“Divine service conducted here three times a day.”-Inscription above Ruth Bell Graham’s Kitchen Sink
“Work is love made visible”- Kahlil Gibran
When I first got to Highland Church, one of the first people who came by my office to visit me was a senior saint named Mrs. Pauline.
Mrs. Pauline is still one of my favorite people to go to Church with. She’s petite and wears thick glasses, and talks softly and unassuming. And every weekday Mrs. Pauline gets up and goes to work at the local grocery store as a bagger.
She’s not very strong, but she works hard, and people all over Abilene will wait in a grocery line just to have Mrs. Pauline bag their groceries…including me.
Remember the Manna story in the Old Testament? God sends bread raining down from Heaven? It’s a great story for a children’s bible, but it’s the exception not the rule. Because most of the time in Scripture, God tells people that He will provide for them, we don’t see bread falling from Heaven. Instead, we find God immediately tapping people on the shoulder who are able to work.
God’s daily miracles are to feed the world through farmers and grocery store workers.
I think it’s interesting that the number one selling book related to careers on Amazon, is the Four Hour Work Week. I think that gives us a bit of insight to the culture we live in. We now look at work at a necessary evil that we must deal with to be able to get to the fun stuff of life. The general assumption is that work is a horrible way to spend your time, and so try and get it down to as little time as possible.
We think of work as means to an end, which means we rarely reflect much on where we spend most of our life.
But that fails to see why God gave us work. God could’ve made the world the way the Greek’s dreamed up paradise. He could have made it in a way that it didn’t need tending. But he didn’t. He made the world incomplete, because he wasn’t just creating people, He was creating partners.
When I was in college, one of my Bible professors told me about how he had employed a homeless man earlier in the week. The homeless man was panhandling, and my teacher walked up to him and said that he needed his shed painted. So the homeless man asked him how much it paid, and when my teacher friend offered $40, the homeless man informed him he could make $60 just sitting up here holding a sign. And my professor friend said, “Yeah, but you will sleep better tonight.”
And the man painted the shed.
Because we intuitively know my teacher friend is right, there is something life-giving about the right kind of work…because it’s about contributing to the good of the world.
Now most of the time when I hear people start talking about the value of work, it’s denigrates certain socio-economic classes as lazy or irresponsible. But I’ve noticed that laziness is spread evenly across the economic spectrum. For example…
After Ryan Gosling had starred in the movie The Notebook he found himself depressed and very moody. And eventually he wound up taking a job making sandwiches. Which is not what you might expect a big name new movie star to do. But what I love about this story is the reason Gosling gave for doing it.He told GQ magazine this:
“The problem with Hollywood is that nobody works. They have meals. They go to Pilates. But it’s not enough. So they do drugs. If everybody had a pile of rocks in their backyard and spent everyday moving them from one side of the yard to the other, it would be a much happier place.”
This is what our culture of 4 hour work week doesn’t understand. One of the reasons work matters so much is because it’s part of what it means to be fully human. We are given gifts to use to serve our neighbors, and working is one of the chief ways that we show and receive love.
Which brings me back to Mrs. Pauline. The reason people stand in her line is not because she does a particularly amazing job at bagging groceries (although she is very good), but because she sees each person that comes through her line as a chance for ministry. She asks everyone about their day, takes their bags to the car for them, and then she asks each person if she can give them a hug?
Because, in her words, the world needs a few more people giving hugs.
And judging by her lines at H.E.B, she’s right.
Kahlil Gibran once said that:
“Work is love made Visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.”
Next week, I’ll write about finding joy in our work, but for now, How do you find your work as an outlet for love? Not that your work will always be rainbows and sunshine…But can we learn to see our work as a way to love, and sometimes hug, our neighbor?
May you find work you love, and may your love work.