“I am such a small person. I don’t have many talents. I’m weak. Nothing I do has any real significance.” says many a Christian about the possibility of being used by God. Schaeffer’s response to that man or woman is that, “with God, there are no little people.”- Francis A. Schaeffer, No Little People
On Wednesday, I attended the Faith and Work Summit hosted by the Nashville Institute for Faith & Work. I didn’t really know what to expect from this event but left with pages of notes and a head full of renewed thoughts surrounding the concept and realization of “work”.
Work according to one of our speakers doesn’t have to be in an office. Work comes from many places including if you’re a stay at home mom, a student, or a volunteer in your community.
I have a pretty clutch roster of work but I can have a very negative attitude about going to work and sometimes about completing aspects of the work that I do. I have a tendency to look forward to Friday and live for the weekend. I really love a day off and a snow day is often a dream come true. Getting out of bed in the morning can be rough and watching the minutes slowly tick by can be painful as I sloth my way towards 5 pm. I wish for meetings to end and I sigh heavily as I dive into a less than desirable project. I hustle to close my door to secure quiet moments from the students and my co-workers. I develop a bad attitude and use pretty profane language in reference to my job and sometimes my co-workers. Yeesh, I must sound like a dragon lady. Please know that for the most part, I love my co-workers, the students, and the work that I do. Really, I do.
Unfortunately, this is not a unique story as it seems that most people have a certain loathsome disposition towards the work week. T.G.I.F and FriYay! are all over my newsfeed. Prayers for the Lord to just get people to the weekend are a regular sight and when you ask people how they’re doing at work, they might often respond with, “just two days till Friday” or “just hanging in there until the weekend” and when it’s finally Friday you get that shiny day of the week as a one word response with a big grin. It’s like we’ve crossed a finish line and now get to celebrate our PR, at least until Monday rolls back around and let’s not get started on people’s pure and unbridled hatred of that day of the week.
The Faith and Work Summit wants us, as Christians, to think differently about work. Scott Sauls from Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN decided to slay the stage and drop the mic with all the good words he rained out upon the audience. I’m not Presbyterian and Rev. Sauls was pretty amazing. I’m always looking for a good Word.
First, we, as Christians, are designed for work. “God is a worker.” Whenever we encounter Him in the Bible, He is working by creating or redeeming. When we first meet Him, He is working and when He is done, He rests on the Sabbath. That’s our model for life. We, being made in His image, are created to work. We are a product of His work.
Rev. Sauls spoke about work from a place of Dignity, Mission, and Witness.
I love the quote at the top of the page because we are reminded that there are no little, people, places, or jobs. All of our work is significant and can be used by God. We live in a world of “just”. I remember eating at Logan’s Roadhouse (don’t judge me) with a friend for lunch and our server said, “Oh, I’m just a trainee.” –I looked at her, and said “don’t say that, what you’re doing is important.” I have a visceral reaction to anyone saying they are “just” this or “just” that. What you are doing matters. You have to believe that. I love that he referenced us participating in a “socially constructed hierarchy of vocation”. Lawyers, Doctors, Bankers, CEOs, College Presidents at the top and Plumbers, Sanitation Workers, Housekeepers, and Exterminators at the bottom with the rest of us shoved into the middle. But can you imagine a world in which we did not have Sanitation Workers? A world full of Lawyers and no Sanitation Workers? I mean, tell me who should be on top of the hierarchy in that world? Sanitation Workers are Royalty! Remember, Matthew 20:16, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” At some point, this will all be flipped on its head. All vocations matter and contribute to the bigger picture.
He told a story that ended with the lesson, “whatever lane you’re in, you’re launching a rocket.” I thought about that on Thursday and Friday morning. No matter how insignificant I might feel my job is in this world, I have to internalize that, I’m launching a rocket. Whatever I am doing is contributing to God’s masterpiece. Finding the dignity in my work and showing others the same is a critical element of integrating my faith with my vocation.
I grew up with a grandmother, aunt, and mother who all worked as cleaning women and nannies. My grandmother was the definition of The Help. My mom cleaned hotel rooms, and my aunt and mother did in-home healthcare. When I was younger, I didn’t look highly upon this caste of work and I vowed to never have to do anything like that in my life. As I’ve gotten older, I understand now how honorable that work is and that I’m blessed to have had women in my life who worked ridiculously hard to “launch a rocket.” There is dignity in their work and the contributions they made to the lives of others by engaging in this work. I am sure that as they were cleaning up after others, helping to make life easier for the ill and elderly, and raising other people’s children that they served as proof to others that God is real.
“God has invited you to partner with him in something meaningful.” –What if this is the way we thought about work? A partnership between you and God to do something meaningful in this world. How could you not be excited to go to work? There is a thrill in ingesting this as your truth.
Work has a mission element to it and can be a calling. In whatever area you work, you are helping to forward the mission of God. I’m an educator and he stated that this is reflective of the wisdom and mind of God.
Last, he spoke about Witness and that “awareness in God’s work should compel us and liberate us to go for it.” We have read of and heard of His great works. We know the beautiful results of His work. We’ve witnessed it. Because we know this, why wouldn’t we want to work? His grace and His mercy will carry us through and His arms are always open to us. “There is no year end review with God.” He’s not going to fire you. So, do the work, develop a desire to do the work, and feel free to do the work with the full knowledge that He’s in your corner.
I sometimes get nervous about launching new programs at work or I’m unsure how to handle a predicament that a student has dropped on my round table. My students are often a great deal more “book smart” than I am and sometimes that can be a little overwhelming but I know the goodness of His work and letting these feelings hold me back is not necessary and it isn’t what He wants from me in this world. He wants me to do work and keep His example in mind.
The goal is to not shape my identity around success and another speaker urged us to “ignore the pull of the concern for the end result.” Be in the midst of the process of your work.
The way that I view work, the way that I approach my work, the way that I do my work should be wrapped around my faith. Now, this can often be a bit hard for me to think about because I work at a private institution and we’ve had some grumbling with faith-based organizations and their connection to the University. We work to be a diverse and inclusive institution on all spectrum of identity. What I was reminded of is that, my job is not to baptize people in the middle of the student center, my job is to just love people. Love them, be there for them, listen to them, support them, laugh with them, allow them to cry, be thoughtful, pass along any knowledge that I possess, be a friendly face, a warm heart, create environments and opportunities for them to thrive, and sometimes I’ve found that college students just want a hug. A very appropriate hug. My job is not to “get them saved”. My job is to be a shining example of God’s love. That’s it.
I have students who are openly believers and I have students who I’ve never once had a conversation about faith. And that’s fine, because my only job is for them to feel like there’s something good about me being in their midst. That goodness is that my work is backed by Him.
To be honest, I’m a pretty moody person and on top of that, I’m a task oriented human being. When I get into a project–I don’t like to be disturbed. I like when people make appointments and it’s really hard for me to get back on track after being interrupted. I have outbursts of chatter and giggles and the next moment, I’m done with everyone and just want to be left alone. I have a quick temper. I only have a certain level of tolerance for feelings and on most days, I just want to tell people that they need to get up and shake it off. I have to work really hard to have good empathetic and developmental conversations. We didn’t do that in my family. We just kept moving and all the “stuff” dealt with itself or just never was dealt with at all. I’m a roller coaster, my friends. I’m perfectly imperfect.
What I hope and what I will now begin to pray is that I create a new outlook on work. Because I know that I’m blessed to have the work that I have in my life. That I see my work and the work of others from a place of Dignity, Wisdom, and Mission. That I believe that I am launching a rocket and that I’m in a partnership with God to do so. God is a worker and that part of me being His means that I’m a worker too. I am made for it. My job is not to get people saved, it is simply to love them. My success is not the numbers on my Success Plan but instead in how I’m forwarding the mission of Christ. My vocation matters and He can use me and my work for a greater purpose. When I wake up in the morning, I am going to do His good work and I have to remind myself of this every time I find myself in the valley wishing for Friday. God’s work isn’t just in the church and isn’t just for pastors and missionaries. All good work is God’s work.
There was then a really strong panel that I’ll talk about in another post. What a full and blessed night!
I now have to pick up Timothy Keller’s, Every Good Endeavor, to dig deeper into this topic.
What about you? What’s your perspective on work and the integration of your faith with your vocation?
Krystal “Do Work” Clark