This week has been full of high drama, trauma, and, of course, stress. As we move forward rapidly at work to fill the 100 new positions (yes! in this economy, this is great!) created in fields where it is very difficult to find people with the rare skills needed for somewhat esoteric positions, my boss, in very uncharacteristic fashion, has been attempting a level of micromanagement that I have never seen from him before. The most difficult part is that he will make a decision, step in and do the work, and then we will have to re-do it appropriately because he does not know all the needed details and makes mistakes that would put egg on his face if we did not quietly smooth out the wrinkles. He also took one of my subordinate supervisors to task for a relatively small error in judgment. I stepped in, told my subordinate not to respond, and then finessed the situation with my boss and afterward calmed the anxiety of my subordinate. I understand my boss's need for a sense of control right now: in the last five working days, we have had three videoconferences about the new, high-profile projects with our headquarters in Washington. Whether we succeed or fail, the international fallout will be significant. I prefer, of course, to succeed, and I feel confident that my folks can manage things if we are allowed the breathing space to get done what we need to do. At least, I thought that until I found out this morning that two key players had gone on leave without pushing through the hiring papers for people who need to begin work on January 4, leaving only a new semi-senior manager without the know-how to finish them up. I had no alternative: I called them both in off leave. Yep, drama, trauma, and stress!
God has blessed me with a great deputy and great senior managers -- people who are both competent and with whom I can speak freely and share both my emotional state and my spiritual dependence on God. I told my deputy this morning that sometimes these days the only way I make it through the day with my sanity, compassion (most of the time), and humor intact is through constant prayer. "Unceasing prayer," he responded. "Me, too."
That is precisely what I am grateful for this week: the people God has put into my life. Not only do I have competent people at work to whom I can delegate work and with whom I can defuse stress, not add to it, but also people who love and obey God and with whom, even in a secular work environment, I can talk about spiritual matters. They all are just fine with God coming to work with us -- and God does. I/we otherwise would not be able to accomplish what I/we do.
Beyond work, there are many wonderful people in my life who help God to keep me focused on the important things, including you, my blogger friends. Among the "locals" in my life are the members of my Monday night prayer group at the mission. The founder of the prayer group retired from directing it last year and asked me to take it over. Not feeling sufficiently competent to do so, I approached a friend who is a spiritual director to co-direct. I manage the logistics for which my extroversion is useful in organizing people, motivating them, and keeping them involved. He handles the content, and I learn from him just as much as everyone else does.
Then there is my life itself, for which I am highly grateful to God (even for the "messy" stuff like the horrific abuse during my early years for all that made me what I am today and developed an attitude of fortitude that I needed for the years I spent providing consultation in 23 countries to ministries of education, institutions, and organizations, for all the advocacy I had to do for my own children and the others, such as Shura, who came into my life, and for adequately supporting my subordinates in times like these when they are treated less kindly than one would like by nervous leaders in our organization.) The film, Joyex noel (highly recommended for Christmas season watching), which our prayer group, having gathered at my house for potluck, prayer, and a movie, watched this past Monday made me realize how God has filled my life with wonderfully special moments. In the movie, soldiers from three warring countries, who are dug into trenches a few hundred yards from each other, call a truce in order to celebrate Christmas with songs, mass (conducted by the Scottish chaplain), and burial of their dead. Sworn to be enemies by their governments, they become friends.
Likewise, years ago, during the Cold War, of which my daughter Lizzie and I are veterans, I contributed one drop in the river of peace that we now somewhat tentatively enjoy, or so I would like to think. At the time, being an American Army officer, I was the sworn enemy of the USSR. Over time, I came to know the Russians well and ultimately completed my PhD in Moscow. Ironically, it was the Russians, not the Americans, who enabled me to finish my education. So, sitting at a table with the vice-president of the Humanities University in Minsk, Belarus in 1993, I was flabbergasted to meet an enemy. Yes, truly, an enemy. You see, the vice-president had been an officer in the Red Army during the Cold War and, as such, was my sworn enemy. After the shock wore off, just like the soldiers in the film, Joyeux noel, the vice-president and I became friends. (A fuller version of the story is here on my Mahlou Musings blog.) To be allowed that encounter was extraordinary. The two of us found ourselves in one of those moments that can only be described as "larger than life." God has a way of moving us beyond the narrow confines of our daily routines, giving us a glimpse of His humanity untouched by the taint of human selfishness, governments' focus on self-continuation, or the silly-but-destructive hatred borne from fear of people who are not like us ethnically, racially, or religiously. For a brief moment in 1993, God let the two of us sense something beyond limited human existence; he let us see a bit of the divine in each other, that little God-seed that Meister Eckhart says is within each of us. That is something we both will remember forever and for which we will be eternally grateful.
More information about the Thankful Thursday meme can be found at the website of Grace Alone.