The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, "A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? .... That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God." 2:24, 25, 3:13.
I've had the privilege of enjoying almost every job I've ever had, as well as each employer I have worked for. In high school I worked at the typical diner, but at least I worked with friends and that made the time fly by. I've worked as a travel agent, live-in nanny, camp counselor, education assistant, maintenance gal (some day I will share about the battle of identity over "Paint Girl"!), head custodian, housing director, conference coordinator and an assistant for students. As I grew in awareness and understanding, God provided the sense of "this is where I need to be" - even if I didn't always like the tasks (and there were DEFINITELY tasks I didn't like). Even if the days sometimes felt long. And unproductive. Even then, work held meaning for me, and therefore a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.
I've been a SAHM for 5 years now. This past year was the best yet (maybe they'll just keep getting better and better :P?). I feel like I've found my groove around here and I'm really enjoying it. I don't always enjoy the endless chores, but even that provides an outlet for energy, a sense of rhythm to the week. And it's definitely not because things are always easy. They aren't. It's a struggle to grow and learn and love sometimes.
I am beginning to view work in a much broader sense. Waiting can be very hard work. Battling with impatience, anxiety, confusion, despair - these are only a few of the things we need to contend with when we find ourselves waiting. Listening is very important work - for how can we truly know and hear and understand if we aren't practicing the discipline of paying attention? Loving can be very challenging. Sometimes people (and our selves) are "easy" to love, but when relational friction enters the scene and we're having to choose care-filled words when we want to yell, apologies even when we don't feel like we were "all wrong", or a servant attitude when we want to be bossy :), loving can be very much work indeed.
In fact, I'm starting to wonder if the only important work we can do is love. All other tasks and actions, whether they are mundane or notable, stem from our commitment to love. Sometimes it is easy to love. Other times it requires far more intentionality. But isn't that what scripture talks about?
26 “What is written in the Law?” he [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
The more I see the routine chores as an act of love, the more I am willing to do them. The more I view talking with my neighbor, opening my home to guests, ministering my family, connecting with my friends as an act of loving hospitality, the more joyfully I will serve. The more I smile at the store clerk, thank the people that work for services that I enjoy, acknowledge those on the fringe, the more gratefully I will live. The more I love, the more I experience God's precious gift, and the more satisfaction I will find in my work. Even the dishes, laundry and tough stuff of life.