Book 2, Chapter 2
-Part 3 continued some more-
We have been discussing the work life, and how to make sense of it in light of the spirituality that comes to us from God through Christ.
It would be less than thorough for us to think about employment in a theoretical vacuum. On a realistic level, let us consider that work in the workaday world involves demanding supervisors, impossible co-workers, boring and needless staff meetings, a fair amount of drudgery, physical pain (if not harm), and brings about illnesses, stress-related disorders and exhaustion in its various forms.
Work was initially a blessing for Man – a way that Adam and Eve could participate to some extent as co-sustainers in the Creation that God had made: “The sign of man’s familiarity with God is that God places him in the garden. There he lives ‘to till it and keep it.’ Work is not yet a burden, but rather the collaboration of man and woman with God in perfecting the visible creation.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 378.)
The blessing of work was broken by the Fall, and God told Adam that his blessed relationship with work was now cursed. “By the sweat of your face you will earn your food” (Genesis 3:19).
American workers spend about 93,000 hours at their places of employment. The bulk of the workforce is dissatisfied with the job they now have. Sixty-three percent of the employed, says one survey, hope to find something better to do for a living in the near future. (Another survey says half that, about one-third, hope to change jobs in the near future. The trick is to find the survey that helps prove your point, I guess.)
It is no easy task to bring our spiritual life to bear on our work life. Even people who have church-related jobs are vulnerable to the same staleness, dissatisfaction and doldrums that the rest of us face.
In my last post, I mentioned that “work is intrinsically honorable and valuable.” I realize what a hard sell that is for today’s worker.
From the beginning, life was to give work meaning. It was Adam’s connection in fellowship with God that made tending the garden something enriching and beneficial for the man. Obviously, this has been overturned, and now, to many of us, work gives life meaning.
The unemployed are especially sensitive to this. I have received some unemployment benefits in my day, and can agree with others that the loss of income is a significant challenge, but so is the loss of identity. The unemployed struggle to find something useful to do as much as they struggle with finding something income-based to do. Difficulty in finding work creates a sense of powerlessness and defeat in an afflicted individual.
Possibly, we have looked to work for goodness in life, rather than God. We may have looked to work for our identity, rather than the sonship with which God identifies us. We have considered work to be that which provides for us, rather than acknowledging that it is God who is our ultimate provider. We have perhaps thought of achievement as work-related rather than the extent to which we have reflected the life of Christ to the world – especially to those around us.
If we are not careful, we could discover that we have abandoned ourselves to work rather than to divine providence.
While work was originally a blessing in the context of a life with God, it has now become the context in which life is lived (with or without God), and is a poor substitute as a context for life. This reversal is generations deep and is not easily changed in the heart of the Christian who is trying to attain a proper view of things.
In work, as in ministry, Caussade reminds us: “It is the voice of the Bridegroom that should awaken the spouse, who should act only in so far as she is animated by the Holy Spirit, for in acting apart from that influence, the soul accomplishes nothing” (Page 61).
Again we are encouraged to consider the “now” as sacred, and to accept our state of life as it is on this day so that we can better see and better engage in the greater context of our life, which is that we belong to Christ as His beloved, and that we embrace the attendant responsibilities from our belonging and belovedness.