By Elizabeth Prata
I’ve got one week left and then I go back to work. I will have had 9 weeks off.
I realize that 9 weeks off, in a row no less, is an understandably wondrous gift, one that many people don’t get in 4 years of working. (Please understand that I live for 12 months on a 9-month salary, so there is a downside).
I work in the education system, so the cycle of my life follows the school year, not the calendar year. The rhythm of my life is one of hectic, fulfilling, busy, challenging, joyful work, then summer collapse rest.
There were some years where I worked for 16, 18, and one notable moment, 20 hours a day, with one week off at Christmas and one week at Independence Day. I’ve in the past felt the relentless grind, overlaid with feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction but sometimes accompanied with frustration and dispiritedness. I’ve been in the work force for 42 years, give or take. There were periods in life where I had to work two jobs and even three, laboring for 7 days a week. I’m not unfamiliar with hard work, relentless grind, whether it comes in the self-employment world, as a minimum wage minion at the bottom of the heap, or in the education world with its benefit of work then rest sprinkled throughout the year.
The job I have now is the best one I’ve ever had. I love working with children. It is a pure joy to be around kids. I enjoy the school breaks that come with the school calendar (being older now, I tire more easily). I have the best colleagues and the absolute most wonderful bosses I could ever hope for. It’s all good.
But the beginning of the school year those first days back at work are a shock to my system. And Monday morning blues still hit.
It didn’t used to be like this. In the Garden of Eden, Adam worked, but it wasn’t work that tired him out or frustrated him, or dispirited the man. It was good work, done without sweat. God gave Adam three tasks; cultivate the Garden and keep it, name all the animals, and lead his wife Eve. (Genesis 2:15, 19, 24; Ephesians 5:22-23).
Can you imagine working without sweating? Not just physical sweat, though that will be nice, but work was absent the heart-pumping stress, hustle, hectic work that office people feel, or bus drivers, or police bomb defusers or…
How do I know work wasn’t the kind of work we think of these days? The verse where God curses work. Genesis 3:17b-19
Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”
We know that heaven, i.e. the eternal state after the conclusion of all things, will be one of rest. But it will also be one of work. Whattt?
Reagan Rose covers this in his essay Will We Work in Heaven?
But for now, assuming Earth is redeemed man’s final destination, we would be right to wonder, “what will we do on that renewed Earth?” The answer is that we will worship our Lord, we will wonder at His majesty, and we will work.
Mr Rose continues with explaining that Heavenly Work Will Be Restful Work, and Heavenly Work Will Be Enjoyable Work, before he comes to his conclusion.
James M. Hamilton Jr wrote Work and Our Labor for the Lord, looking at work as it was meant to be, as it is, as it can be, and as it will be.
As work will be, “We can scarcely imagine it, but everything that makes work miserable here will be removed. All our sinful concerns about ourselves will be swallowed up in devotion to the one we serve. All our frustrations that we have to be doing this task and not the other one we prefer, will be abolished because of our experience of the one who gave the assignment. All inclination to do evil will have been removed from our hearts, so we will enjoy the freedom of wanting to obey, wanting to serve, wanting to do right.”
Imagine, being released from the bondage to sin and working in complete and perfect freedom to serve to the utmost in righteousness and in joy!
On earth our work often distracts us from worship, but in heaven work will BE worship.
What of work now, here on earth? We do need to work. “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
On the Chris Craft podcast, Chris asked guest Phil Johnson “How should we represent Christ in the workplace?”
Amen to that. I know of a custodian who works very hard all day long. She never stops. She cleans toilets, hustles to classrooms to wipe up kid-vomit, sweeps the cafeteria floor after kindergarten has been through like storming Huns. She is kind, constantly smiling and always ready to praise Jesus whenever you talk with her.
One day a second grader was waiting and I was waiting with her in the lunchroom. The kid was watching the lone custodian clean the cavernous cafeteria. After a while the child turned to me and said “She works hard. And she has to do all that by herself. But she never stops.”
When a person works so hard (for the Lord as I know she does) and a child notices the work ethic, you know it’s a good ethic. A shining ethic. Do I work that hard? Do cheerfully perform any menial task set before me? With purity of heart and a sincere effort? Sometimes no, but the lady I’d mentioned is my role-model inspiration. She represents Christ in a way that few people I’ve ever seen do so, and she does it through work.
Work hard on earth, as Colossians 3:23 says
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,
And look forward to the day when you and I will be FREE to serve without sin tainting our work ethic or the work product. What a day that will be.
I made this collage some years ago when I was pondering work and being busy even in ministry work. Do we work so hard we become too busy for God? On the left side of the collage top and bottom we see heaven and worship in heavenly peace. Below that scene are the animals, who know what to do in their spheres. Even creation groans for release. On the right side, top and bottom, is the heaving, pulsating spectacle of humanity going to and fro, with only a few looking at the Light, even noticing it.