By David Rupert
Photo Courtesy of The Veiled Chamber, used through a creative commons license at Flickr.
When I was a boy, my mother routinely reminded us to wipe our feet when we dashed into the house at full speed. She rarely even looked up as we came in. She just knew that my brother and I would have dirty shoes.
Mom had good reason for concern. The empty lots and open fields were our playgrounds. And on the way home from our ventures, we walked through every mud puddle.
As an adult, I still clean my shoes before entering my home after a long day at school or work. I don't need my mother to remind me anymore -- I get it because I pay for the carpet.
Recently, I've been thinking about the symbolism of removing the dirt from the world before entering my home. For years, I collected bad attitudes and negativity from the work world and brought them home to my young family. They never knew what my mood was going to be. Silently, hesitantly, they would size me up.
"What kind of day did he have? Can I tell him my problems? Can I share some good news? Will he snap at me for no reason?"
They never knew if I had wiped my feet at the door. The darkness of reports, deadlines, and negative personal interactions often clouded my disposition. Job uncertainty, increased expectations, and an emphasis on efficiency over humanity only made my attitude darker. By the time I got home, this "five o'clock shadow" darkened my face and my soul. Whether the stubble was a scratchy beard or a scratchy heart, it rubbed my family wrong.
Sure, they wanted me to bring home a paycheck and the security that comes with it. They liked a roof over their heads and food on the table. They enjoyed the middle class comforts of life. But ultimately, they wanted me to bring home joy.
And your family wants the same.
Some job pressures are easy to leave. Just punch the clock and go home. But other work situations can cloud our hearts with the failures and struggles and conflicts. Even when we're off duty, we sometimes carry all that junk with us. Workplace stress is real, but we can't let it steal our joy, determine our moods, or hurt our families.
Leaving the dirt of work behind doesn't mean we have to bear the burdens alone. In the right tone and spirit, we need to talk about work. Our families are genuinely interested in what we do. They have a vested interest, and they care.
Try this. Discuss each day's struggles and triumphs as a family. Be transparent. Show your family how you toil through everyday issues -- including both the victories and the defeats. Listen to them share the stories of their daily work, and pray for each other. This is what a healthy home looks like.
May our work bring joy to our families and glory to God.
FOUR EXERCISES TO HELP YOU BRING JOY HOME:
- After your workday is done and you are driving home, watch your workplace in your rearview mirror. Watch it get smaller and smaller -- until it disappears.
- While driving home, talk to God. Commit to him your worries. Ask him to give you a word of peace, a word of joy that you can bring home.
- When you pull up in your driveway, sit in your car for a few moments to exhale any "bad air" from the day. Then take a deep breath. This is home.
- Just before you enter through your door, methodically wipe your feet on the outside mat. Leave the dirt of the day behind.
David Rupert has worked as a workplace chaplain, seminar teacher, author and speaker, and now he writes from Denver, Colorado. Used with gratitude and permission from thehighcalling.org.
For other Faith@Work articles, please go here.
7/13/2009 4:00:00 AM