You Don't Have to Quit to Find Life-Giving Work
Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World
February 29, 2012
159 pp., $13.50
There is a great emphasis in our society on working, and rightfully so. We work to feed our families, pay for shelter, and care for ourselves. It is possible, however, that many of us have overemphasized the monetary benefit of working, and therefore, have turned people away from their calling from God to search instead for work based primarily on the pay scale. This type of employment I call a job.
A job is simply the task we do to get paid. Inherently, there is nothing wrong with a job, but I do worry that an underlying message focused on monetary gain as the major goal may be a recipe for disaster in the long run. We go to jobs, perform tasks, and receive a benefit. We can execute jobs without being deeply connected. We are able to arrive at the start of our day, work very hard, and expel emotional energy. We might even work extra hours if it means extra pay. Typically, it's not a problem to separate a job from one's "real life." Whether employed as a housekeeper, social worker, banker, chaplain, police officer or cook, all these jobs are important. However, most people wouldn't hesitate to walk away from a job once the check went away.
Calling is different. Calling inspires a deeper commitment to your work. Calling pushes a person to ask significant questions about what they do with their lives—questions such as Who am I? What are my gifts and talents? How is my life being shaped by this work? What life would remaining in this work make impossible for me? Calling pushes us deeper into ourselves when choosing a college, or taking an internship. It doesn't allow us to jump at every opportunity simply because it pays more. We take personal responsibility about our life direction and choices.
Sometimes we are aware that our job is not really God's calling on our life. Still, we don't sense that God has instructed us to leave it behind for a new endeavor. Sometimes, our calling may run parallel to the work we call a job. One example is my friend Rob. Rob absolutely hated his job. It was not what he had planned on doing. He had run out of money before he could finish college, but he didn't want to take out more loans. He was in college one semester, and then he was dumping out trash from offices in the middle of the night.
Rob's plan was to finish college slowly, taking one course at a time as he could pay for it and also clearing up his student loan debt. When we met, he was about halfway to earning his degree. Rob was a very smart man who always had a book in his hand. He would give great insight if you had the patience and determination to get it out of him. Still, even in his best moments, there was absolutely no denying that he did not like his job or most of the people around him. He was often a bitter person. His 6-feet, 3-inch stature, deep voice, and intense stare intimidated most people, giving the impression he was going to annihilate you at any moment.
Rob intrigued me, so I made efforts to get to know him. He highly respected hard work, and since I was a diligent worker, he would talk with me, especially when we worked together on projects during the midnight shift. I soon learned that Rob was a Christian, but he didn't care much for the church. He attended a couple times a month and gave money to things he thought were worthwhile. Rob and I spent many working nights discussing life, marriage, hopes, and dreams.
I discovered that Rob had a soft spot in his heart for young men with potential but no resources to realize it. Their situations resonated with him because it was also his story. What I figured out about Rob was that while he hated his job and made no bones about it, what he mainly despised was how people were treated on the job. He cringed at the way supervisors talked to employees. He disliked the way the schedule was organized. He didn't appreciate that if you were five minutes late getting back from break, someone would talk to you like a child and write you up regardless of the job you had done well. And most important, he hated the way people cleaning offices were looked down on. I learned that Rob cared more about the people working than most others.