Wake Up and Go to Life

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Many people are no longer blessed with the gift of combining their professional work and their family lives.

During the 1700s and 1800s, our nation was an agrarian society. Fathers woke up in the morning and spent the entire day out back on the fields or tending to the cattle or harvesting the hay. Children carried buckets of milk to the house or jumped in the haylofts. When they were older, they worked beside their fathers tending to the soil. Life wasn't easy, but families worked together.

Today many of us have to separate our work from our families. How many children really know what their fathers and mothers do in the offices or factories?

For many years I was blessed with two worlds: the world of my work as a teacher and the world of my work as a family man. I shared with my children what I learned about education: reading is essential, cooperation is paramount. I promised myself that I would not let my work interfere with my wife and children. I only prepared lessons and graded papers when the children were tucked away for the night. I didn't work on Saturdays or Sundays, for those days were reserved for day trips, church visits, Dairy Queen ice-cream cones, and visits to grandma's house.

It was never difficult for me to create appropriate boundaries between my work life from my family life, because I tried to make both my work and my family essential qualities of what it means to be a father and husband as well as a participant in the broader society.

Many people fall into a habit of cutting off their work-selves from their family-selves. The headaches of the moment, the pressure of deadlines, the difficulty of securing new customers, can send us home exhausted. We can easily slip into habits where we'd rather eat a sandwich and watch a football game instead of taking a walk with our husbands or wives, or reading to our children. Ah, but there are solutions.

We need to find what makes our work holy. When my three children were in college, I remember walking up four flights of stairs on my way to my office saying aloud, each time I stomped on a step: "College, room, and board! College, room, and board!"

Perhaps we need to build into our lives a bit of early paradise. Every two weeks, when my father went to the bank on Monday evenings, he'd return with a half gallon of icecream, the only time we had icecream as children. My father gave his family a simple, loving treat that added a simple purpose to his day's labor.

I like to add little reasons for my labor whenever I can. I think of it as creating an Oprah moment. We know so well how Oprah Winfrey likes to surprise people with gifts, cars, vacations, or with surprise visits from long-ago friends. Each day, when I go to work, I come up with something that one of my coworkers might not expect: a compliment, an article I found in the newspaper, a get-well card, and then I share this little story with my children. It was a wonderful way to connect the family dinner conversations with a day's work and with the people who are in my building.

It is easy to fall into the daily grind: wake up, go to work, come home. Instead, we have the ability to create a grace-filled day: wake up and go to life.

We have the ability to make our jobs our personal duty to integrity, a job well done. What we do can be connected to the people we work with and to the people who wait for us at home.

While we have lost the community of families working together in the fields, we still live in a world among those we love both at home and in the office.

The poet Archibald MacLeish wrote, "The labor or order has no rest." It is our responsibility to create order no matter what our job and no matter what our family life is like. If this order is created in the context of our own high calling to do our best, to exist in a loving society, to honor God and ourselves, we might very well see the fruits of our labor.