The Flawed Theology of Meaningful Work

The Flawed Theology of Meaningful Work

We all naturally want to do work that is meaningful. But what if your work isn’t? Some people have amazing jobs where it seems that the thing that they do for money is also the thing that makes their soul sing. That is awesome and enviable…and sadly not the reality for 99% of the world. If you’re like me, your job leaves you more stressed than satisfied at the end of the week, and you find yourself wishing it could be different. You have an overwhelming sense of dread that you will never be able to find what you are “meant” to do, and face the possibility of dying having only worked for something you don’t care about.

However it would be a mistake to equate your soul’s purpose with personal fulfillment you get from your job. Many people don’t take the time to reflect on what they functionally believe versus what they say they believe. As long as I am living I am liable to take God’s words and twist them into something incorrect. I discovered that I created my own god when I began to operate under the assumption that all my experiences and talents were only created for one job. I was getting depressed because I thought that if miss that one calling I am much wasted as a person. After graduating from college with my B.A. there were no jobs to be found in Santa Barbara. I was forced to take the only thing I could: a receptionist position at a company that fixed copy machines. This was deeply disturbing to me. “Is this why I just went $80,000 into debt?” I thought, “My time is so much more valuable than this.”

Pausing right here, I see a few things in my past self. First, the enormous sense of entitlement and pride of which I need to repent, but also the fact that I’m focusing on that mirage of “the perfect job” rather than seeing God’s purpose for me right then and there. My manager was a devout Christian and ran his office like one. He was always inviting me to his church and praising the Lord right there in the office. (Which I’m sure was more than a little uncomfortable to all who worked there.) I had some really deep conversations about God with my cubicle mate, and of course there was the fact that I had found a job at all in that climate. God was providing for me in droves but I would go home pouting because I thought there was only one dream job available to me and I had failed in procuring it.

When your functional belief is not the same as your actual beliefs, you end up with flawed theology on your hands. Flawed theology is dangerous because we base our thoughts motivations and actions on our personal theologies. If your theology is incorrect you are putting words in God’s mouth. And that has never ended well, just ask Satan!

Watch “One calling Multiple expressions” by Annie Downs. Aside from being one of my very favorite authors, she talks about how our vocations are expressed in so many unique ways throughout our lives. She says “You are not too old to find your calling, and you are not too young that you have not already experienced multiple expressions of it”. I have watched this particular talk probably more than 5 times since I discovered it a few years ago, and trust me friends, when I say it is full of gems. I can’t recommend that you take a few minutes to watch it yourself. And so we find that a shift in perspective is needed.

What do you think? Take some time to journal as the Spirit leads and hear how God is directing your thoughts on this topic

Work & Purpose

Work & Purpose

If you’re like me, your job feels oppressive and pointless – like a necessary evil to get to payday. I think back to my childhood days when that’s how it felt anytime my parents asked me to do something. “Chores are torture!” I would tell my dad. It must have made him think, “Girl, just you wait and see!” I spend 40+ hours per week moping at my desk and working half-heartedly because I don’t care about the work I’m doing.

We live in an individualistic society where we are focusing ourselves more than ever before. Everything is supposed to fulfill you, make you happy, feel good, or else we naturally want to avoid it. In his book Every Good Endeavor, Timothy Keller talks about this social “disease” of individualism which has caused our sense of community to die in popular culture. Today it’s easier than ever to not have to leave the house and go outside. People don’t rely on each other. Next door neighbors have never even met. It’s common to hear someone say in a jokey way, “I wanted to go out, but didn’t want to put on pants”. It’s funny on the surface, but deeply disturbing when we realize that these “harmless” ways of life are only symptoms of underlying sin. Put simply, when we only want to do what feels good to us and avoid work and responsibilities we are walking by our natural reasoning which the Bible says leads to death.

In contrast, we walk by the Spirit when we consider God’s will and purpose for ourselves to be better. Did you know that God assigned Adam his work before the fall, not after? I was surprised to find that in God’s eyes work is not a punishment, but a special privilege. “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15 NLT). God had just finished creating the whole world from nothing. The Garden of Eden was beautiful but not complete until he gave it into Adam’s care and protection.

We have our own little gardens of Eden to tend and fortunately for me, gardening know-how is not required! It’s our choice whether we water and prune wisdom and fruit of the spirit. When we choose to operate outside of God’s will and purpose for ourselves, we suffer the consequences. Our wisdom withers away and the fruit of the spirit rots on the vine when we do not watch and carefully tend our little plots. But when we work hard at growing our characters within God’s will, we see results. Assurance, blessing, and hope in Jesus are only a few examples of the abundance of God’s garden. These are eternal things which never perish. Jesus tells us that we must labor for the “food” which endures, which can only come from him (John 6:27 ESV). How will we grow our virtues if we only spend time concerned about perishable things?

What do you think? Don’t take my word for it -Spend some time in the word and journal as the Spirit leads on these verses in their specific context:

  • Genesis 2:15
  • John 6:27

 

 

My Adovah

My Adovah

Friends,

<This article> has brought much needed breath and water into the parched desert of my calling. You may or may not have noticed my absence since May, which was unplanned and honestly, painful. Don’t worry, I’m alright. The kind of pain I mean is the kind of artistic pain that comes with being unable to produce.

Any artist  knows that when the block appears or inspiration runs dry we live in a constant world of – I need to be busy, but can’t. We are listless, unquenched, dry, like a dark night of the writer’s soul.

That I don’t write when this darkness overcomes, is my fault. This concept of Adovah has turned the table on my perspective. “Your adovah, your work, your art, and you are liberated from the bondage of praise power people-pleasing… Striving makes us slaves”

Indeed, I confess, that it was exactly striving that caused me to become exhuasted and frustrated. I began PD as an upside down blogger, as a gift to God first and encouragement second to anyone who needed it. I lost my way amongst comparisons, impractical great ideas and schedules that were too aggressive.

When I fell, I fell hard because my heart was no longer pure. Blog ratings, traffic had seeped into the mix, making it difficult to tell apart service and striving.

And yet, as always out God is merciful and faithful to continue his call on me to keep writing, even as days, weeks, months have gone by without so much as a journal entry, he knew what I needed because I’m beginning to suspect that it’s not actually writing I’ve been needing to do, but the sanctifying work of Adovah – my service, my art, my worship.

Happy Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Happy Feast of St. Joseph the Worker


Never forget that Joseph worked.
That Jesus worked.
That Mary worked.

Joseph was a “tekton,” in the Greek. So was Jesus. This is often translated as carpenter, but woodworker, craftsman, handyman, or even day laborer, are all good translations. Jesus worked as a “tekton” for upwards of 18 years.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph honored the Sabbath and they paused for prayer but, like the poor today struggling to make ends meet, they worked–and worked hard.

Jesus understands the working life. All work, if done with a good intention, can be holy.

-Fr. James Martin, SJ

Battling Discontentment

I don’t hate my job, but some days I get frustrated. Like, really frustrated. After a bad day as a tech support agent, I find myself grumbling that I shouldn’t even be here. It was supposed to be an entry-level, temporary position — a placeholder until my “real life” began. Well, turns out, God had other plans.

Maybe you understand all too well what it’s like to be in a situation that doesn’t exactly knock your socks off. Sometimes we all feel like our daily lives are a boring, desert wasteland. “My job just isn’t important enough to make a difference,” I think, “Paul told us that whether we eat or drink to do everything to the glory of God, but his calling really was for the Glory of God, while mine seems to be ‘answer the phone and bear the brunt of strangers’ anger and plain meanness’. What does tech support have to do with my ultimate great commission which is to live a godly life and lead others to christ? What gives?!”

Discontentment is a judgement call on our situation. It’s a dark fog that obscures our view of God and encourages all kinds of dangerous attitudes, including doubt, envy, and grumbling. The truth becomes smaller and smaller, while evil thoughts of the heart become larger and more looming.

So what do we do when these thoughts plague us?

I understand that when these thoughts strike, it’s almost never our first instinct to cry out to God. But God’s light scatters the dark and disorderly thoughts. It helps me to methodically run through four simple truths:

  1. God is good, faithful, and true (Ps 107:1; Jn 14:6; 1 Cor 10:13)
  2. God loves me and desires to teach and correct me (Heb 12:1-13)
  3. God hates grumbling (Num 14:26-35)
  4. My appropriate response is to God is thankfulness and praise (1 Thes 5:18; Ps 106:1)

Our feelings are fleeting and a natural result of our brokenness.  David’s prayers were nothing short of human: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Ps 43:5). So don’t beat yourself up over your shortcomings, God knows. I like to think of these are life preservers that won’t let you sink while you make it to higher ground.

More ammo:

  • Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature… and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Col 3:5,9)
  • Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord (James 1:23)
  • Do everything without complaining or arguing (Phil 2:14)
  • The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all those who keep his covenant and obey his decrees (Psalm 25:10)
  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4)
  • For the word of the LORD holds true, and everything he does is worthy of our trust (Ps 33:4)
  • O Lord, Your loving-kindness goes to the heavens. You are as faithful as the sky is high (Psalm 36:5)

Whatever your brand of discontent may be, I’m praying for you, friends. Remember to cast everyone on Him because He cares for you!

Step away from the ledge, my friend

After being inspired by Ann Voskamp I am inspired to jump in and get my hands dirty — writing stories for all my sisters that will encourage and set your hearts aflame for Jesus. Our Word God doesn’t let any Words from him go to waste.

This is a true story.

I’m sure there are plenty of more demeaning lines of work, but call center agents definitely have to be up there on the list of “Most Hated People of All Time.” Yes, I am one of them. I will soon be celebrating my 3-year anniversary in tech support by gently advising old people they have called the wrong number and that they actually want Citibank.

What’s it like, answering phones for a living? Well, at first it was terrifying, then anxiety-ridden, then anger turned to seething rage, which settled into self-righteous indignation. If you have ever wondered (or never wondered) what goes on on the other side of the line when you call a support line, please let me fill you in:

1. You can’t see me, but I’m a person. A real person with feelings and a lunch break to look forward to.

2. I don’t care to hear how you’re glad I’m American; it makes you sound racist.

3.  I’m here to help you. I have a better understanding of the software than you do because I was trained. Trust me and I’ll solve your problem!

4. Do you need to vent? I understand, just don’t vent all over my dignity as a human being. There is a right way to bring attention to a concern. Word vomit never got anyone anywhere.

5. Hanging up on someone who tells you bad news is plain childish. Are you a child?

6. Snide remarks and insults are tolerated on a daily basis. Have some humanity.

(Boy that felt good to get out in the open!) Now for the good news: More than any other job I’ve had in my short 26 years, this has been a 40-hr a week lesson in humility and patience. By now you’d think I’d have it in droves, but I do not. I can say however, that I’m better than I was, only because of God’s protective barrier around me.

I’ll admit I don’t usually run to bible verses when a caller drives me to shaking. Ever hear the term “I saw red”? It’s really like that sometimes. My heart races, my fingers shake, my face gets hot, and I can’t think straight. How can a stupid comment from a person I’ve never met and will never speak to again, drive me to such levels of rage? It angers me even more for how it affects me!

I could fill many, many books with all the threats, exhortations to go to hell, or the (ultimate insult) “can I speak with someone else who knows more?” routine, but I won’t. Never has human ugliness had such an easy medium, with the Internet and telephones. The more impersonal the contact, the less problem someone has about bridling their tongue.

Now, even I have lost my temper once or twice on the phone (that was before my call center days) and I’m not really an angry person for the most part. Trust me, I get it. Technology is frustrating. Lost passwords are infinitely irritating. But I know also that it’s not really about the lost password. It’s your job, finances, marriage, other pressures. You’re not in control and that angers you, and someone’s gotta burn, right?

My blessing and challenge is to do my job with integrity. I must be patient and kind, keep no record of wrongs… But doesn’t it make it way more difficult when they are not people you know? I run to Jesus for help in these times. In the moment during or after a bad call, I swivel my chair around to look at the wall, shut my eyes tight, and pray just one word, because opening my Bible right now is not going to bring comfort. I shut it all out and just say “Jesus.” That’s it.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. ~Romans 8:26

I take the black bile spilling forth from my brokenness, and pour it out at the cross and He washes it away. He gives me rest from my bitterness and anger, and swivels my chair around to take another call.