Daily Proverbial, 20 June 2011

Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men. Proverbs 22, verse 29.

Here are I am, on a Monday morning, sitting at an airport gate (specifically gate C12 at DFW). I’m waiting to fly back to Minnesota where I will work this week on another healthcare project. I don’t know how many dozens of flights I’ve now taken in my career, and I’ve lost count of what number project this is. It’s a good job, pays well, with travel perks that many people envy. It also comes at a cost, specifically being away from my home and the people there who need me more than the people at the HMO in Minneapolis need me. It’s the career I know and the one my choices have built. I’m thankful for it, and judging from my client set this time around, I think I can reasonably say that I’m skilled at it.

We are born to work. Have you ever thought of that as a blessing? It’s Monday morning and, to be sure, it is tough waking up when the weekend was so busy. On a Monday, have you ever thought “I get to go to be blessed in my job today” and then gone in with a smile? Me neither.

What’s more, have you ever thought that your work could be noticed by a king? Ever thought that you’d be doing your job one day – around the house, in your cube, at your station, making your rounds, wherever – when Will and Kate show up just to see you? Or maybe your CEO will drop by and say, “I’ve been watching you and you’re doing a great job!” Me neither again. Personally, I’m very OK if my CEO never comes by my desk. May the Good Lord bless and keep him…far away from me.

Awhile back in these proverbs, we talked about how vocation is a blessing, how we are made to work and that this is a good thing. That’s a periodic subject of discussion at my church; briefly, it was again yesterday. Where one of the lead pastors has a men’s ministry calling, it’s an important one as well, especially on this day after Father’s Day. Men truly are validated by our vocations, and that’s a very good thing. While it’s so important for both sexes to be satisfied in their work, I’ve read a number of books (with which I agree) that say men especially are defined and validated by what we do for others. Call it the need to provide, instinct, or primal competitiveness: we men are assured by what we do, and success at what we do helps define how we relate in every other area in our lives.

I think that’s the single biggest reason why so many men, myself included, are driven to work, driven to do our most and best at work. We are internally spurred on to prove to our peers, our families, our friends, our God and ourselves (pretty much in that order) that we can succeed and provide. We are emotionally driven to prove that we can make the grade and that we can do whatever it takes to put food on the table and satisfaction in our hearts. A home, status, clothes, food, kids safe in their beds and a satisfied mate in ours are just some of the fruits of our labor.

If you read up on your Scripture, you find it’s how we’re wired. We do what we do because God made us to work. He blessed us to labor, even before the fall from grace. After all, Adam and Even were blessed to work the Garden and make it fruitful…two young people working naked in the sunshine; no further comment needed here. But you see where I’m going, don’t you? We were made to work and work was given to us to be a blessing in our lives. The frustration of rebellion is what made it a drudgery, not the work itself and certainly not the God who instituted it.

What’s more, when we do well in our jobs, we have the attention of our superiors. By and large, I think most managers and bosses notice when you do a good job; by and large, I think most good work is rewarded. Sometimes the reward is a bonus, or a verbal attaboy, or a promotion. Sure, you sometimes work in positions that aren’t well-managed; ask me about why I left several companies. And, sure, sometimes we work in jobs that we really don’t like but we do so for good reasons, usually to provide or serve others; by Wednesday, when I’m homesick and pining again for the one I love, remind me of my own words. Through all that, I believe that those above me will notice when I’ve done well and that just rewards are usually the outcome; ‘timely’ is a different story.

Either way, “God is watching us from a distance;” thank you Bette Midler. In whatever we do for a living, God is not disinterested. He constantly presents us with skills, opportunities, challenges, and chances to excel whether the job is menial or high-profile. He does that so we have the opportunity to talk with others about Him in our lives, so that we can continue our mission in all ways at all times. That’s not a bad job to have.

And it was a good job to remember here at the airport this morning. I had been up since 3:45, and now that it’s nearly 8:45 PM I’m starting to get sleepy. I’ve already had 7 cups of coffee and I’m 10 days off tobacco, so my batteries are running low. But I should get an opportunity to rest on the plane for a few minutes before powering up the laptop again to review the presentation we’re giving to client executives at noon today. Tonight, I’ll be in yet another hotel room with a book to study, phone calls to make, some words to write for tomorrow’s column, and the chance to look forward to doing it again. This may not be the career I set out to make for myself 30 years ago; to be honest, it’s not even the one I dream of doing for the rest of my life. But it is what I have made for myself today, and it’s the product of countless blessings that I can’t even begin to thank God for let alone justify in my oh so unworthy life. I’m thankful for them, and for the daily, forgiving opportunity He gives me to sharpen my skills and serve in new and interesting ways. At the start of a new work-week, it’s my prayer for you that you can say the same.


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