For many people, work is now the emotional and spiritual centre of life. Professionals work an average of almost 44 hours a week. Some fields, such as law, finance,service industries and medicine, often require employees to work twice much.
We may live well, but that cannot ease the suspicion that we no longer live nobly. Many are burnt out from work, disillusioned with their professions. We seem spiritually damaged by the destructive cycle of working, wanting and having as ends in themselves. Workaholism and its hand-maidens, careerism and materialism, aren’t only social issues - they are religious issues. Someone once wrote: “Work is god for the compulsive worker, and nothing gets in the way of this god.” Work becomes an end in itself, a way to escape from family, the inner life, the world. All genuine religions are concerned with the shattering of false gods. How can we break the false gods of career?
• First, remember the most profound revolution in religious thinking: your Sabbath. Whether one celebrates it on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, its spiritual reality goes beyond ritual. It is the ultimate statement that the world does not own us; that we are made for rest and holiness as surely as we are made for ambition.
• Second, don’t sacrifice your family on the altar of career. The journey up the ladder to success may have brought us much wealth or stuff or adequacy to live. But it has also devalued the traditional role of the parent / care-giver as nurturer and teacher. From the time of the Industrial Revolution the anguish of the parent who has impaled himself on the sword of ambition has not changed. It has merely changed addresses.
• Third, don’t judge yourself by what you do, but by the meaning you bring to it. Many people have transformed dull work into a true vocation - into a place where they hear the voice of something deeper and higher. At the funeral for a woman who worked in a lingerie shop, her colleagues warmly eulogized her for the compassion and sensitivity she showed towards customers who had been mastectomy patients. The boss of a moving crew once said: “Moving is hard for most people. They’re nervous about going to a new community and about strangers packing their most precious possessions. I think God wants me to treat my customers with love and make them feel that I care about their lives.”
As are so many anonymous people, this man was a messenger of God. We never know what we do in our work that will be remembered, that will be holy. It has nothing to do with our job titles. It has everything to do with the faith, vision and love that we bring to it.
Happy in service ~ SB