Last fall, I joined Boston Fellows to clear my head. On the surface, my Army career was on a great trajectory. I was getting promoted at the right time. I was working with top-notch service members in an esteemed organization with venerable values. Yet, on a deeper level, I questioned how my faith fit into the picture.
I did not have clear answers to many questions. Am I putting in enough time to do excellent work? What should work-life balance look like? Does God really care about this PowerPoint slide deck that I’ve been rearranging for three hours?
It was tempting to put on blinders and soldier through the confusion by just doing what I’ve been doing. After all, it's gotten me this far. However, I needed to take a knee and that’s where Boston Fellows came in.
Initially, the readings during the program piled on to the confusion. Charles Taylor on authenticity… what? Russell Muirhead on … wait, who? Some of the readings were as esoteric as they come. But after clawing through these readings together and poorly articulating my faulty interpretations of the text, I somehow walked away with a greater understanding of the varied perspectives on work.
This affirmed that there isn’t a single perfect roadmap to the good life. Previously, I would read a testimony in a blog post and run in that direction. Then, I’d hear about a Christian figure in a sermon and switch course. I am all about experimenting, but this Sisyphean search for a normative model of work and faith was tiresome. I grew to realize I was ultimately searching for self-fulfillment and that God is more creative with work than I gave Him credit for.
Boston Fellows would’ve been underwhelming if it was just an expensive book club for discussing dense readings. Instead, the program is distinct because it is couched in an abundance of prayer, scripture, and community. We prayed together, alone, during meetings, and at retreats. We prayed through the Psalms, praising God with the psalmist. We discussed practical topics like Wolters’ description of the “radical and universal import of both sin and redemption” in the world, Sayers’ concept of serving our work, and the moral questions that arise in the pursuit of work-life balance.
Some of the concepts were certainly not novel ideas, especially today with the faith and work conversation heating up in the past decade or so. However, when the ideas are worked out in a setting like Boston Fellows, the vocabulary and a biblical framework for God’s story for our work gets instilled in a way that’s not possible in isolation.
It’s in this context of community and prayer where cold water was thrown onto my self-centered ambitions and where deep-seated cynicism was unearthed. I realized how my desire for power and deep disdain for bureaucracy subtly manifested itself in my sour relationship with a former commander.
It is also in community and prayer where we strengthened and encouraged each other to interpret all of the above through the lens of the gospel. I was reminded that God’s structure for all aspects of work was not intended for brokenness and that I can find true rest in the gospel while I pursue His direction in the workplace.
I’m excited to get back to the Army. But not with the fleeting excitement you get when you’re skydiving or on a roller coaster because my selfishness will still rear its head and the last time I checked the Army is still a bureaucracy. I think it’s more like the low humming excited expectation of a very long and turbulent multi-leg trip to [enter far off vacation destination here]. In spite of all the frustration that is work, I get to participate in God’s restoration and look forward to the new earth.
I’m grateful for the Boston Fellows leadership, staff, and other fellows who joined together to think, read, and pray. You modeled how it is possible to keep the gospel from moving into the periphery in life and work, for His glory and praise. I pray that others will take advantage of Boston Fellows and benefit from it as much as I did.
Mike and Isabel Lee have been members at CTK Cambridge since 2014. They will be moving to Fort Belvoir, their next duty station, this summer.