This is the second in our new series of posts –?Wednesday Workout.? In this series, we are investigating how Christians in different occupations/professions work out how their faith and work integrate ? what it means to be a whole-life-disciple for Jesus on their workplace frontline.
In this second post, I interviewed Nat Parker, an environmental scientist working for an NGO described as, ?? a community-based, not-for-profit organisation helping to build a sustainable community that cares for and values the natural resources and biodiversity of [the local region], and that recognises the impact of personal and collective actions on the environment.?
Murray: ?????Nat, tell me a bit about your role and the times when you feel most fulfilled in your work.? When do you get the deepest sense of satisfaction and joy from the work that you do?
Nat:?????Well, I work in environmental management where I support people to make changes to land management practices with the goal of improving environmental conditions.? Being responsible for funding projects from government grants means equity and fairness is important and, while there are rules that must be followed, I enjoy working with people individually and taking into account their personal circumstances when developing projects.?
To do this better, I?m trying to develop my ability to hear the Holy Spirit, believing he wants to guide me in my role at work as much as my role as a dad or in church leadership.? When I have treated work with this changed attitude, it makes me more passionate and caring for those I?m working with and work becomes an exciting place to be.
Murray:??????At Malyon Workplace, we?ve been talking about creation work, fall work and redemption work (based on some ideas from GroundWork). ?It sounds like some of what you just talked about includes all three – creation work (building relationships), fall work (repairing the environment) and redemption work (seeking sensitivity to the Holy Spirit in your daily work).? Tell us a bit more about the fall work that you do ? work that arises from living in a fallen world.
Nat: ??????? One program I recently completed was with land managers along Christmas Creek.? Projects included creek bank repairs, weed control and revegetation, and water quality assessment. Working with community and seeing relationships deepen and people work together to repair the environment is one of the best parts of my job and where I see God best expressed in my workplace.?
Murray:??????But does your work ever get frustrating?
Nat:???????? Unfortunately, corruption is never far away from all of us, and this is displayed in my workplace through selfishness, the attitude of taking what is needed at the expense of other neighbours, i.e. water.? There is also an attitude of stubbornness and pride, where landholders are unwilling to try new things.? I like the quote: ?We don?t inherit the earth; we borrow it from our children? it speaks of the unselfish attitude we need to grow in ourselves.? I often wonder why I don?t love the earth as much as I want to. I pray that the Holy Spirit will fill me with a greater love of the earth, not so I can do my job better, but because this would reflect Gods heart.
Murray:??????So Nat, how is your Christian faith impacting on how you go about your work?? Where is it having an influence?
Nat:???????? Though I have realised that a big part of worshiping of God is how I do my job, I still find it hard to embed this philosophy in my heart.? I still find it hard to consistently pray before a meeting, that God will guide my conversations and project planning with landholders.? I still think in a more secular way at work (?just get the job done?) and (?close enough is good enough?).? I need to constantly meditate on how much God values my work, and then value it as He does, so that I might worship him better in my daily work.
Murray:? Thanks Nat for sharing with us so honestly and freely.
Here are a few thoughts on how Nat?s work as an environmental scientist connects with God and his work:
- John Stott in his final book, The Radical Disciple (p.56), writes, ?? God established for human beings three fundamental relationships: first, to himself, for he made them in his own image; second to each other, for the human race was plural from the beginning; and third, to the good earth and its creatures over which he set them.? ?It is clear that each of these relationships is at play in the work that Nat does as an environmental scientist.
- It is also clear that Nat is experiencing in his daily work the impact of the fall on the three fundamental relationships John Stott mentions ? can you see that?
- What is also clear is that Nat has the opportunity be involved now in God?s plan to restore and renew the creation ? to liberate it from its groaning until one day there is a new heaven and a new earth (Romans 8:18-23, Revelation 21:1, 2 Peter 3:13).?
Finally, a quote from Chris Wright:
It seems inexplicable to me that there are some Christians who claim to love and worship God , to be disciples of Jesus, and yet have no concern for the earth that bears his stamp of ownership.? They do not care about the abuse of the earth and indeed, by their wasteful and over-consumptive life-styles, they collude in it.? (Quoted in Stott, J.R.W., (2010, p.65), The Radical Disciple)
As a rich western Christian, that is a significant challenge to my claims to be a whole-life-disciple.? What about you?
Murray Wright (4 March, 2014)
PS: ?Farming is another profession that works closely with God?s creation.? You might like to watch John van Sloten?s sermon entitled,??Cultivating God?s presence through a Farmer?