Saturday, October 19, 2013

Being Blessed by Colleagues at Work

I work with a variety of colleagues, many of whom are friends.  They bless me in many ways.  But it wasn't until the other day that one gave me a literal blessing, that is, one that I could hear.  I don't want to discount the possibility that my friends and colleagues may bless me every morning in their prayers/meditations/hoping for the best.

It has been a work week where more lay-offs were announced, which makes us all feel queasy.  It was a week of ugly talk, nasty accusations, dark speculations, and unpleasant meetings. 

In the midst of the Tuesday announcements of lay-offs at work, I got a phone call.  My evangelical friend and colleague said, "Are you safe?"

She took my breath away.  Just a few hours earlier, I had gotten a summons to a Wednesday meeting at 12:30.  And here she was, saying, "Are you safe?"

I said, "I honestly don't know."  I told her of the summons.  I said, "I don't think I'm about to be fired, but there's another drama going on that I can't talk about on the phone."

She didn't miss a beat.  She said, "Well, we'd better bless you then."  And she proceeded to do just that, to say a combination of a blessing and a prayer for protection.  I could almost feel her hands on my head as she spoke.

By now you may be wondering where I work.  You may be saying, "I thought you worked at a for-profit school, not an evangelical college."

I do indeed work at a for-profit school, and as near as I can tell, there aren't many Christians there, at least not the ones who have active spiritual practices in the Christian tradition.  My Hindu friend and colleague is more active in her temple than most of my Christian friends I've met at school.  My evangelical friend and colleague is the only one who matches her activities.

We used to have more evangelical colleagues, but they've retired or moved on.  The one who remains is the one who blessed me.  

In some ways, it felt just as ecumenical an experience as the various experiences I've had with my Hindu friend, like going to her house blessing, which I described in this blog post.  I'm a mainstream Lutheran; we are a people who believe in corporate prayer.  If we pray for others, we do it in the privacy of our own homes and usually silently.

I've evolved a bit.  Now, sometimes, I can bring myself to ask people if I can add them to my prayer list.  In the interest of full honesty, I only ask people whom I think will be receptive.  If people are going through a tough time and they're not open to the idea of prayer, I don't want to make their rough time worse by introducing an unwelcome spiritual element. I do pray for whomever I want--I don't think I need permission.  But I don't feel that I have to let everyone know I'm praying, only if I think it will help them.

My evangelical friend/work colleague comes from a different tradition, a much more prophetic tradition.  I find it fascinating, but I understand why she makes some people uncomfortable.  But on Tuesday afternoon, I was profoundly grateful for her blessing.

I thought about the phone, about how often it keeps us apart, but how it can bring us together.  Sure, it might be better if we had been in the same room, if there could have been a laying on of hands.  But I'm glad that she didn't let the distance stop her.

When I went to the Wednesday meeting, I had her blessing in my ears.  I had Psalm 23 as an undergirding.  I thought about the ways that the Psalms offer succor and strength and language for the times when we need to be brave, for the times when we need to lament, for the times when all those needs coincide.

I went to the meeting, and in the end, it was uncomfortable, but it was OK.  It was not the end of a week of unpleasant meetings, but that was OK.  I had the Psalms to counteract the ugly words, dispiriting news and clenched spirits that such a work week engenders.  I had the important reminder that I have supportive colleagues and friends who bless me in so many ways.

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