To Tend and Keep
This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground…The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed…Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
My friend sat across from me, twisting her hands in her lap. Our small group, made up of couples from our church, sat around us, discussing the heavy topic of living our lives as if we could die tomorrow. We closed with words from 1 Corinthians 3, where Paul reminds us that a light will shine on our life’s work, revealing everything. Paul goes on to say that the quality of our work will be tested by fire, and only that which remains will be rewarded. Our group leader asked us the question, “What will remain of your life’s work after it’s tested by fire?” Everyone turned expectantly to my friend, as she gave a tentative look around and then answered the question.
What she said surprised me. I thought she would refer to her parenting, her volunteer service at church, or her upcoming duties at a local children’s charity. Instead, she talked about her job as a music teacher to toddlers, and how unsure she felt about its significance in light of other, more eternal work. Another friend spoke up saying, “I just make art, man. It’s not ‘Christian art’ or anything. It’s just my job.” A few more added comments about their chosen vocation, and how difficult it is to find the greater purpose of our daily work. One friend pointed to the pastor in our group and said, “ You have it easy! You work for God!”
Our pastor smiled at this, and laughed a little. No one ever calls his job easy. He then spoke about Genesis 2. With his words, he gathered us up from where we sat peering over the edge of eternity, and returned us to the Garden of Eden. He brought us back to the very beginning, when all of creation functioned in perfect order, when God created the earth and then placed man in the center of it all to care for his creation. Before sin, before the curse, there was Adam and there was a garden that needed tending.
The work of our hands, whether it be teaching or creating art or sewing sutures or counseling teens, is a part of the order of creation. Work is not part of the wages of our sin; work is God’s gift to us. It exists even after the fall of man in the Garden. God worked to create our world, and we follow in His footsteps, tending to and caring for this beautiful, imperfect, ever-shifting earth. We do this imperfectly ourselves, but through our daily tasks, we find remnants of the Garden. We have the opportunity to create order out of chaos, to work faithfully at whatever our hands find to do, and to trust that in the light of eternity, something of our lives will remain.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you view your daily work in the light of eternity? Do you see it as a gift or a curse? What do you do each day that contributes to God’s Kingdom here on earth? How can we encourage one another in the church to see our work as a gift?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, help us to see our jobs as an avenue for growth, as a chance to bring order into chaos, and as an opportunity to honor you with our daily lives. Show us where our vocation intersects with your Kingdom. Give us wise pastors and leaders who will point us to your word and to truth, and remind us of our purpose here on earth. In turn, may we encourage others. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: Kimberly Coyle is a writer, mother, and gypsy at heart. She tells stories of everyday life while raising a family and her faith at her blog, kimberlyanncoyle.com. She writes from the suburbs of New Jersey, where she is learning how to put down roots that stretch further than the nearest airport. Connect with her on Twitter @KimberlyACoyle.
The Local Church Equipping Us in Our Vocations
This article is part of a series at The High Calling on "The Local Church Equipping Us in Our Vocations." It seems that in many church contexts, what we do Monday through Friday is the least important thing. But shouldn't Christ be the Lord of our work as much as the Lord of our church's ministry programs, our marriages, and our families? Here at The High Calling we not only want to equip and empower the laity to live out their faith in their vocations, but we want to inspire church leaders to equip their people to do so as well. How can church leaders help their congregants to steward their vocations? How can church communities embrace a discipleship paradigm that includes the workplace? If you want to inspire people in your church community to embrace how the vocations of lay people glorify God, why not encourage them by sharing links to these articles in emails, Facebook posts, or through some other social media?
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.