Is your work who you are?
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
Do you remember the first time you were paid for work? Mine was when I was picking strawberries for a neighbor, possibly hired or allowed to do so because my older sister was working there. I was paid a penny a quart and had the perk of eating all the luscious berries that I wanted. But it was the money that made me feel like I was six going on ten. I was a wage earner.
Employment is often closely associated with identity. Sometimes this may be a negative factor, especially when an individual is unemployed or underemployed. Rightly considered, however, this association of work and understanding oneself holds the key to finding satisfying employment. Instead of letting a job tell us who we are, we first need to identify ourselves in a deeper way. I find the biblical way - seeing myself and others as God's image and likeness - to be most helpful. In fact, learning more of God and finding ourselves in the image and likeness of the creator is the most successful path to finding rewarding employment. When employment is pursued this way, one is not in competition for a limited number of jobs. In fact, such a prayerful approach tends to create jobs and open the job market. This is especially important today as unemployment figures rise in many countries.
"Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us," the Psalmist sang, and then added, "and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it" (Ps. 90:17). Praying to let the beautiful qualities of God shine through us is a great beginning to any job search. This may demand some rethinking, especially if unemployment has taken its toll on one's self-respect. But the spiritual fact remains that our real employment is to let God's beautiful qualities be seen on earth.
As we "let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us," we can expect "the work of our hands" to be established. A man who had been out of work for so long that he was now homeless was advised by a friend of mine to do anything that came up before him. He saw some people moving, and he began to help them. Later, he saw litter on the ground and began picking it up. At the end of the week, he had obtained a salaried job. And some time later, he had enough money to pay the first and last month's rent, and was no longer living on the street.
Details may differ, but there are numerous accounts of people finding employment as a result of expressing the quality of usefulness. The basic fact that everyone has been given a purpose by God can be proved by anyone at any time. Of course, usefulness is only one of the God-given qualities we can consciously express. Others are honesty, dependability, creativity, joy. The possibilities for good works are limitless.
A recent news report noted that college juniors and seniors face different circumstances, particularly in the dotcoms, than earlier classes did upon graduation. One positive aspect of this would be if it removes the temptation of mere high-salaried enticements. Starting out with the purpose of expressing God's qualities and giving, rather than taking a job on the basis of salary level, puts employment on a much more satisfying basis.
Careers established on the understanding of the importance of expressing God's qualities are naturally progressive in usefulness and reward. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote: "Goodness never fails to receive its reward, for goodness makes life a blessing. As an active portion of one stupendous whole, goodness identifies man with universal good." She goes on to advise that we respond to our questions of who we really are - questions of identity - in this way: "I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 165).
We cannot impart what we do not have, so it is essential to learn what we have and are, right now, as God's reflection. Finding and expressing God's good and beautiful qualities is true employment that establishes "the work of our hands." In a sense, finding ourselves is finding employment. Such employment is satisfying, rewarding, and secure.