondering (doubting!) if I was truly a Methodist than an Anglican, which was essentially the church I was brought up in. The local church I belong to also does not necessarily fit the typical picture of a Methodist church in Malaysia. It was a really good question because it gave me the opportunity to put together my thoughts.
I proceeded to share with her why I am happy to consider myself at least Wesleyan, if not Methodist. I of course started with the fact that Wesley himself was an Anglican, so even if I did identify very much with the Anglican liturgy, I could still very well be Wesleyan. Anyway I don’t think there could be anything more Wesleyan than to have an Anglican background first. HAHA. But I am no expert on church history, so I go with what little I know.
List of Scripture references, bibliography and notes on bibliography available at the end.
Throughout the biblical narrative, God has acted to create or make an alternative society. This alternative society in turn is the conduit through which He performs His ever expansive plan of redemption which includes the salvation of humanity and renewal of the earth. Mind you, (and I emphasise this because the Reformation has resulted in the form of individualism prevalent in Christianity today but hardly seen before it’s time,) not to create perfect or God-fearing individuals per se, but to make a beautiful, loving, just society. This society is pictured in different ways in the Bible such as sheep, a bride, a priesthood, a nation. Basically, it is a “people”.
There is a death that lurks in this life;
a dragon, quiet asleep.
Yet who knows when he shall awaken?
Smoke ascends from his nostrils:
he is made drowsy from the medicine of love;
he is enchanted by the great mist of life.
May he never awaken.
As long as there is love and life,
may he never awaken.