Repeatedly over the past nine months as I've interviewed small business owners for Patch, I've heard many of them say in some form or other:
"I work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. That's crazy, right? But to me, it's not really work if you're doing what you love."
Personally, I'd have to say 84-hour work weeks are a little crazy. I also think it's not really fair to yourself to say, "It's not really work because I love it," because the bottom line is: Work requires effort, plain and simple. And if you're the kind of person who strives to do good work--excellent work even--then you are going to have to labor toward that goal.
It doesn't mean work can't be fun. It doesn't mean work can't be worthy. But generally speaking, work is ... well, work.
I love writing, and I love that my professional life has evolved into full-time writing. But as you can see from the photo of my desk, just because I love what I do doesn't mean I don't work. With multiple projects going at one time, my job involves a lot of time and effort on my part.
Where things get a little dicey, though, is when work is just a job, or worse yet, a job you hate. Work most definitely becomes a headache when getting up in the morning and forcing yourself to get dressed and go makes you physically sick. I know people in those situations. They are not happy or healthy.
So why do some people get to do what they love and some people have to do what they hate, all in the name of work?
For me, that answer is partially rooted in a culture that doesn't concern itself with spiritual gifts. We are each fearfully and wonderfully made, and each of us have different talents and abilities. When we tap into those gifts that God gave us and use them in our work, work then becomes an opportunity to worship, a way to honor God by using what he gave us in an excellent, productive, creative way, even if you feel stuck in a dead-end job.
Generally speaking, the working world does not create nor fill jobs based on a spiritual gifts model. However, I recently served on a search team at our church where we decided to intentionally focus on the spiritual gifts required for the open position. The goal was to help us find the person whose skills and talents met the church's needs, on both a professional and spiritual level.
It made for more work on our end--and our candidates'. But for our church, this wasn't just about filling a job. It was a labor of love to take the time to hire this way because it's about seeing work as worship, a way to honor God and give back to him through using our gifts fully and well.
So on this Labor Day, my prayer would be that people have a little time to sit back and take stock of their lives, to consider their giftedness and how it applies to the work they do, whether paid or volunteer. If you've never done a spiritual gifts inventory, there are many free online resources to assess your own unique gifts and maybe reconsider what your work means to you ... and what you mean to God.
What a wonderful world it would be if people could work as a labor of love for God. Amen. Let it be.