The Work

A life worthy

A few thoughts about work on your Labor Day.

Once upon a time, while sitting in an airport in Bucharest

Great start to a story, isn’t it?  I should follow up with a tale of espionage, intrigue, fast cars, and spiffy accents.

Except, I’m me.

Once upon a time, while sitting in an airport in Bucharest waiting for my flight, I observed two men toiling at a job both menial and fraught with danger.

They were window washers…sort of.

Actually, they could best be described as skylight washers, but without the special equipment you may have come to expect from your average semi-professional skylight washers.  No scaffolding for these men, no sissy safety belts—if you fall, well, that’s just job security for the custodian.  Simply two men, a hose, and a long, long rope.

The operation went something like this:  Skylight Washer #1 was stationed on the roof of the airport—oh, say, 30 feet up.  SW #2 was stationed directly below, standing on the marble floor of the terminal. (I think the floor was marble—it looked very marbleish.  If you are familiar with the 1990 Bucharest International Airport terminal, and know that I am mistaken, please correct me.  If not, just take my word for it and move on.)

In any case, SW#1 would remove a 2ft. x 6ft.-ish panel of glass from the skylight, wrap his trusty rope around it—a single loop, no more, I’m sure it will be fine—and lower it gently to SW#2 who was, I repeat, waiting about 30ft. directly below, and surrounded by passengers making their way through the terminal.

What could possibly go wrong?

As it happened, nothing went wrong, though I must admit to a morbid fantasy that involved twelve square feet of glass hitting that marbleish floor and exploding like a mortar round.

By the way, this all happened on that glorious April 1990 morning when the Romanian airline pilots discovered the joys of capitalism and went on strike, so I had plenty of time to watch, being stranded and all.

Once the glass panel reached the floor, SW#2 would untie the rope, hoist the glass in his burly arms, and descend a flight of stairs.  I can only assume there was a hose and drain of some sort down there; SW#2 would invariably return to the surface with a cleanish, dripping wet pane of glass.  He would retie the rope around the pane and call to his partner, who would hoist it aloft to its nest in the roof.

One down; several hundred to go.

When I started this post, I was going to use that story to illustrate a rather delightful rant about inefficiency.  It’s a plague I’ve been enduring of late.  However, I have had some conversations recently that have sent me in a different direction.

So, here’s the different direction:  Do you think those two men felt called to be skylight washers?

Seriously.  I mean, we spend so much time wondering if our lives are fulfilling, if we are doing what we were “meant” to do.  I wonder if that’s healthy?  I wonder if those two men were pining for lost dreams, or if they were simply glad to have a job to do so they could feed their families.

I don’t think Charles Ingalls questioned his calling to be a farmer.  He was too busy farming.

This blog, as you may have noticed, is inspired by Ephesians 4:1

As a prisoner for the Lord, therefore, I urge you to life a life worthy of the calling you have received…

But the idea there is really about my calling to follow Christ, as well as the callings to husband, to father, to teach.  It’s less about what I do, and more about how I do what I do.

Still, I see people worried about their “calling.”  Either they’re sad because they aren’t doing what (they think) God has called them to do, or they’re depressed because they can’t find their “calling.”  I’ve certainly been there.  It kind of reminds me of a ‘60s-style drifter, wandering the country trying to “find himself.”

The more I think about it, the more I think that this drive to find some higher sense of purpose and fulfillment is an unpleasant byproduct of our affluent society.  If I plopped you down in the middle of name your deserted rugged wilderness, your calling would become a simple one: survive.

I can’t think of any Biblical characters searching for their calling.  If God had something particular in mind for them, he had several delightful ways of making it known.  Otherwise, the heroes of the faith simply did what was in front of them to the best of their abilities and to the glory of God.

I look in Scripture and I see that we are called to follow Christ.

We are called to hope.

We are called to peace.

We are called to be saints.

Again, it’s more about how we do than what we do.

Could it really be that simple?  Is it really just a matter of,

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man (Colossians 3:23)?

How freeing is that?

So, here it is: Michael’s formula for finding God’s calling on your life.

Ready?  You can take notes if you want.

Step #1 Do what’s right in front of you.

Step #2 Do it with joy, thanksgiving, and “as working for the Lord.”

Step #3 If the opportunity arises to do something that you are good at, that brings you joy, and that honors God, take it.

Step #4 Repeat Steps #1 and #2.

Maybe I’m wrong; perhaps God will call you to disagree with me.  If so, be gentle in your correction—my heart’s in the right place.

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