A Labor Day Spiritual Inventory
FOR nearly a hundred years Labor Day has been celebrated in the United States and Canada. During that period, there has been tremendous progress in improving working conditions for the people this holiday celebrates. There is still room for improvement, of course, but at least some of the dangers of the workplace have been recognized and eliminated. Yet the fact remains that the great majority of us who are ``laborers'' still have to go to work each day! For all the improvements since the first Labor Day in 1894, somehow the need to go to work has persisted. I remember when I got out of school and began my first full-time job. In the beginning it was quite exciting. Then one day the thought dawned: This -- or some other job -- was what I was going to be doing every workday, week after week, month after month. The prospect was terribly depressing to me then.
That was many years ago, and the times when it is still depressing have grown fewer. One thing that has helped me a lot over those years has been something Christ Jesus said. I turn to it whenever I feel burdened by my job or by the effort of balancing job, home, family, and church responsibilities. He said: ``Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.''1
For a while, those words puzzled me. Here was a man who was really doing wonderful things -- healing people, teaching, moving about in the active life of all kinds of people. He was pursued by crowds who wanted to see him do wonders. Yet he could say, ``My burden is light.'' How could he do that?
The answer didn't come all at once. But as I looked more deeply into the Master's life, I saw a pattern emerging. He didn't do anything without prayer -- without turning to God, whom he referred to as our Father. In fact, he said or implied on more than one occasion that it was his Father who was doing the work and that he couldn't do anything but what God did.
Then I began to look at my own life and to see if there was a way that his teachings could help me cope with my feelings about work. One of the most obvious ways was to be more grateful for my job as an evidence of God's care for my human needs. But that only provided temporary relief.
I realized that if I wanted to follow Jesus, I had to change the way I was looking at my life. It wasn't enough to stay in the same mental rut and just try to be happy there! To follow Christ Jesus we need to live as God's child wherever we are and to bring to bear on our surroundings what we know of God and His love. This doesn't necessarily mean that we preach religion to other people but that we try to transform our lives to a more spiritual basis.
One way to start is to do a kind of inventory of your spiritual skills as compared to your human job skills. If you sat down to do that right now, what would you find? Surely you would find love -- perhaps love for your friends at work or the love for family that helps you to keep working. How about intelligence? All of us need to express some intelligence at work because even the most routine tasks need to be done right. Purity can come into play as honesty -- not stealing from the boss, perhaps, or not giving short measure to a customer. Do you express joy in your work? How about diligence, precision, humility? If the answers are ``no'' (or ``not very much''), then these could be some goals to work toward.
What's really great about efforts to express more Godlike qualities is that we don't have to just try to do this on our own. Christ, God's message of love to man, is always present, telling us of our spiritual nature and of the loving presence of God in our lives. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness.''2
Does listening to Christ really bring us help? It has for me, many times. I found once, when I was having a lot of trouble with a job, that I had to make a more disciplined effort to express gratitude for every part of the job -- even the trivial parts, and even on days when I had to search hard to be grateful.
After about a year of doing this, I began to feel quite contented where I was. Then, unexpectedly, I was offered a new job under far better conditions. Although there would be new challenges, it wasn't a hard choice to make! Yet because I had spent so much time being grateful, my departure from the old job was a smooth one.
When we make a more vigorous effort to express spiritual qualities, we are opening our thoughts to the possibility that life is not limited by the familiar or the routine. As I started to look at each day as an opportunity to experience more of God's presence and guidance, I began to understand what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of his burden as being light. Something had happened in the transition from the material frame of reference to the spiritual that had made me think of my job and myself in totally different terms.
There are still days when the routine parts of my job get to me. But the burden is lighter as each day brings new evidence of God's care. If you have felt as I did, why not do a spiritual inventory and see where it leads you? While the opportunities to express spiritual qualities may seem limited at first, a real commitment to approach life from this standpoint begins to broaden the scope of our days in ways that we may not even realize.
1Matthew 11:28-30. 2Science and Health, p. 332.