The Nature of Work

Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of going on a vacation with a group of friends.  So much ocean-y goodness.

Stepping away from my normal work for a few days made me reflect on the work I do and just how much I appreciate my job.  I’ve worked at the same company, in the same department in that company, and in roughly the same role in that department for the past seven years.  That’s a long time.  I’ve moved apartments three times since then, which means that my job situation has been more consistent than my living situation.

I really didn’t think too much about this whole job situation during college, because I assumed I’d probably be married with a couple of kids by the time I was 30.  If I did think about about a career, it was in a What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up kind of way and the answer to that question was always fashion designer.  Always.  Part of me still thinks that the fashion designer thing will happen someday.  Maybe I’ll be like Julia Child and revolutionize the fashion industry in my late 40s?  All that to say, a career in data analysis, research, and taxonomy creation never even crossed my mind, but I’m so glad I stumbled into it.

Work is a blessing and a good thing.  God put Adam to work before the fall.  The brand new man was in charge of tending the brand new planet and naming the brand new animals.  The only thing that wasn’t good about that situation was that Adam didn’t have a helper.  Then God created Eve to be that helper and everything was perfect.  But only for a bit, because the fall happened, and work (like everything else) got messed up.  The curse of the fall introduced gender power struggles, unhealthy competition, intense pain, cursed ground, and futility into the mix, turning hard work, that once-good thing, into a problem.

Work is still a good thing, but it’s under a curse, so it is also a difficult, complicated, and emotional thing.  Now, remember that work is different than a profession.  A profession is a job that you are paid to do.  Work encompasses all our responsibilities, whether that is being a mom, a student, an obedient child, a grandparent..  Do you have responsibilities?  Then you have work to do.  I have a paid profession, but I also have other work.  I have my own household to run – cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, budgeting, paying taxes, paying bills….  I don’t even want to discuss laundry right now.  IT NEVER ENDS.  And the work won’t end until I die, so I’m constantly in that complicated Ecclesiastes emotion – alternately laughing and crying over the futility, but seeing glimpses of how beautifully satisfying meaningful work can be.

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already accepted your works. Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil.  Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”  (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10)

I read through Ecclesiastes this week and that section stood out to me, especially the reason for being joyful – God has already accepted my work, such as it is.  My futile, temporary, vanity-of-vanities work.  My tired work that starts when I get home from work.  The work I’m good at, the work I’m bad at, the work that falls far short of where I want it.  My constant fight against entropy and futility and obsolescence.  God has already accepted it.  And that’s why I can work with joy.

So go out there and work your heart out, because your heart is His and He gave it to you for this very purpose.

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