I’m the kind of guy that dives into work head-first. Night after night I’ll pour blood, sweat, and tears into my vocation. Fast days, long nights. Day after day, fighting against the clock to get as much done as possible. A lot of the time at work, it feels like I’m in the trenches while the opposing army keeps pushing closer and closer. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but hey, I do claims for a living. Because I’m the supervisor of my department, I feel a weight that is very difficult to articulate to other team members. The weight of ownership and responsibility and excellence and a million other things.
Right now, we’re short staffed. I’d say we need at least two more people. Not a single day passes without someone calling or emailing with what they’d consider to be a major issue, wanting us to fix the problem with a snap of our fingers. Emotions are high and anger sometimes higher. I don’t get a moment to let off the gas pedal, because the work is always coming in. It comes in like a never ending wave. The team braces against it as best as we can, but there are thousands, and potentially millions of dollars on the line, based on our quality of work. Even when we win a claim, it’s, for the most part, thankless. We did what people expect us to do, nothing more and nothing less. And even if we win a claim for someone one day, they have a brand new claim to send us the very next day, even worse than the original. In cases where we make mistakes, some people are quick to point out our errors and specifically, my failures as a leader.
Do you feel that?
The tension. The stress. The exhaustion. The sinking.
For the last year, this is how I have felt. I was sinking. I couldn’t focus on anything else. Family was being pushed away. My church family was being pushed away. Any semblance of friendships were fading away like a mist. I would come home at nine or ten o’clock at night, every night. I didn’t pray. I didn’t read Scripture. I began to worship the weekends, so I could get some respite, even though I worked on the weekends too. That was something I intentionally did my best not to do. I didn’t want to “Thank God it’s Friday” while dreading work like much of society. I wanted to thank God it was Monday, but I stopped thanking God for Mondays. In fact, I stopped being thankful for much of anything. I was in a haze. Under the pressure of getting things done and being the best at what I did. I ate junk every single night and when I came home, I would either go straight to bed or plop down on the couch and zone out on some TV show.
My health was deteriorating. Physical health. Mental health. Emotional health. All hinged on my dimming spiritual health. The beauty of things lost their color, their taste. I began to become bitter against people that seemed to be enjoying their lives. Like I said, I was sinking. Then God stepped in.
A few weeks back, my wife and I were relaxing with our three daughters by the pool, who were all standing on the first step in the water. Since it was getting warmer, it seemed like a good time to start enjoying summer activities. After a few minutes of relaxation, I heard my wife make the noise you make when you someone jumps out to scare you, or when you almost get hit by a flying object, or spill coffee on your favorite shirt. Except she hadn’t been frightened by spilt coffee or flying objects, but because our two year old, Olivia, fell face first into the water. She didn’t have floaties on and she didn’t know how to swim. When she fell, it seemed like everything slowed down. It was very surreal, like a dream. The odd thing was she didn’t flail. She wasn’t kicking or tossing in a panic. She was simply sinking. Down and down and down into the water. My wife is a Batman-level hero, so she was in the water and out with Olivia with lightning speed. From the pool, my wife handed her to me, and she was quiet and completely stiff and I began to fear the worst. But when I brushed the hair out of her face, she relaxed and began sobbing.
It was the best noise I’ve ever heard in my life.
Right around that same time, God did something very similar to me. I had been sinking, just like Olivia. I wasn’t even fighting to save myself, then he pulled me out of the water. He used, believe it or not, a REALLY bad day to snatch me out of the depths I was sinking into. After taking a day trip with the family and sitting with some friends to share my heart, I began to repent for worshipping the god of success and recognition and reward, instead of the Living God. I repented for turning work into a false god that was absorbing the joy out of my life.
At Redemption Church, where I fellowship, we say that “All of life is all for Jesus” and I had been using that phrase to justify being a workaholic. For me, my motto was really “All of life is all for work” and it was destroying me and my family.
Then God saved me from sinking further into this idolatry. He brought me back into his embrace with tender kindness and showed me proper perspective. Gospel perspective. He reminded me that “work” falls into the “all of life” category, and is a gift we use to reflect Him, but only when it’s an element of life that is centered around Jesus. This is the truth that I had forgotten and needed to believe again.
Scripture says that, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” In context with the rest of Scripture, any pursuit other than the pursuit of God is worthless. And that working the land WITHOUT enjoying the bread is also worthless. That they are BOTH a means to an end and not the end itself. God was teaching me to work the land, enjoy the bread, and be thankful to Him as the source of both.
Whether it’s work, school, relationships, or even church activities, it is possible to find ourselves pursuing these things as primary affections of the heart, making God secondary to our true objects of worship. God is a good Father. In moments where we find ourselves sinking, He will pull us from the depths and set us on a firm foundation. Always reminding us that all of life is not for any of those pursuits, but that all of life is all for Him and Him alone.
Anthony Hernandez is a lover of Christ, Jedi (aka Husband & Father), Deacon of Redemption Alhambra, Lead of the GlobalTranz Claims Team. Anthony enjoys all things Disney, hanging with the Fantastic Four (wife/daughters), and training at Fight Ready MMA gym.