Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Work is Good—Really Good

Today was a hard day at work. I got there at 5:30, which meant waking up at 4:30, and I ran later than I wanted to in both cases. It turned out not to matter, because my reason for getting their early ended in futility: I could not manage to get the software packages relevant to my task to behave properly until after 8 am, by which point my test session was over. Even when I stole someone else's time later in the day, further problems cropped up. I was prevented—largely by factors beyond my control—from accomplishing almost any of the things I wanted to do today.

It could have been an eminently frustrating experience.

In the end, however, I spent more time laughing at the situation than complaining. In this fallen world, that's just how life is sometimes, and we can either laugh at it or be wearied by it. I already had plenty of weariness from getting up so early; laughter seemed even more the wise choice today than normal.

Work is a blessing, even when it causes us frustration. Since I started this job last summer, I have had considerable opportunity to reflect on the ways that it is a blessing, not a curse. The obvious benefit is a paycheck—one large enough to pay down our loans quickly and still give generously without living skimpily ourselves. In the end, though, I have been blessed far more by factors other than money. I have been blessed by having a productive way to spend my days. I have been blessed by learning to work hard even when hard work is not encouraged (and is at times systematically discouraged). I have been blessed by the occasional fun engineering challenges that cross my path. I have been blessed with coworkers I generally like. I have been blessed with coworkers who frustrate me and teach me to grow in patience and faithfulness. I have been blessed with stability, which is far more valuable than any quantity of money in this economy.

Most of all, though, I have been blessed simply to be able to work. While I certainly enjoy days off and look forward to vacations, I know from the month I spent at home under the effects of mono that I have no desire to spend my life in a permanent vacation. Hard as it may be to remember, work itself is good; the frustrations and aggravations and wearisomeness of work now are a consequence of the fall.

Consider: God instituted work before Adam sinned:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
—Genesis 2:15-17

The toil and frustration we experience in work are a result of Adam's sin (and ours):

And to Adam he said,

   "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
   and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
   'You shall not eat of it,'
cursed is the ground because of you;
   in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
   and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19By the sweat of your face
   you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
   for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
   and to dust you shall return."
—Genesis 3:17-19

Work itself is a blessing. It is good, and given the example of Eden, I believe strongly that we will work on the New Earth in our resurrection bodies. As hard as that can be to grasp at times in the travails of our current careers, it is helpful to keep in mind. It helps us to redeem our days at work when we remember that work is a gift, a good thing, a blessing from God. We do not have to like the consequences of sin—I certainly would like my working not to involve thorns and thistles and the sweat of my face (even if the sweat is admittedly more metaphorical for a programmer)—but we do need to work with joy and gratitude, not only for financial provision but for work itself.

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