When an international scholar visited a seminary in the US, he was surprised to see an American colleague gardening on Sunday. For him, that activity wasn’t appropriate for the day of rest he observed on Sunday, whereas his colleague found the experience of planting, sowing, and digging to be restful, providing enjoyment and a bit of mental relief. Although the two men interpreted the Sabbath principle differently, they both agreed on the importance of seeking to rest each week.
Harry’s job in the cobbler’s shop was to pound leather for shoe soles. He would cut a piece of leather to fit, soak it in water, and strike it with a hammer until it was dry. Harry asked his boss if he could simply attach the soles while they were wet. But his boss, a believer in Jesus, knew that Harry’s easier method would result in an inferior shoe. He explained that just as some are called to be pastors, he was called to make shoes. Thus, he sought to always do his work with excellence for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Jamie, a professional artist, sometimes feels guilty for the long hours she spends in her studio. She wants to “take up” her “cross” to follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24), but she enjoys painting. Does that count? She wonders if she loves her art too much, in an idolatrous way. Sometimes she feels she must “pay” for her enjoyment through struggling in other areas of her life. She’s never understood how her painting could count as following Jesus.
One summer I spent a month in Bolivia, living with missionaries at a fledgling Bible school. Different jobs awaited me each day. Sometimes I cooked, cleaned, or did laundry. But every day I worked on construction projects. I loved learning all of the different tasks (okay, not the laundry!). One day, a pair of missionaries from another religion came to the school to tell us about their beliefs and to challenge ours. The thought of answering their questions intimidated me. I put my head down and kept working while a friend talked with them. I remember thinking, “I’m glad I don’t have to do that job!”
One morning, I was surprised to see my mail carrier lugging his heavy bag. I asked him why he was delivering mail on Sunday, and he curtly responded with a single word: “Amazon.” The online retailer had started offering Sunday delivery, so it was no longer a day of rest for postal workers.
Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, I maintained Nigerian citizenship because of my parents’ diplomatic status. I once met a lady from Indonesia who excitedly launched into her native tongue after learning my birthplace. Embarrassed, I informed her that I was only there briefly and had no knowledge of the language. I was born in the country—but am not of it.
One day as I drove by a vineyard located several miles from my house, I noticed a sign that read: Fieldworkers needed. For just a moment I imagined myself hard at work, standing between rows of vines with the sun on my neck and sweat on my face. I could almost smell the fruit ripening in the summer heat and feel myself snapping clusters of grapes from beneath broad leaves.
The only thing Julius Kettle didn’t enjoy about returning home from boarding school on weekends was the countless rocks he had to gather. His father was gradually turning their family farm into a structure that looked much like a castle, built from the rocks of the land—rocks that Julius had to collect. Years later my folks bought the property, and when I now look at the castle-house, I can’t help but marvel at how skillfully it was crafted.
When we considered remodeling our basement, our neighbors all recommended the same person for the job—Tony. He’s an experienced carpenter who shows up every day, delivers more than he promises, and finishes what he starts. People trust this handyman enough to give him their house keys and many let him keep the keys after he finishes the job. When they have a home repair project, they simply contact Tony and he comes over, lets himself in, and goes to work.
“And what do you do, Susan?” I asked over dinner. “Oh, not much,” she said. Approaching the question differently, I asked Susan what she’d done that week. Her answer made me feel exhausted!
From overhead, a security camera captured an unseen force as it buckled the floor of the National Corvette Museum in the US. Suddenly a sinkhole yawned from below, devouring several prized sports cars. Among the buried vehicles was the one-millionth Corvette ever produced.
Poets have long used the seasons as metaphors for our lives. Spring is seen as a time of new beginnings and potential; summer is a time of growth and success; autumn is the harvest season when we reap the fruits of our labors; and winter is a time of endings and rest.
So many of us struggle to feel that our work—the ways we spend the majority of our time and the way we pay our bills—has lasting spiritual value. This is remarkable, given how often Scripture insists that everything we do matters to God.
As I watched a talent show on TV, I was greatly impressed by a gifted musical group. Collectively, the musicians played more than 15 different instruments. Videos of their spirited blend of Irish-influenced music and dance consistently go viral. The 12 siblings who comprise the uber-talented Willis Clan have appeared on other television programs, and they even have their own successful reality TV show.
A friend who worked for a Christian organization was known for his perfectionistic work habits. One day as he was finishing some work on a backhoe, a large piece of excavating equipment, he began preparing to paint its large metal bucket. This was an unnecessary part of the job, as the fresh paint would scrape off as soon as the backhoe began digging into rocky soil. As my friend raised his spray gun for the first coat, his boss called to him, “Don’t paint the bucket!”