Blog - Grasping Vocation
PINING ON THE JOB?Saturday, May 18, 2013
Midway through my undergraduate years in Wheaton College, I married Sharon Cole of Seattle. The day after our wedding in her hometown, we started the 2,000-mile drive to Illinois. For the next three years, we made our home there. Sharon worked in Chicago, while I completed my college degree. After graduation, I worked as an editor/writer for Scripture Press Publications. We returned to the State of Washington in 1964.
Let me hasten to add at this point that Sharon has read and okayed what follows. Today, looking back on our time in the Midwest, Sharon recalls "pining,” because she missed her friends and family back home. (Webster explains that "to pine” is to yearn intensely and persistently.) Years later, when we visited Wheaton and the college campus, Sharon’s jaw dropped at the beauty she had been unable to see while living there.
I suspect many in the work world are enduring something similar, "pining” until they can retire. In his book, Working, Studs Terkel quotes a librarian who remembers what work meant to her dad: "My father was a mechanical engineer, hated every day of it. He couldn’t wait forty-six years, or whatever it was, until he retired.” Some see their work as having little more value than as a means of paying the bills.
Many Christians look forward to the time when, no longer tethered to a job, they may devote their time to "serving God. " In a recent survey of 41 Christians, 20 said they sometimes think God would be more pleased if they went to work in a church-related job.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French philosopher and Jesuit priest, said: "I don’t think that I am exaggerating when I say that nine out of ten practicing Christians feel that man’s work is always at the level of a spiritual encumbrance.”
But do we have to wait until retirement before the way we spend the bulk of our time is really significant? Is the first half (or three-quarters) of life nothing more than an earning spree to fund those years that finally count? If so—like Sharon in Illinois—we may miss out on the "life to the full” Jesus came to give us in every phase of our time on earth.
The Israelite exiles experienced something comparable living far away from home for 70 years in Babylon. They pined to return to the land God had promised to their people long before. So through Jeremiah, God sent them this message—several parts of which called for them to work:
"Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper" (Jer. 29:5-7).
In other words: Stop pining! Put your whole heart into the place and the work God has given today. Don’t let the dream of lusher pastures in some far-off time or place cause you to miss the green grass all around you right now.
We don’t know what might have been causing Christian slaves in Ephesus to give less than their best to their daily work. But something in their situation must have prompted Paul to instruct them: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Col. 3:23).
Whatever your work, you are surrounded with significance—right now, and not just "someday.” There are dark pockets needing light. Earth-stewarding tasks on hold for someone to do them well. Christians almost ready to give up for lack of encouragement. Unbelievers still waiting to see the gospel authentically lived out in the real world. Stresses and temptations put into your work life to strengthen the sinews of your faith. Don’t let pining blind you to those opportunities. Seize the day.