As I write, I am taking it easy on Labor Day. I really was planning on biking this morning, but the rain last night (and sleeping late after my daughter’s birthday party) compelled me to stay inside. So far, it’s been a good day. As I relax, at the same time I am thinking of how much I appreciate the opportunity to work, not just to pay the bills but to do something with my life that makes a difference.
Labor Day came about in the late 1800’s after a labor union strike where a number or workers were killed at the hands of the government. President Cleveland sought reconciliation with the union chief, and congress unanimously approved rush legislation to make Labor Day a national holiday. It had, however, for years been developing in various states as a reflection of the strength of the American worker.
The day has become a relaxing rite of passage at the end of summer, a great day to go shopping, a time to put away my new seersucker in the closet, and an afternoon to fire up the grill. This is what Labor Day is about, but there is so much more. It is about celebrating work as an expression of the human spirit.
Today, I am pondering Christianity’s unique understanding of work. For Christians, life is not about toiling hard to get the rewards you deserve. It’s not about success, achievement, or getting ahead. We operate instead from the larger vision of being part of the body of Christ. Our work reflects how we fit in to what the Spirit is doing in our broken world.
The word vocation comes from a root word meaning a “calling” or “summons”. For Christians, our occupation is not a choice but a response to the designs of the Holy Spirit, who imparts gifts on God’s people. I am reading a book by spiritualist Parker Palmer called “Let Your Life Speak,” the title reflecting a Quaker phrase. Christian understanding of work is rooted in the spirituality of the incarnation … our task is to be the hands and feet of Christ, an expression of God’s love in the world. Life is not just about working hard but about being the presence of Christ for others. In short, it’s about finding your voice. It’s about living a life beyond desires for your own happiness and security, with a higher purpose in mind. Each of us find our voice in the world, and every voice needs to be heard.
The concept of a calling is not just for clergy. Each of us discovers joy when we let our soul speak its own truth. The Christian concept of vocation is at odds with popular attitudes about self-actualization and following one's dreams. Our vocation is a gift of God, not a goal to achieve.
How are you letting your life be an expression of God’s desires for you? How are you letting your life speak, unfolding the gifts and passions God has placed in you?
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20