For Christians, work life is to be woven into our vocation, to be more than a job or career. Working this out can be challenging. If our occupations are to be an integral part of our Father’s creative and sanctifying work, we’ve got quite a bit to do. Aligning our careers with this great vocation is going to take grace and ingenuity.
We are all called by our Father to live the life of Christ in each piece of our world, especially where we spend sixty percent of our waking hours. Cultivating our vocation there is a matter of listening to God in the particulars of our situation and discovering the unique things we’ve been created for. Cultivating our job may mean taking what we have to work with and recreating it.
THE SACRED. THE PROFANE.
The divide in the world is not between the sacred and the secular, it’s between the sacred and the profane. Part of our vocation is to take the profane and make it holy.
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:4
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
Good work adds value to society and serves the common good. It sanctifies the profane. Most of us, when we look at our jobs, need to raise our expectations and “get in the game”. We should challenge each other to never settle for anything less in any aspect of our lives than the spiritual and moral greatness the power of the Holy Spirit makes possible.
CLEANING AS A CALLING
Take the example of a cleaning crew at a University Hospital. While many coworkers viewed the job as mundane, unskilled, and even demeaning, others saw their jobs as valued, highly skilled, and rewarding. For them, cleaning hospital rooms was a calling.
One room housed a comatose patient in rehab waiting to emerge from her coma. Each time a particular worker cleaned the room; she’d take down all the framed paintings and rearrange them. She hoped moving them would spark something, speeding up the patient’s recovery.
When asked if it was part of her job description, she said, “It’s not part of my job, but it’s a part of me.”
She described herself as a healer because she creates safe, sterile spaces where patients can heal. She wasn’t alone. She, along with like-minded coworkers, had creatively expanded their roles in many areas.
Crafting their jobs provided them greater meaning and purpose. But, their personal satisfaction wasn’t the end they were after; it was the outcome of doing something important and of value to society and others.
CHANGING OUR THINKING
There are three particular ways we craft our jobs, adapting the tasks we do, the relationships we have with workers and customers, and the way we think about what we do for a living. The Christian perspective on work has the greatest impact and the one that is most resilient in a shifting and changing economy.
We are “Working for Our Father” 24/7, 365 days a year. This cleaning crew is taking what could be seen as mundane and menial and treating it as the sacred work it is. In truth, it’s God’s work and it’s a vocation they’ve been called to.
The perspective of working for our Father changes everything. Success is in God’s hands, faithfulness in ours. Our call is to bring forth the life that God intended for his creation. We are in unity with his call and will as we serve him and others. As his coworkers, filled with his Holy Spirit, we let others taste the kingdom of God.
The example of the cleaning crew is from a Yale study about job crafting. The faith of these individual workers is unknown but the “are not far from the kingdom of God” Mark 12:34.
These discoveries by academic researchers are not new; they are as old as God’s creation. As we become adept at cultivating our vocation, we can use job crafting to draw others into the work of the kingdom, further aligning them to their own created purpose. How we do that will be specific to our situations and take a little creativity. But then, creativity has always been a big part of our Father’s work.