Sunday, October 21, 2012

Heeding the Whisper - Week 2

The best way I can sum up this week is that our job is not our calling, but it is certainly not less than our calling.  Our work, whatever that may be, is a vehicle for living out our calling, even if the work is simply a means to provide for life's necessities.  We were made to work, and to find joy in that work, and we honor God and love our neighbors by the way we perform that work.

I'm really glad a distinction was made between profession and calling.  I think too many tend to blend the two, Christian or not, which can lead to a lot of confusion and heartache.  In times past, a distinction was made between "holy professions," the priesthood or the mission field, for example, and secular work.  One was noble work, the other not so much.  One was a "calling," the other was . . . well, biding your time, essentially.  Perhaps we've gone the wrong direction.  Any work can be a calling, but if your career must be a calling, then you've set yourself up for grief.

The importance of finding joy in work is another important point, and one I think has warped over time in this society.  This NYT article about men who do not work is a case in point.  Although the recession of the last few years has taken its toll on people, purposefully avoiding work because it's "not fun" or "beneath you" is an awful attitude.  Albert Mohler frequently described the dignity of work, that it's not just something we're made for but a responsibility; there is no work "beneath you" if you have a family to support.

The NYT article above made me think quite a bit about people of my own generation who aren't working at the moment.  Many went off to school being told, "Get a degree, something you love, you have to have one," only to end up with an expertise in a subject for which there are few jobs available.  (Though there are some unfortunate people snookered by unscrupulous departments that inflate their alumni employment statistics.)  There are probably plenty who are similar to Mr. Beggerow in the above article, obtained their degree and then won't work anywhere but their purported field, or even their dream job.  In a sense, that's understandable.  If you've spent thousands of dollars becoming an expert in a given field, it can seem like a waste of an investment to abandon said field. 

Those who went off for advanced degrees are an interesting case, though.  Grad school has long been, at the least, an escape from unemployment or a means of advancing oneself in a competitive field.  There's growing sentiment that universities have been over-producing degree holders, resulting in unemployment, among other problems, for the holders.  Folks in those situations can find it especially tough.  Many end up with such specialized knowledge that their options are limited, and jumping fields can be rough if the employer could just find someone who does have the right specialization.  Leaving behind the field for which you spent 5-7 years of grad school can be like amputating a limb, an agonizing decision.  Taking "lesser" work isn't frequently an option, either.  There's little incentive to hire a PhD holder for a minimum wage job, since they will leave just as soon as they can find a better option.

Of course, most of this is just diagnosing the problem.  We have such a strained relationship with work in western society.  At least for Christians, coming to terms with what God intended for work to be is a start. 

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