by Julie Barrios (with Bronwyn Lea)
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here.
“What kind of impact should my faith have on my business?” This was the question Megan* was wrestling with. Megan’s day job is impressive: she’s an MBA graduate and an entrepreneur with a sizeable staff. But Megan is also a Christian, and she was curious about how her Sunday-self at church should relate to her Monday-self at work. Surely if God is the creator of both work and rest, He had something to say not just about who she was at church and in her community, but also about her work?
Like many of us, Megan had a hunch that the two should be connected more closely, but she wasn’t sure what that would mean. As we started working together, we talked about being open to the possibility that God was present in and active at her work. As an entrepreneur, she was used to thinking about what she had the power and responsibility to do: successful business people are acutely aware of their own agency. What she hadn’t considered was that God was at work too, inviting her to be shaped herself.
One image I shared with Megan was that of a surfer: learning how to surf is about more than how you move your body and handle your board. Surfing is primarily about learning to work with the massive power of the sea; to read its currents and waves, and then respond to that. So, too, God is powerfully at work in our world and in our workplace, and Megan needed to pay attention to some quieter, deeper things going on both in herself and the environment around her before catching the next big wave.
Megan’s excellent business training had taught her a very linear way of thinking: to succeed and get a great return on investment she knew she needed to do A, B, and C. In his parables, Jesus spoke about returns on investment that would have impressed anyone: imagine a seed being planted which produced a 100 fold multiple of what was sown! (Mark 4:1-20) But unlike the top tips from TEDTalks, Jesus spoke with agrarian wisdom. It isn’t always a straight line from effort to result. Sometimes not all the seeds planted take root. Sometimes seeds get choked out by weeds. After planting, seeds need seasons of nurture, and also seasons of waiting (1 Corinthians 3:7). Megan came to realize she was ‘farming’ in a way, too, even though she was in a corporate environment. She asked herself:
• What am I trying to grow?|
• What kind of environment and climate is this?
• What season am I in? Is this a season for ploughing (preparation), sowing, growing, waiting, harvesting, or letting things lie fallow?
Megan realized that she had much to learn about growing a business from the Master Gardner himself, as he was inviting her to include seasons of waiting (instead of hustling all the time), relationships of trust (relying on both God and others), and entrusting ultimate results to God.
Over time, Megan’s business products and services increasingly reflected her internal values of wanting to serve the world by creating more trustworthy partnerships—something which reflects work God was doing through Megan to bless others. A career woman prioritizing God’s values has so much more than a value-added product to give.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t only Megan’s business that was increasingly embodying the values of Christ. In committing herself to building a business that was dedicated to the value of trust, she was given the opportunity to personally wrestle with some of her own fear and anxiety triggers. God was not only working through her venture to form a more trusting and trustworthy world, God was forming a trusting and trustworthy Megan. Using the real life trials and victories of her business as an opportunity to heal old wounds and address deep seated beliefs, God used Megan’s start-up to take her on an inward journey of transformation.
Slowing down and looking up to pay attention to where God was at work shifted the needle for Megan, and by extension, her entire team. They’re discerning opportunities and partnerships differently, they’re approaching team building differently, they’re receiving customer feedback differently, and the net impact has been more than growth: it’s been flourishing. There is a quiet wisdom to a spiritual trickle-down economics.
It takes hard work to grow a business. The surprising challenge—and invitation—God has for us is to work at keeping a pace that is slow enough to receive His lessons and graces throughout the experience. God is in the workplace among coworkers, clients, and employees; and he is at work forming us 24/7. God has more than one hour a week on Sundays to shape us: he’s present during every minute of the work day. He is at work in our meetings and conference calls, in our classrooms and calendars: inviting us to be shaped by him, even as he works through us to shape the world.
Julie Barrios is the founder of Nuos Formation, a spiritual formation enterprise focused on helping start-up entrepreneurs to start inward-- developing a pro-perseverance, anti-hustle approach to business that harnesses the power of true wisdom and healthy interdependence.