At Work

Seizing Your Commute

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I recently went through a two-day cleanse to help my body essentially “reset” itself nutritionally. This meant drinking the same smoothie for breakfast and a snack and eating the same soup for lunch and dinner. No meat, no dairy, no grains, no added sugars.

The blogger whose recipes I used for my cleanse recommends other lifestyle-related changes in addition to nutritional decisions in order to maximize the cleansing benefits of this regimen.

For example, she suggests avoiding caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, computer time, television, and stressful situations.

The “stressful situations” got me thinking as I drove to work the morning of the first full day of my cleanse.

Since I couldn’t avoid driving in traffic that morning, I knew that I had to make sure that the drive wasn’t stressful. This was dependent not upon what was happening on the road, but upon what was happening within me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—as well as how these states were manifested outwardly.

For most of us, some length and type of commute is part of our daily routine. How odd is it, then, that we often find ourselves stressed and hurried—day after day—as we make that same commute?

Traffic is nothing new. We shouldn’t be surprised to find that, lo and behold, there’s a sea of brake lights spread before us at 7:35 a.m.

Here’s a thought. What if we saw our work commute as an opportunity, rather than a hindrance?

Commute, for Good or for Ill

Have you ever considered how much power a commute has, either for good or for ill? The daily commute—both to work and back home—can have an immense impact on your life either positively or negatively, depending upon how you handle it.

  • Your work: Frustration from a commute carries over into the workplace. Beginning your workday in an agitated manner makes for potentially distracted, hurried, or less-accurate work. On the other hand, entering the workday with a calm demeanor sets you up for stewarding your time well. Your mind will be able to fully focus on the tasks at hand because it is not clinging unnecessarily to baggage from the drive in.
  • The people around you: At work, this would include your coworkers, boss, subordinates… you name it. At home, this impacts your spouse, family, roommates, even guests—and that really matters! Given the choice, would you rather interact with those around you while you are frustrated, distracted, and frazzled, or when you are calm, happy, and at-ease?
  • Your Christian witness: People are watching, even when you don’t think they are. They notice more than you think. What kind of an impression will you make? How might your posture towards your commute be hindering your ability to shine the light of Christ? How might you intentionally shift your posture in order to reap good from your commute?

Handling a stressful commute is easier said than done. How can we be good stewards of the time we spend commuting?

Applying Stewardship to Your Commute Time

Here are some practical ways to steward your commute time well:

  • Listen to a sermon (and actually listen to it). Merely having something play through your speakers will not transform your commute. In fact, you may have already tried this without success! The key is focus: are you focusing on the life-giving message, or the cars through the windshield?
  • Listen to worship music… and sing along. When we sing truth we are actually preaching truth to ourselves. Consider the power of that reality. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, “most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself” (Spiritual Depression). Stop listening to your thoughts. Instead, sing truth to focus your mind on things worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).
  • Pray aloud. There’s something about praying aloud that engages the mind and heart in a way that mental prayer simply does not. It requires our focus and our authenticity, just as carrying on a conversation with a friend. Allow the peace of God to guard your heart and mind as you bring your prayers and petitions before the Lord with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • Silence. Perhaps you need to free yourself from distractions and simply sit in silence. Stillness and silence are largely undervalued spiritual disciplines in our technology-driven culture. Benefits of such practices include being attentive to the voice of Jesus, freedom from addiction to noise, and having deeper intimacy with God as we increase our listening skills.

Commutes don’t need to be stressful. Their impact upon us has to do with how we handle what they dish out. Paul encourages the Philippians to do all things without grumbling in order that they might be blameless, innocent lights shining for Christ (Philippians 2:14-15).

At the end of the day, mere actions and atmospheres don’t elicit true heart change, but often change comes in part by the intentional use of such tools. Remember, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). While we must take action, we do not act alone.

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