***After writing several Thanksgiving blogs, here is a repost honoring the day after. And giving thanks for Work!
“The test of the life of a saint is not success, but faithfulness in human life as it actually is. We will set up success in Christian work as the aim; the aim is to manifest the glory of God in human life, to live the life hid with Christ in God in human conditions. Our human relationships are the actual conditions in which the ideal life of God is to be exhibited.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
My husband and I will often read Oswald Chambers to each other in the morning, as we are making our lunches, pulling on work clothes and adjusting to a new day. “Ozzie,” as we affectionately call him, has a way of jump-starting, or butt-kicking you into reality. After a wonderful Sunday spent in worship, fellowship and rest, Mondays mean coming down off the mountaintop, into my scrubs and punching into work or “human life as it actually is.”
It’s still dark this time of year as I head out, but the payoff is watching the sun rise over the cranberry bog where I park and pray. Over time I’ve watched deer, coyotes, fox and rabbits wake up too, along with an array of birds, and I feel like God is right there with us, with all the possibilities of a brand new day.
I read recently that the problem with America is we are not a woven fabric anymore, each life an intricate thread in the tapestry of life. Instead we are a bunch of small worlds, separated by our imagined or reinvented selves on Facebook/You Tube/Instagram islands. Social media has de-socialized us, breeding all of the psychosocial sicknesses that accompany loneliness and isolation. The deadliest new variants are depression, fear, addiction and suicide.
I like my job because when you are so sick that you are in a hospital bed with one of those ridiculous hospital johnnies on, you don’t care how you look. You have been derailed into a place of uncertainty. Suddenly, the playing field is level, and there is nothing to separate us from each other. Most people are scared and exhausted; sometimes mad or just sad. And I try to find a place beside them.
Much of what I do is not glamorous at all. Some of it is indescribably gross, and sometimes it is boring, like watching screens and numbers and responding to no less than a dozen different alarms going off all day. But sometimes there is a patient to remember.
Margaret was my patient a few weeks ago, 95 years old and as I got report, I was amazed this little lady had survived an incredible ordeal, including being resuscitated, shocked four times then internal bleeding – all with a really lousy heart. Her outlook was poor. When I entered the room, I found a very exhausted and frail elderly woman. She eyed me shrewdly, then asked where her nurse from the day before was.
“We really clicked,” she said, then looked away. A little deflated, I explained that she was off. Then after an awkward silence I added, “I hope we can click.”
“Of course we can,” she said dismissively. “I wouldn’t have said that otherwise.” Her voice had an edge.
After listening to her lungs and assessing her poor bruised body, I took a safe path and asked about the grandkids, kids and learned about a great-grandchild on the way.
Then she propped herself up in bed and said, “I was a career woman you know.”
I watched her face transform as she talked about her work with handicapped people, helping them transition from institutions to homes, and how she had been a part of a historic movement in the seventies. Her whole being shifted, as if new life had been infused within her and I could see a big part of who Margaret was. Then I dismissed myself from her room as she thanked me for listening.
“Well, it’s nice to talk about things that have nothing to do with being here” I said cheerfully. And as I turned towards the door I heard her reply, “Oh but it does!”
I looked back at her and she had shut her eyes, but I waited.
“It’s what gives you the will to live,” she added softly.
Eklesia – Greek for “the church” means “called out ones.” I think “calling” is one of those overworked Christian terms. We waste time fretting over some grand design and God is simply waiting for us, each morning in fact, to get up and go out. Yes, He is calling us out, whether it is in a hospital, a construction site, Wall Street or Sesame Street. Jesus worked and even got yelled at for working on Sunday. David was a shepherd, Paul made tents. The Proverbs woman got up earlier than I do. Work is hard, but if it is offered to God not as something to be worshipped, but as part of our worship to Him, it can bring joy. And a paycheck helps too.
Ancient Greeks venerated leisure time, equating it with wealth and prestige, and that culture has leaked into ours over time, pulling millions into lottery sales, and breaking the back of a welfare system that pays able bodied men and women to stay home. Unemployment is linked with depression, addiction and obesity. God created us to create. I love vacations, but if it never ended I would get bored, and I would really get on my kid’s nerves. I’m made to work.
One of my favorite careers was oystering. Wading out into the rising river, my rake and basket on a little homemade float while my two oldest boys played on the beach, brought me the purest sense of connected-ness to the earth that God intended for us to work. Then bringing the fruit of that labor, bushels of oysters, to market illustrated the simple cycle of God’s creation. But we don’t have to farm to see this. A stay-at-home-mom sees the fruit of her labors in her growing children, a teacher in his students, a builder, an artist, a plumber, a cop – we release our creative drive, the gifts that God put in us, and we give back to the world we are a part of. As we serve others, we honor God.
Work has meaning when we see it this way. It becomes an idol when the work dictates who we are, or we demand our value through it. Our value is hid in Christ.
Zechariah 9:16 says,
On that day the LORD their God will save them, as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land. ESV
There is our value, here is His land. The test is “faithfulness in human life as it really is.”
Wherever God has you, enjoy the blessing of family and friends this Thanksgiving, but don’t hate the alarm clock the next day. God is there, with all of the possibilities of a new day.
Thanksgiving Song by Mary Chapin Carpenter
PS I will be working Thanksgiving. I hope I don’t see you!