A Bodey in Motion

Building momentum, one step at a time

Glad to be working or working to be glad?

Do me a favor and read the following quote from Frederick Buechner‘s The Hungering Dark. It’s a bit wordy, but I think it’s worth it. I’ll share my thoughts with you in a moment.

[image removed]

To Isaiah, the voice said, “Go,” and for each of us there are many voices that say it, but the question is which one will we obey with our lives, which of the voices that call is to be the one that we answer. No one can say, of course, except each for himself, but I believe that it is possible to say at least this in general to all of us: we should go with our lives where we most need to go and where we are most needed.

Where we most need to go. Maybe that means that the voice we should listen to most as we choose a vocation is the voice that we might think we should listen to least, and that is the voice of our own gladness. What can we do that makes us gladdest, what can we do that leaves us with the strongest sense of sailing true north and of peace, which is much of what gladness is? Is it making things with our hands out of wood or stone or paint on canvas? Or is it making something we hope like truth out of words? Or is it making people laugh or weep in a way that cleanses their spirits? I believe that if it is a thing that makes us truly glad, then it is a good thing and it is our thing and it is the calling voice that we were made to answer with our lives.

And also, where we are most needed. In a world where there is so much drudgery, so much grief, so much emptiness and fear and pain, our gladness in our work is as much needed as we ourselves need to be glad. If we keep our eyes and ears open, our hearts open, we will find the place surely. The phone will ring and we will jump not so much out of our skin as into our skin. If we keep our lives open, the right place will find us.

[emphasis added]

For many of us the words work and ministry don’t occupy the same space. They are fundamentally different.

We go to work because we need to provide for a living. Pay is a critical factor. It allows us to have a place to live, put food on our tables, save and grow wealthy. Work is for profit.

We do ministry because we want to grow spiritually. Fulfillment is a critical factor. It allows us to help those in need, give of ourselves, serve and show mercy. Ministry gives us purpose.

Unless you’re a pastor or missionary, those two don’t usually overlap. If we claim to find purpose in our work, then our culture calls us a ‘workaholic’ and counsels us on having balance. And if we’re involved in a ministry, mentioning the word profit is almost dirty.

But Buechner doesn’t say that at all. In fact, he says just the opposite, doesn’t he? He says, “What can we do that makes us gladdest?” In other words, what career will bring us the most joy?

Joy is the dividing hedge, isn’t it? Because making money is work, having money is fun, and giving money is joy, right? So, the thought of making money and experiencing joy seems wrong to us. It’s on the wrong side of the wall. Even for those of us who are doing it, they say things like, “I can’t believe they’re paying me to do this.”

If you’re one of those people, revel in it. Our joy in our work is needed. You are serving and helping those around you while you get to put food on your table. That is a huge blessing. Don’t miss it.

If you’re not one of those people, it’s time to figure out why. And, I’ll confess something here, I’m one of you. Over a decade ago I wandered into my career. I thought it made me successful, but now I know my measure of success was wrong. I was listening to the wrong voice. Today, that’s changed.

What voice are you listening to? Are you working to be glad, or just glad to be working?

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Past and Future, Work and Money | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments