This Monday I had just returned from an early morning run while it was still cool. I found myself sharing the small lift with a man about my age – and so naturally (i.e. taught by Jacqui) I apologised for the smell I was generating. I don’t think he heard me. What he did say struck me forcibly. “Another lovely, boring day.”
There’s one thing being on holiday in Tenerife and enjoying its wonderful January weather. It’s an altogether different proposition actually living in the place, putting roots down in the volcanic ash.
Not for the first time I encountered someone who had moved shop to their favourite holiday location and found it to be an altogether different place. It’s great having blue skies and bright sunshine, a leisurely lifestyle and the opportunity to relax. But there’s more to life than leisure, much more.
We all need to have a vacation but we have an even deeper need to have a vocation.
When God made Adam from the dust of the ground (‘adamah’), he was strangely unfulfilled in this beautiful world to which he belonged. Not even his relationship with his Maker sufficed him. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” observed God and so he formed Eve from the man’s rib. We are made for relationship.
But this was no holiday for this primal pair. We read in verse15 that God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” This is Genesis 2 and not Genesis 3. This calling to work came before and not after Adam sinned.
Okay, now work has an altogether connotation. Following the Fall, work is going to be tough: “By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food.” (Genesis 3:19). But this deep-down vocation is still there in the Kingdom of God; even in God’s restored creation we are made to work. It’s just that work is no longer work. We work to fulfil ourselves.
For this purpose comes from God himself. Mother Theresa remarks:
“There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in – that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.”
This insight has huge implications. Unemployment is not just wrong because it is non productive and takes scarce resources. It dishonours God, in his purpose for our lives.
Neither retirement is to be a time of non-stop leisure. A friend commented on his pre-retirement course that it set out a lifestyle of pure hedonism. And of course, it doesn’t work – as my companion in the lift was experiencing. It just leaves us feeling empty.
For our calling as Christians is to serve him all the days of our lives, whatever that may mean. As disciples of Jesus we have no early-retirement option. It is simply a case of knowing the work God wants us to do.
In recent years there has been an upsurge in the theology of work with teaching on how the workplace fits in with God’s purpose for our lives. After all most of us will spend most of our time in paid employment. For this is where our Christian life has to be lived. And that makes all the difference, even in the most menial of tasks.
It was George Herbert in his poem “The Elixir” who writes of seeing God in every area of our life:
“A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.”
Have a good day in the office (or your equivalent)!