“Do you want to Change the world, or do you want to sell Sugar Water?” -Steve Jobs asking a Pepsi executive to come to Apple
“Put that stupid book down!” -my wife while giving birth
So first, a confession, I was reading Every Good Endeavor on Christmas morning. Which was unfortunate, because we were in the hospital having a baby. And I mistook Leslie’s being quiet with being comfortable, which I found out later was a very, very bad idea.
But it was ironic, because the part of the book that I was reading was all about Genesis 3. The fall, the moment in Genesis after the world has turned from God.
This is where we find out the ground of the Garden of Eden has turned into rocky soil and our relationships had turned sour and become tainted with ideas of power and frustration. And it was also the part where the Bible talks about labor, both the labor of child birth and everyday work kind of labor…as if the two things were somehow related.
The Problem of Work
I once read an article where the guy who invented the remote control talked about how he had such big dreams for his invention. He thought that he was honestly going to make the world a better place. That people who were disabled and elderly would be able to be in more control of their life. He had no idea the kind of laziness epidemic he was about to unleash.
The remote control was built to help humanity, instead it is now a universal symbol of not wanting to get out of your chair.
When we started researching the atom it was meant to help humanity thrive, not create the atomic bomb.
If you haven’t seen the above quote from Steve Jobs before, it’s to John Sculley an Executive at Pepsi…and it worked. Sculley left to work for Apple. Because Jobs was tapping into a deep part of what it means to be human. To work to make the world better. So he came to Apple, and immediately began a power struggle with Steve Jobs. Sculley made some incredible innovations at Apple, but just a cursory look at his life lets you see how frustrating it was.
Here’s the thing about Genesis 3. Notice exactly what God tells Adam and Eve:
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food
Yes, there are thorns now, but there is still food. Yes you will be frustrated, yes you will wish things were different, or moved faster or slower, or better. Or that the Remote Control wouldn’t give us lazy people another excuse not to move.
One of the joys of living in a college town, is being around students who are considering their calling. And every now and then they start to focus in on something but then realize that it is a career with a downside, or that wouldn’t fulfill them as much as they had hoped. I think this actually comes from the best possible place. They really do want to change the world, and I consistently tell them this:
Changing the World?
About a third of the time I come home from work frustrated. I got an email that wasn’t pleasant, or the sermon isn’t coming together the way I’d hoped, or the church isn’t seeing the potential in a new idea, or a person I cared about passed away or got sick. Every week, there’s a couple of days that are incredibly hard and difficult and make me start thinking about what life would be like if I sold insurance.
And I love my job.
I don’t want to do anything else.
I love the church that I work at. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.
But I still get frustrated.
Just because you are frustrated with your job, doesn’t mean that you aren’t in the right calling. Because Genesis says that our work will be both frustrating and rewarding.
The other day I was talking with a friend of mine who owns and runs a non-profit that helps homeless people with addictions by giving them shelter and work. It’s his dream job. And he goes home half the time very discouraged.
In any vocation, there are days when you want to walk away.
In every job, there are people or systems that will frustrate you, and you will never get exactly what you want.
One of the things about my generation is that we do want to change the world, but we also have a sense that we should be able to. That it’s almost a right to be able to not just make a dent in the universe but to see the dent we make. But most of us will die witho
ut having any idea the size of difference we made. And if you lean on your job to feel alive, or to justify your existence you will find yourself miserable, no matter what you choose to do.
So, I’m sitting in the hospital room reading about thorns and food, just as we are expecting to add bring another child into the world. And I’m nervous for Leslie,. Because it is hard work. The pain is incredible. (I’ve been told that it’s a bit like taking your bottom lip and pulling it over your head.)
And it struck me later that there is a reason they call child birth “labor.”
I realized I was watching a microcosm of life, and especially of work.
Because the world is filled with thorns.
But ask any mother, the fruit is worth it.