By James Bruyn
I work as a consultant for the railroads on the design and implementation of safety control systems. I have returned to school to pursue a doctoral degree in workplace theology, ethics and leadership. When one of my colleagues heard I was going to pursue a doctoral degree in theology he asked me why does an engineer care about theology?
“Theology provides a cosmic perspective on my work,” I said, “It gives my work purpose and puts boundaries and constraints on my life, and it explains why work doesn’t always go the way I wish.”
In short, understanding theology inspires me as an engineer to pursue my work with passion, excellence and joy.
A Perspective from the Story of Creation
One of the first things I discover when I study theology is that there is a Creator-God who exists outside time and space, outside our cosmos, and yet remains someone I can know personally.
The story of creation tells me that engineering is not just a job, but a privilege bestowed on me by the Creator. It is my privilege as an engineer to discover, explore and utilize the systems and principles of engineering which God created to make train operations safer for all of God’s creation.
Theology teaches me that God’s desire is to come alongside to help me to discover what I need to know about His creation so that I can do my job with excellence.
Prov 24:3-4 Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established;
By knowledge, the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
The story of creation tells me that I am created in God’s image. My desire to create new things, to bring order out of chaos, to communicate engineering concepts clearly and simply, are all reflections of the image of God in me.
The story of creation sets me free to enjoy what I do without worrying about what other people think or say, for the story of creation tells me the primary purpose for my life is to please my Creator.
How does the story of creation influence how you see your work?
A Perspective on Boundaries
Ps 147:5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.
Theology teaches me that there are boundaries within which I am supposed to live my life and do my work. Within those boundaries I am free to explore, discover and use whatever I find. These boundaries are meant to keep me safe.
One of these boundaries, is that I am a finite being, with a finite set of skills and abilities. God lovingly chose these skills and abilities just for me, for this time, and this place where I live. If I am doing my work within the limitations of these skills and abilities, I find joy and peace.
Acts 17:26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
Other constraints on my life include my socio-economic status, the culture I was born into, the place where I live, and my family. Theology tells me that God in his infinite wisdom and love chose exactly these circumstances for me. Knowing that God doesn’t make any mistakes, I am free from comparing myself to other people; I am free from dwelling on my situation, free from trying to please other people, and free to focus on God; I am free to enjoy being me as God remakes me according to His image; I am free to choose to live my life for God’s glory.
Theology forces me to look beyond myself to see that God has surrounded me with other men and women each of whom God has blessed with equally unique gifts and abilities. It is only as I do my part as an engineer alongside the larger team that God has placed around me that the train control safety systems I design come to fruition. These boundaries set me free! They mean that I don’t have to be a marketer, or a welder, I just have to be me!
How does knowing God change your perspective on the boundaries and limitations of your life?
A Perspective When Things Go Wrong
Designing a new system never goes as quickly or as smoothly as I want. As people test the system, they inevitably discover things missing or configured incorrectly.
Communication is always a challenge in every project I’ve worked on, and miscommunication seems to happen sooner or later. God creates each person with a different communication style. As a result, I am challenged to find the right way to communicate the scope and breath of a project to each interested party.
Theology teaches me that things will go wrong, that miscommunication and conflict are the norm for this world because being alienated from God means we are naturally alienated from one another. But theology doesn’t leave me without hope. Theology tells me that God has worked out a perfect plan of redemption to reconcile people to God, and ultimately, to each other.
God offers me the privilege to enter by faith into a restored relationship with him. More than that, in fact much more than that, theology assures me that there is a day coming when I will spend eternity with God as one of His children, and that on that day there will be no communication problem, no conflict and no broken systems.
God promises that the day will come when he tests my work. He will decide by fire – which of my work is worth preserving like fine gold, and which of my work should be destroyed. This is freeing, because it means that when my work isn’t up to snuff it won’t follow me for eternity. But I also know that when I do my best, I don’t have to look for human approval, for I will receive the ultimate approval, the only approval that counts in the long run – God’s approval.
Prov 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.
There is a freedom in knowing that God is in control of all things, including my work, and that he has promised me a joyful ending beyond my wildest imagination. So why am I passionate about theology? Because I believe that if we as Christian’s can articulate clearly and simply why our faith in God makes a difference in our work life, we will find we have an amazing and compelling story to share with our co-workers.
James Bruyn is a former board member of Faith Beyond Belief and Director of Faith At Work Network. Faith At Work Network connects and equips Christians in the marketplace to positively impact their organization by living God’s Kingdom principles. (www.faithatwork.ca)