Labor OR Love?

          Recently I picked up a magazine and, scanning through the news section, one quote really got my attention.


           "If you love it, it's not work."

The quote read. 

I've heard this before. Confucius (a man who I think should have been named 'Confusing'), an Eastern thinker to have one of the greatest impacts on Western culture is oft quoted to have said, "choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life." 

       It seems that in today's culture, most people have accepted the idea that work and pleasure are two opposing forces in life; that if something is work, one will by default not enjoy it. 

       Therefore, it seems to follow that if you love something, it's not work. Though I know what many of these people are intending to say with statements such as these, I don't like the trajectory that such a definition of work can cause. It's important, I think, to be careful how we use the word. Somehow, work is seen as a bad thing, a thing to be gotten over with each day so that one can "enjoy life." Work is a burden to be cast off if possible, a humble circumstance to rise above at all costs. 

        Thousands of pounds of ink have been expended on reams beyond number of paper, filled with strategies, some blatantly wacky, some naively honest, some ominously clever, and some foolishly stupid regarding how to make a living with very little to no work.

        Thousands of complaints are made by hard working capitalists regarding the welfare system. I've even grumbled several of them myself. "It's not fair that we should slave so hard every day over our work to pay for people who get to just sit back and do nothing." We grumble.

       A few months however, a question was posed to me which I would in turn like to ask all of you.

      If you were offered the chance to not have to work, would you take it? 

       Would we choose not to work if we didn't have to? Many people would jump at the chance, but after considering the question for some time, I decided I probably would keep working. More than that, I realized I didn't want to ever be in the position where I didn't have to work. Otherwise, the temptation not to work might be too strong. 

      Why do I want to keep working?

       The answer has been pounded into me all my life but I never really understood it until about a year ago. I heard a lecture by a man whose name I can't even remember. He stated the answer I had heard all my life again, but made it abundantly clear to me  in a way I hadn't considered. 

      The answer I've been told all my life is: "We were created to work." 

It made sense, Adam and Eve were put in the garden as caretakers of it, not to be cared for in it.  

However, last year's lecture really hit it home. 

     You see, if we don't work, not only have we lost our sense of purpose since, we were indeed created to work, but we have become useless rather like an egg-beater which is no longer required to beat eggs and so sits idle in the cabinet gathering inches of dust, it's parts rusting from the inside out.

     But think about all the things I could do if I didn't have to work....if I had no responsibilities, one might respond. I've thought about this too.

    The unnamed lecturer told us a story of an older woman whom he had befriended who told him of the hard life she had growing up. Everybody working to support the family, everybody contributing, somehow to make ends meet. They got up early, went to bed late, worked hard jobs, one member of the family was an invalid. 
      The speaker asked this friend of his once if she ever missed those days.

      Her answer was not as surprising to me as the reason she gave for it. "Yes," she said, "sometimes I miss those days. In the end, we were all happy, because...." this was what really got me, "because," she said, "we all knew that we were needed."

     They were needed....that was what made them happy. It all made sense now, why tragedy and loss brings people together. Why people who are hard workers generally have better lives. Why children who have chores growing up usually have happier lives than those who are raised with no responsibilities, and weekly allowances. 

     I'll tell you honestly, friends, I realized at this moment that this was one of my biggest struggles with just keeping on with life. So many times I didn't feel needed. So many times, in this pampered life we live, I felt completely useless, that I could die tomorrow and after the hubbub and tears died down life would go on with no one being the worse for my not being there. 

Do you ever feel that way?  

Well, allow me to say the statement that everybody responds with when someone admits feeling such a thing, "Don't say that honey, everybody has a purpose, and everybody is needed no matter how small the things he does." Right? 

We would all say that, wouldn't we?

But do we really believe it?

This very gifted speaker confirmed this premise in my mind with a story about a bagging man at a grocery store.

 Seriously? A bagging man? How much more ignominious can you get than that in terms of really being needed.

 Well, to the speaker this man was by no means expendable. 

  This particular bagger, consciously or not, was out to prove to the world that no person no matter how small his task was dispensable. He knew how to bag. He would put like items together, set everything in like a well ordered puzzle, he filled the bags so that each one weighed about the same.

"When you're doing grocery shopping for your wife and you have a couple of young children at your heels," the speaker said, "you realize how much of a blessing a good bagger can be. I knew," he said, "That none of the bag handles were going to break on me because the items were improperly balanced. I knew that none of my groceries were going to get damaged." 

We all know what it's like to get home and find that your chips have become crumbs and your spaghetti is half the length it's supposed to be because the bagger just tossed everything in as fast as he could. 

"I even knew," the speaker went on, "how many bags I could carry at a time because of how well weighted they were." He went on to say, "this man, by doing his small job well, was not only a blessing to me but by saving me time and effort was adding value to my life."

      Wow, this was revolutionary to me. To think that the things we do can add value to another person's life. I decided to take that statement as my "mantra" if you will. To say you want to be a blessing to people is not only overused, but cliche. I decided that I wanted to state my life purpose here on earth as being here to add value to people's lives. Think about it, no matter what you do, whether it's babysitting, changing a diaper, washing dishes, waiting on a table, cleaning a bathroom, working at a checkout counter, teaching an instrument, illustrating a novel, whatever it is, you're not just making money so that you can go and have fun. You, in the very act of your work, are helping another person in some way and by doing so you are adding value to that person's life.

     This is why work and pleasure shouldn't be opposing opposites, they should be complimentary words. The fact that you have joy in it should affirm the work and the fact that you're doing good work should lead to great pleasure.

    Alright, I'll stop with the lecture.....this is a blog post not a sermon. Anyhow, I'd like to encourage all of you not to pity the welfare people rather than envy them or get angry at them....they don't have the tremendous privilege of adding value to other people's lives, and in the end adding purpose and value to their own. And not just that, but do your work well, friends, because you have no idea the impact you're making on someone just by cleaning those dishes properly.

   Think about that bagger who I never met. The speaker didn't even mention his name, and yet he was used as an inspiration for a room of one-hundred plus seminary students who are probably going to go out and impact the world with their work ethics. 

     The verse in proverbs speaks truth when it says, "Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings." ~ Proverbs 22:29

   Okay, really, no more preaching...I thought in this particular case I'd share with you a classical work...yes it's long....but if you're having trouble studying this might actually help besides being absolutely magnificent....Let me know what you think of this tone poem by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana called the Moldau.



  Doesn't that piece just inspire you to go out and do great things?
  
  ~ Let's not be content with just surviving. Let's not separate pleasure from work. Let's take delight in every stroke of the pen in every wail of the spoiled brat we have to babysit. Let's enjoy hearing the same song played with the same wrong note for the one-hundredth time. Let's thank God that we have the ability to work and add value to people's lives. And when we do get a vacation let's find something else to work on. Something different and fun of course, but that doesn't mean it's not work...embrace the word and make it your motto and resist the reflex of disgust and repugnance which switches on when you hear the word. Let it thrill you to your core! 

       Alright, I consider you my lifelong friends if you actually read through this entire post, but I still hold you in high esteem if you at least listened to the entire song and enjoyed it! Extra points in my favor are earned if you did both. ;)

       Keep up the good work!

   ~ Christianna 

Beloved of The Lord

          What makes a person lovable?

          Most people will tell you it's based on some qualities that person possesses, such as selflessness, kindness, compassion, the ability to listen, a good sense of humor....the list goes on. Psychologists will tell you a person has to be real and genuine to be any of the above, and that thus, confidence in oneself is the true key to becoming a lovable person.

          How many of you have heard something along the lines of "you need to embrace yourself" cited as the straight and narrow way to lovableness?

          How many movies, articles and stories in modern society have you watched or read in which the main premise is that to be loved by others one must first love oneself? I know I get pelted with it everyday.

         Many of you probably saw the 2017 Disney live-action movie "Beauty and The Beast." If not, I think most of you know the story. We all know how Belle comes to love the beast by seeing what a kind, thoughtful individual he was in spite of his sinister appearance and surly manners.

       I always wondered, though, what would have happened to him if the beast was as nasty on the inside as he was on the outside. If he had been so, even sweet, kind Belle would have been all for killing him, I believe. Because when it comes down to it, nobody cares for a truly unlovable person....right?

        Pop culture today says that for a person to become lovable he must first love himself. All I can say is, everybody's tried it and it doesn't work.

        When a baby is born into the world, it has nothing to recommend itself. It brings nothing but the most narcissistic attitude on the planet. It cries whenever it's uncomfortable, never says thank you for anything, but takes everything given as though it is owed it because of who it is.

       Babies are, in every sense of the word, the epitome of unloveliness.

           Yet....

       We all know there is nothing stronger than a mother's love for her child. When a young mother holds her newborn child in her arms for the very first time, I'm told, she experiences a bond, a love for that baby like nothing she has or will ever experience. She will give up her life for that tiny, self-centered brat. For years, a mother, labors over, and loves that child. For years, there's nothing about the child that really makes her want to spend time with that child for any other reason than the fact that he's her child. Until one day, the mother wakes up and realizes that her child has become a really nice person. Someone whom people like, respect, and whose company other individuals enjoy to be around.

        What made that child lovable?

       The mother's love.

        To become lovable, that child had to be loved first. It happens for every individual. Science has already confirmed that you can't raise a baby without love. It will die if you try it. The fundamental reason for suicide is that the perpetrator believes somewhere deep down inside that he is unloved.

        My friends, I'd like to submit to you that this all points to a fundamental truth that to become lovable, a person must first be loved. The more deeply and certainly an individual knows he is loved, the more that individual will love, and thus become lovable in himself.

        Don't just believe this because I'm saying it. What does the Scripture say in that passage in Romans that all of us memorized as children.

       "For One Will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for a good man one would dare even to die. But God demonstrated his own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." 
            ~ Romans 5:7-8

     Last season when I was part of the seminary choir we sang a song in which the original words began, "You didn't want heaven without us, so Jesus you brought heaven down." Well, all the seminarians were up in arms at that statement. With absolutely no opposition from the rest of us, a couple of the men speedily changed the words to "you could have had heaven without us, but Jesus you brought heaven down." This made me incredibly happy not just because that's what I believe as well, but because I was singing with a whole bunch of people who understood that Jesus didn't save us because we were in any way deserving of it. No, we were wretched, worms. Miserable, members in no way meritorious of the meanest ministration. Yet, God loved us, and that, good readers, made all the difference.

      What difference does this make? Well, for starters...

      When I know that God's love for me isn't dependent on what I do. I am free to do good because I want to, not to save myself somehow, or appease God. Because He loves me unconditionally, I have hope that He can redeem my life in spite of all my miserable failings. Because His love for me transcends my actions, I can give that same love to others, because I know that whatever the result, there will always be someone who loves me. 

        Thinking about this sends goosebumps up my spine. To think He loves us that much. I'm never happier then when I really believe that. And I think that when one knows surely and fully that God loves him beyond his ugliness of body and soul; no one is more lovable.


        And now as I close, as you all know, it's song time.... ;)

  I thought for this post it would be fitting to share with you an adaption of Titanic's theme song "My Heart Will Go On," by a couple of my dear college friends.

   If there are any of you hard-core menfolk reading this post, please don't close the page in absolute disgust just yet. When I say adaption, I really mean adaption. My talented colleagues turned this from an "ooey-gooey" love song into a sweet reassurance of God's love and the love we can share with each other.
 
   Trust me and watch it(all the way through) before you make any sweeping assertions....you might even like it!


      Wasn't it beautiful? Isn't it wonderful to know you are loved no matter what?

             I'll say one last thing before I close.

                     When mommy used to tuck us each into bed, she would say every night:


  "Mommy loves you, and Daddy loves you, and all your brothers and sisters love you, but Jesus loves you most of all, and he is your good Shepherd and you are his little lamb."

  Even today, I strive to carry those words in my heart and I'd encourage you to do the same. Nothing in this world can really bother you when you know that Jesus loves you most of all.


       ~ Christianna