Saturday, May 24, 2008

Work and Calling

A conversation with some friends the other night has led me to ponder the question of work and calling. We were sitting in their living room, enjoying a beautiful sunset over an evergreen-lined bay, when the Beve began speaking of how exhausted he's been this year. Now the Beve, I could easily make the case, is a man who takes his job very seriously. Seriously enough that exhaustion is a natural byproduct. He puts in many, many extra hours. Up at the crack of dawn hours to get all his work done hours. He does this because he feels called to his job, literally called to it, certain that it's the ministry God has for him, with his daily interactions with the shattered kids of this town, the broken families they come from, the splintered teachers who try to teach them, the hurting staff who aid the process. No one is whole in this world after all, and practically everyone in the school finds the Beve to talk to (he's an oddly healthy man)--one way or another. And he loves, truly loves, the conversations he has with all these people, from the teens to the janitors, when they dig into something real, and pull out something that challenges and moves both Beve and the other person to a new place. Beve lives for these conversations. He was called to them!

Unfortunately, there are increasing portions of his 'calling' that do not involve these kinds of conversations. Paperwork swamps him, the tasks have been laid on him by the school, district, state and even national legislation --some he even questions--he has no recourse but to comply with it, or the kids he serve will be the ones who suffer. And as he is toppled beneath these growing requirements, the profound sense of calling wavers, and he begins to feel like he has merely a job. Merely work.

Many of us get here, don't we? We begin our careers with high expectations. A sense that we were made for this. We study, plan and proceed out into the field of our dreams, knowing all's right with the world, if we're doing what God created us to do. And then we discover, to our secret--or verbal--dismay, that our calling is work. Labor. A job. That much of it is boring, distasteful and nothing to write home about, thank you very much. And before you know it, we're living for the week-ends, and counting the days until vacation, and then until retirement. I have to admit, it's like this for me. Now I know, some of you reading this--those of you who know me very well--are saying, 'but she doesn't even have a job.' But I do, you know. And it's been stinkin' boring the last few years, and trust me, I've wanted to throw in the towel more times than I've wanted to keep doing it, and there hasn't even been a paycheck as reward for my toil. What kind of idiot would continue to do this, I ask you? Seriously, I ask you.
One who remembers, that's who. One who remembers the moment I knew it was a calling. And remembers enough of the joy to keep going when it's boring. And then there's this:

The other night when we were talking, it hit me again that calling and work are always inexorably linked. Aren't they? Think about it. Even when God called Adam to his work--it was work. There is always an element of labor in it. Our friend said, "There are some people who enjoy what they do, day after day." "Yes," I said. Maybe. But there's still always an element of having to do it, day after day. "For six days you shall labor, but remember the Sabbath and keep it holy." Work and calling--God meant it to be this way, I think. Tied together. Maybe He meant there to be some element of work--some earning it, to put it in Old Testament terms--in your calling. Participation in His Kingdom, working out your calling with fear and trembling...there are truly lots of verses that come to mind about this. It's an encouragement, really it is. Your job, your calling. Good things together. What did He call you to? Work at it with all your heart.

PS. The Beve just walked in, and I have to quote him because it's a window into the man I live with.
"You want to know the key to finding a bungy cord? You have to think like a bungy cord.
I come back to hit myself all the time."

Yep, that's my Beve.

No comments: