In less than a month I'll be back working at school. I'm trying not to think about that yet. Of course, I'm still working--I'm just not getting paid for it. Some days I love my job, some days I can't wait to get home (unless I'm working at home--then I can't wait to get a bike ride or a swim in a lake or some other opportunity to get away).
I was at a team meeting at church this morning. Our pastoral associate brought up work: noticing the stress people carry from their jobs, the time consuming hours, the struggle with work and faith. It's the same for most of us. We put in our time, to make money, to have the American Dream. Only it causes more stress than a dream-fulfilled life.
In my book (here's a little taste of things for those who haven't read it yet) I address how one of the cultural traps we fall into is looking at our job as a career. Then we're stuck. We're only able to try and get ahead and make more money. We're defined by what we do.
Instead, I propose we use the language of "vocation." It comes from the Latin for "calling." What if we look at our work as a place God calls us to, to serve Him? (And maybe we need to look to our spiritual community for more discernment in where God has called us at times.) We tend to think of calling only for those in full-time ministry, but I believe God has called us all (you're going to have to read my book for more about what that means).
Vocation means we work for God, not just a boss. It means we are there to serve and look for areas where the Kingdom of God is at hand. It means God is present with us at all times and we can learn to practice His presence. The monastic community knows about this. Even though they are called to ministry, most of them spend their time teaching, washing dishes, farming, etc. But wherever they are working, they see it as an opportunity to serve and love. They also know how to play and enjoy life (which we seldom picture them as doing, but it's part of why they can work so well).
The other aspect that I think most of us miss out on is God's commandment of Sabbath. Often we think of honoring the Sabbath as simply attending church. That may be part of it (but not necessarily--when I was in ministry, church was work and my Sabbath took place on another day of the week), but it is more about the rhythms of our life. We work and we rest. That's how God designed it.
We take one day where we trust God with our checkbook and don't make any income. It's easy to be legalistic about the Sabbath, but I try to do as little work as possible. When we've Sabbathed well, we've even made our meals the day before so we don't have to spend time working in the kitchen. I sometimes need a restful, playful time with my family; I sometimes need a little quiet time for myself. Sabbath will probably look different for each person, but I believe it is a need in our life rhythms.
I confess that I haven't done either of those things well lately. I've been working for years on practicing the presence of God wherever I'm working. I'm still not very disciplined at it. But the days I invite God into my job and seek to serve Him and others tend to be the more enjoyable days.
We haven't developed good Sabbath rhythms well yet, either. After our move to Minnesota, Beth worked irregular hours, so we never had one set day. I would try and do Sunday, but it's not easy when it's only part of your family doing it. And now that we need to bring food to church for supper, we're often doing some work on Sunday afternoons. We do take time to rest and enjoy time together; we just haven't done well at creating the rhythms for it that we need to work well.
Those are my intentions, however. And I fully believe that they help us shift our mindset about work and make life more abundant. But, again, be sure to check out my book, and leave some comments on your experience with work, faith, life, and the balance of it all.