Look closely at this photo. Note how attentive the teacher is. Like most teachers she is putting a great deal of effort into her daily work. What she is doing involves mind and heart. Sometimes teachers do not immediately find personal satisfaction, but know that in the long run teaching matters not only to this class but to society as a whole.
Take a few minutes to write in your journal about:
• a teacher or mentor who has brought out or brings out the best in you;
• something you have done to help someone learn from you;
• the quality of your relationship at work with a fellow employee, a customer, your boss.
As a human being you are called to love and to work. Your work includes taking care of daily life activities, first of all. The rest of your time probably includes helping other people at home, serving in various volunteer capacities, and, for many people, the work of earning a living. Psychologists say that meaningful work and meaningful relationships are necessary to human wholeness.
Work can be any physical or mental effort, any purposeful activity. All such work contributes in some way to the building up of family, neighborhood, civic, and church communities. When you build life-giving relationships, show compassion, work, or in any way serve others, you are participating in the creative work of God.
The Book of Genesis speaks of the work of creation as God’s work. Reflect on these words from the creation story: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness….hus evening came, and morning followed–the first day” (Genesis 1:2-5).
God continues with the other “days” of creation, always seeing “how good it was.” You remember how the creation story ends with these words: “Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed….God rested on the seventh day from all the work God had undertaken (Genesis 2:1-4).”
The creation story is, of course, a poetic interpretation, not a scientific account, of how the world and everything in it came into being. But it shows that there is a rhythm to all creation, including human creativity and work. Like all of creation, human work is good–and good for everyone. A Christian spirituality of work values the significant contribution work makes to life and at the same time acknowledges human limitations.
Jesus also shows the value of work. During his lifetime he is identified as a worker, the carpenter’s son. In his stories and parables Jesus shows that he is familiar with all kinds of work: fishing, sowing grain, working in a vineyard, sweeping floors, making bread, like Jesus, Christians should consider work an expression of a person’s love for God and solidarity with others in order to bring about God’s reign.
Extending your heart and mind beyond yourself involves creativity in using your imagination. Working creatively can move you beyond the merely routine and repetitious. If you feel trapped in a job that gives you little joy or fulfillment, you might think about other ways of self-expression and creativity.
Turn to your journal now and ask yourself:
While work is a vital dimension of humanity, for some people it can become obsessive or addictive. You may have heard of people who replace God and even family with the gods of success, ambition, or power. Being a “workaholic” means being addicted to work, and as a result, being subject to burnout and despair. True work needs to be balanced by prayer and leisure. (Leisure is the topic of part 7 of this Retreat.)
Ideally through your work you should be able to express yourself, share with others, and contribute to the building up of the world. Any work, no matter how routine or “boring,” can become a blessing for others and ourselves. As a human being, you are challenged to be a co-creator with God.
Gardening, a hobby for some and a livelihood for others, illustrates co-creation. According to a recent survey, gardening is the favorite pastime of many Americans. The image of a garden represents something about the spirituality of work. If you have ever gardened, you know how much work it is! But how satisfying! In tilling the soil, planting the seeds, watering and weeding, and gathering the produce, you have worked hard but you know that you didn’t do it alone. God gave the growth.
As Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (3:6-9).
Many psalms in the Bible praise God for the work of creation. These few lines adapted from Psalm 8 can remind you of God’s work of creation and your participation in it.
“O Lord, our God, how glorious is your name over all the earth!
You have exalted your majesty above the heavens….
When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you set in place–
What are we that you should be mindful of us,
or that you should care for us?
You have made us little less than the angels,
and crowned us with glory and honor.
You have given us rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under our feet….
O Lord, our God, how glorious is your name over all the earth!”
In your journal:
Turn to the next part of this retreat. Part 6: Finding God through Hospitality.