Welcome to the end of week 10 in your 90-Day Goal pursuit. This week focused on work, both how we experienced it and what the Bible says about how God designed work.
Os Guinness in his seminal work, The Call, offers a perspective on work that has stuck with me over the years. As you turn to rest and weekly reflection, perhaps this can also help you reflect on your work.
Os talks about calling in this way: “Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.”
Os focuses on the relationship between us and our creator. We are called into a relationship with God, we are called to someone, we are not called to do a thing. The Call is to walk with the Lord.
He does recognize, however, that as we walk with Jesus we work in different ways. And our work can do one of three things: frustrate us, fulfill us, or free us. I wrote about this in a previous blog post and want to offer it again as we wrap our 90-Day Goal Together focus on the meaning of work.
Tip 70: Work Well.
Frustration is the feeling of being upset or annoyed because you cannot change or achieve something. We all have work experiences that frustrate us—an annoying boss, work that doesn’t feel important or useful, work that is inefficient and takes way longer than it should.
Students know the feeling of doing work in a subject that they have no interest in at the moment and can’t appreciate how it will ever be useful in the adult world. Yet frustration can be productive because it can direct us toward making helpful changes. Certain kinds of difficulties and obstacles can actually improve our performance.
More than 3.7 million people have watched Tim Harford’s TED talk “How Frustration Can Make Us More Creative.” He tells great stories about how frustration in our lives leads to innovation. We seek to relieve the pain and pressure of frustration by solving the problem or driving change that generates an improvement.
In my case, my frustrating experience was a big reason that I pivoted out of ministry and into business. So if you are in a job that frustrates you, embrace innovation. Look for the opportunity to be creative and find a new way forward, even if it doesn’t change your job title.
Sometimes our work frees us to pursue the unique call from God on our lives, but this opportunity is not often recognized. Today’s culture loudly tells us to devote the time and energy we spend at work to doing what we love. The implicit message is that if you are employed in a job that isn’t flashy or adventurous, you are somehow selling out.
Dunder Mifflin, the fictitious company that was the setting for the hilarious show The Office, satirizes the experience of people who spend their days selling paper. One reason the show is so funny is because we have all experienced doing rote work that neither energizes us nor seems truly important to the world.
When I was in college, I got a job filing invoices and purchase orders into large filing cabinets for eight hours a day. (Yes, I am so old that I went to college before digital filing systems were commonplace.) But I was so very grateful for it! Why? Because it freed me to pursue my true call. I earned money for school by honorably showing up at work and doing the best job I could do.
Many of us faithfully do good, honest work by day that frees us to do what God calls us to do outside of our 9-to-5, whether for just a season or for a lifetime. I have met many people who are super-grateful for the work they have because it provides them the stability and financial resources necessary to pursue their true, God-given calling.
Nevertheless, our avocation—our hobby or fun space in life—may ultimately become our vocation, our day job. When we lived in California, I got to know a neighbor who started a successful surfboard company out of his garage. He loves to surf! He is energized by thinking about how surfboards can be shaped and optimized for various waves around the world.
Dozens of boards are spilling out of his garage as he experiments and iterates with different materials and shaping processes. His interest in surfing and passion for the sport led him to a place where his avocation and his vocation became one and the same. Like my neighbor, your work can indeed fulfill you.
As you continue on your 90-Day Goal journey and work, remember that our calling is TO someone. We are invited to abide with Jesus. Our work is a meaningful aspect of our lives as we live and participate in God’s great redemption mission in this world. Work at different times will free, frustrate and fulfill us. In each season offer your work to the Lord and he will meet you there.
Please send me your questions, challenges, and suggestions as we continue in the 90-Day Goal Together. I look forward to hearing from you and sharing the journey with you.
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