I suspect that we all have a deep obsession that runs like a thread throughout our lives and won’t let us go. It may be a question that we wrestle with or a desire that lodges awkwardly in our souls, like sand in an oyster. No matter how often we try to ignore it, it re-emerges as an itch, an irritation, an unsolvable mystery that has captured our hearts and our imaginations.
My life obsession has been born out of the longing for God to become real in the ordinary context of my day-to-day life. In my early years, I turned to writings on prayer and contemplation written within the Catholic tradition, and there were times when I longed to enter the contemplative world of the monastery. But I didn’t grow up within this tradition, and I rebelled against the old notion that the ‘royal’ road to God led away from the world of family and paid employment.
Surely the richness of our monastic spiritual traditions could be woven together with my Protestant, world-facing, actively orientated religious upbringing. Surely it was possible to live a rich, soulful, spirit-filled life right in the very midst of the daily pressures and dilemmas of an ordinary day. I wanted a way of holding together the contemplative and active energies of life – to cultivate depth, purpose and meaning in the hours when I was at work.
In my thirties, I returned to the church of my childhood (which had become the Uniting Church in Australia). I studied the history of Christian spirituality and discovered the many and diverse approaches to Christian faith and practice. I eventually left the practice and teaching of law and studied theology full-time. In 1993 I was ordained as a Minister of the Word of the Uniting Church. But I was not to remain a local congregational minister or become an academic theologian. Instead, I was called to re-enter the workforce in a range of roles that required all the strategic, administrative, and inter-personal skills that I could muster, in what has become an increasingly complex employment environment.
I am grateful for the many conversations with friends, colleagues and fellow workers over the years. They have challenged, nourished and influenced my spiritual life along the way. I would particularly like to mention the support and encouragement I have received while writing this book and working full time. Thank you to my beloved husband Frank, and to Gerda Olafsen, Ian Price, Helen Dick, Craig Hodges and Dorothy Ryan.
Deep Work is a fruit of my persistent longing for a contemplative-active life in the very midst of work. Whether the grains of sand that have irritated this oyster for so long have produced anything resembling pearls – well – I’ll leave that for you to decide. For me, the very pursuit of this deep desire has turned into the treasure that I have long sought.
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