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About four years ago, my company afforded me a terrific opportunity to manage a team of talented engineers on an important project. From the outset of the project, I championed the use of a modern engineering process that I had learned about in school and had been experimenting with for a few years at work. This new assignment was the perfect scenario for putting the full process into practice, and the team agreed to implement it according to my direction. It wasn’t long before we all gelled around the process, and before I knew it, I was witnessing a group of people working more productively and harmoniously than any other team around—and those above me were crediting my leadership with the good results. Once the team hit stride, I could almost step back and watch, providing snippets of direction here and there, and enjoying the good results.
The project lasted two and a half years. In the early months, business at my company was brisk. It appeared that we were sowing the seeds of a potential dynasty—as future work would come in, the business would want to leverage our success, and would split off members of our team to grow new teams, all of which would adhere to the same engineering process and thereby look to my leadership. However, as time wore on, business conditions changed. Many new business opportunities fizzled out as a result of an economic downturn. As our project entered its later phases, visions of a mushrooming empire had faded, and we were left hoping for just a single new project that could keep the team together. If we got to the end and there wasn’t anything new lined up, our team members would be scattered to other departments and divisions, and that team chemistry, along with my position of leadership, would be gone.
I prayed to God that He would bring the opportunity we needed to keep our team together. I affirmed that harmony, as an eternal quality of God, never comes to an end. I therefore assumed that God would come through with a new project for us. When people asked me what we’d all be doing after our project ended, I’d reply that I didn’t know for sure but that I was confident something good would be worked out.
As the months ticked away, a couple of good leads arose, but then dissolved, and the end eventually came. While the project was lauded as a great success, and upper management wanted to keep us together, continuing work just wasn’t there. Our team members were assigned to other areas of the organization, and some even resigned to join different companies. I stayed on the project to the very last day to wrap up the final paperwork. After that was done, my boss asked me to spend time refining the ideas of our engineering process in case it could be used by future teams. I’d have to do that work alone, though, as everyone else on my team was gone.
Though I appreciated and accepted the new assignment my boss had given me, I was really struggling on the inside. I was now sitting by myself in the large room that had just recently been filled with my teammates and friends. My leadership role had vanished, and I wondered if my career had just passed its peak. Furthermore, I was confused as to why God didn’t come through with a new project for our team. If God was Love and was in total control, why didn’t things work out the way I had hoped they would?
These questions challenged my faith in God, and required me to leave my mental comfort zone and start digging deeper into what Life, God, is really about. The Psalmist wrote of God: “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (Psalms 139:8). I knew that the former part of that statement was true; I had to trust that the latter part was too.
I opened my thinking to the signs of God's goodness going on around me.
After a few weeks of humbling prayer, I had a turning point. I was sitting alone, working on process refinements in that big empty room, and I started to feel sorry for myself. But then a jolt of inspiration came: Look, I now have the biggest office in the entire building—way bigger than even the general manager’s. I must really be doing important work! I laughed to myself at the concept and thereby broke through the mesmerism of self-pity that had been with me for some time. From that point forward, I opened my thinking to the signs of God’s goodness going on around me. Doing so lifted the heaviness I had been feeling, which in turn boosted my productivity. This increased sense of humility allowed God’s ideas to flow through me more freely, and as a result I made several significant refinements to the process I was working on. I felt more in tune with God at work than I had in quite some time.
That’s when I really started to see God’s grace in action. Engineering management became aware of my work and asked me to present my refined process ideas to several important audiences. One of those audiences was a team in the early planning stages for a new project that would be engineering a cutting-edge product. They told me that my presentation was exactly what they needed to hear at that time and asked me to coach their team on following the new process. I was also asked to help redefine the process of another team that worked in a key area of the company, as well as write the engineering process sections of several proposals to help our company win new business. Near the end of the year, I was enlisted by an engineering director to champion the process for the entire company. At the time of writing, I’m now acting as a process coach for numerous projects, interfacing with high-level individuals in my organization, and having the time of my life making a positive impact at work.
In summary, what had initially looked like a depressing period of decline turned out to produce myriad blessings—better than anything I had been hoping for back on my previous project. This experience has strengthened my confidence in God’s plan for me and those I work with. It can sometimes seem like we are victimized by unfortunate circumstances. But as St. Paul says: “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).
We can use any challenging situation as an impetus to grow closer to God, and because God is Love, the closer we get to Him, the more blessed our lives will be. God is always right there with us for every one of life’s adventures. Our job is to be open to His influence and willing to follow His lead.
Joe Gariano lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.
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