Daily Proverbial, from Ecclesiastes, 29 June 2012

So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him? Ecclesiastes 3, verse 22.

Starting today, I’m taking some time off. In fact, I’m going to take most of next week off, so you won’t be receiving these messages for a few days. The Clan and I are taking a few days of R&R at one of our favorite places: a resort where we’ve stayed several times before. We’ve been saving, planning, and anticipating this trip for months now. I made the reservations late last year, back when the idea of even making it to Independence Day seemed far off. Now, as I’m writing this, the bags are packed, the breakfast burritos (our traditional vacation morning meal) are made, coffee is on a timer, and I’m sharing a few minutes before sleep with you in God’s word.

Indeed, all this is possible because of Him and because He made it possible for us to work. Most days I enjoy my job, something I haven’t always been able to say. Had you read this verse to me three years ago I might have mocked you for it. At that time, I was switching companies and feeling professionally and personally adrift. I had finished a very successful project, and it was one of the most rewarding times of my life. I wouldn’t trade how I felt in those days…and I wouldn’t want to ever go through those that followed again. Who can see what would happen after me? Heck, I couldn’t see what would happen within the next twenty minutes. Many mistakes, a few triumphs, the love of good people, a patient wife and family, and three years later, I’m finally in a place where I feel secure and valued. I enjoy what I do even though I work in an industry that now promises to undergo radical change thanks to the wiles of the US government. Still, I’m blessed to do what I do and be thankful for where I am. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow – nobody does – but I do believe my best days are still ahead.

If you ask my wife whether or not she likes her job, I think she’d tell you “absolutely” but that she’d also agree she pays a high physical, emotional and even spiritual price for working where she does. Her workplace is chronically understaffed for a number of reasons, all of which usually end up on her desk. She’s on her feet all day, keeping things running at a pre-school with nearly 200 students and a babied staff of forty. When she isn’t on her feet, she’s at her desk doing balance sheets, schedules, enrollment and administrative reports, and handling boo boo’s and communications with pushy parents who expect much while giving little. This is actually her dream job, and I know she get tremendous satisfaction from it. Still, if you asked her some days, especially those of late, “do you want to quit,” she might have to think over the answer.

Sometimes I envy her, envying that she has so much to do. My work is feast or famine. I crave having many things to do. The devil’s work comes from idle hands after all; I know this too well. You know, I really need this vacation after all!

Please understand, I’m not whining or bragging. I genuinely feel for those who are out of work, or those who are unable to take a trip like we are. Been there, done that, hope to not do it again but even I understand that times change and times are now hard. My career has changed course several times in the last 30 years and it could always change again. Knowing that, I’ll give thanks and dive in to enjoying what time off I’m taking. We’ve had several short weekend getaways but in reality this is the first family vacation we’ve had since 2008. If you think of me tomorrow, please think of me sitting in a lounge by the pool.

During that time off, I think I’ll noodle this verse. Here on the third rock from the sun there is nothing better than to work. If that’s all you want to live for, then go ahead and live to work. Don’t bother working to live and don’t bother taking time to stop and smell the proverbial roses. You and I usually don’t. But is that what you really want? If it is, don’t be surprised when you get to retirement asking yourself “is that it?” Shouldn’t our work be fulfilling as well as a fiduciary reward?

Maybe there is a better way. Maybe that better way is to find the work you enjoy and work hard at it as an act of service, of worship, of devotion. It’s a bit like the adage of “if you work at what you love you’ll never work a day in your life.” I believe that, if you work with what you love, you can do so being thankful, making the most of your talents, and doing so as a serving witness of how you’re blessed. When you do that – when WE do that – we aren’t just working: we’re using our vocation as a way to give thanks to Him who blessed us with it. What’s more, I believe that’s what the verse is saying even as it doesn’t say it in such words.

That’s even better than a few days away poolside in Arizona. I’ll think about that, too, while I’m away. Have a great weekend and better days ahead my friend.

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