In Western culture, we place a great amount of emphasis on our work/career. Granted, we spend on average roughly a third of our lives at work, but even so is this emphasis on work misplaced or is it a reality to accept.
It’s actually both.
It is a reality that we will have to work for what we have. We are not entitled to a life free of work and effort. Yet, we can tend to lean the other way too hard and fall into the trap of workaholicism. This is especially alluring to those who feel that their greatest purpose is found in their work.
I would argue that work is different than purpose. Work is something you do to provide for your basic needs and/or the basic needs of others. Purpose is what you are passionate about and how you want to live out that passion. The greatest thing one can do is merge these two realities together. That makes work less of a drudgery and more of a pleasure.
But how do we find the epicenter of these two realities?
It takes intentionality in understanding how what you do meets the needs of the world. Now, I know that I am in the “minority” of those individuals who felt called to something and have been doing it from a very young age. Most people who are in some form of active ministry are called “second career ministers”: those individuals who worked in another sector of industry unrelated to ministry but then who felt called to enter ministry. I am not a “second career minister”. I felt a calling to ministry at fourteen and landed my first ministry job at eighteen. Since eighteen I have been in some form of ministry. I started off in youth ministry then transitioned into hospice chaplaincy. Yes, throughout college and seminary I worked some side gigs in the food industry, retail industry, and other sectors; but overall I worked in religious ministry of one form of the other.
Most don’t get this luxury, especially with the Millennial Generation and younger. Even previous generations either worked in an industry that was available: whether they enjoyed the job or not; and current generations are not figuring out what they want to do in their young years and so transition from one industry to the other (called “multi- careering”).
Now granted, there is not one right way or wrong way to discover your purpose in your work; but I would argue that first - work is important: regardless whether you feel “called” to it or not, and then two - work is important: therefore you should enjoy the work you do. It sounds like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth and, yes, I am. What I am trying to say is that most don’t arrive at their “dream job” right away. Most have to work through jobs they loathe or that don’t create joy in their lives to get to where they feel fulfilled. Yet, it is important that you always strive to go in the direction of your dreams. Don’t give up on your dreams because you feel they are unattainable. Keep working, grinding, and showing up so you can pay the bills as you go toward a direction of work/career fulfillment and purpose.
This leads me to my last point:
YOU ARE NOT A MACHINE!
In an increasingly automated culture, we might feel that the robots will replace all humans when it comes to work and we all will become homeless and destitute. One, I believe we are far from that and two, I think that there will always be a place for human work. But just because the Western work culture leads us to an attitude of “overwork, underpay”; doesn’t mean we have to fall into that trap. We must take care of ourselves because our jobs, our management, our co-workers; no matter how well meaning they are, will not care about us more than we care about ourselves. You are the only one who can take care of you. If you work and don’t take a break, if you work and don’t find rest, if you work and don’t take vacation time; then you will breakdown and fall apart. We are called to live a life of work and rest. We have to live balanced lives. No matter what the demand is, find a way to get some rest and renewal.