Four walls, three a blank cream just off the colour of pure white–which is, of course, the absence of all colour, creativity, and imagination. The fourth is blue and thank God, it’s the one we face. For six hours each day this week, seated at tables drawn into the shape of horseshoe collecting luck, this is where we sit and theologize about work.
Not about what you’d call vocational ministry, though that’s been a small part. After all, most of those 20 people in class are going into some kind of ministry as vocation, so the topic surfaces now and then. For five of the six hours, though, we’re not talking about the task of preaching, exhorting, comforting, evangelizing or doing otherwise “ministerial” work.
We talk about factories, the grinding sound of machines ringing in ears as the rivets go in, and in, and in, and in again. The same droning task, day after tedious, long day.
We talk about cooking, about chasing after little ones and putting those same littles to bed where they feign sleep in mid-day sun. We talk about cleaning, washing, teaching, disciplining, day after exhausting day.
We talk about working land, digging in with dirt beneath nails, with cracked worn creases and rough, hard callouses that are used to working until the light’s gone, until the work is done, until we’ve done all we can and turn to hope for good weather and God’s blessing.
We talk about the desks, the ivory towers, the glassed-in cages full of meetings with people who know too much and say too little (or very often the opposite). We talk about the hours, the consumption, the temptation for work to become all consuming.
And what does it mean–this work? What does it signify or do? Is there meaning, importance or is it just a means to an end? On my dresser there’s a framed manuscript from Stratford-Upon-Avon where a woman rages that all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Is that what will become of our work?
Even if that was the end of our work (and I don’t think it is–but more on that later), would our work still have meaning?
There is something deeply human about working. It was commanded before the Fall, though certainly the curse has driven a thorn into something which was once so beautiful. Even still, it is good and useful and purposeful.
In the beginning of our world, our collective imagination and understanding of life, in the beginning of all that God created. He rested on the 7th day and somehow, in this workaholic culture, that often becomes the focus. But there were six days before that, six glorious days when God in His beautiful community of Trinity worked.
And He told us to work.
As the imago dei, as the representatives of the divine, we were told to work. Because to do something with the world, to look around, to see things and to make something is a great and glorious way to act like the creative One whose nature we reflect.
So your work, and my work, this blog, the book on your bedside table, the job that pays you on the 15th and 31st has meaning. In some ways, the products may have meaning but that is because they come from you. And you are the image of God, the image bearer who creates, constructs, designs and puts the final flourishes on that latte art, that blue print, that tea bag on the conveyor belt. So you, by your reflection of divinity, give meaning and dignity to that work, that act of creating, changing, adjusting and beautifying.
Your work matters, it has work and value– because you matter. However often we fail to fully reflect God and live out the imago dei, we still are because it isn’t something in us, it’s something we’re in. And when we lend that to our work, it has meaning.
So your work and mine–whatever it may be–has meaning.