I spent a year in a place outside of Washington, D.C. where I was first introduced to the theology of work. I had always believed that the Lord directed my steps, but that his concern about which office I drove to in the morning or what title my name badge gave me was a derivative: he loved me and therefore cared about matters in my life that he normally would not. The important thing to him was if I represented his name well, if I gave my best, if I was respectful and kind and faithful and bold. After spending ten months reading and working and thinking and talking and considering, I think that I was wrong before, that the bridge between who we are and how we express that being-ness through a job can´t be separated so easily. All of his desires must still hold, I concluded, but they hold themselves within a web of purpose and planning that he delighted to stream together through my habits and dreams and inclinations. The job titles we give ourselves and to others nearly always fail to capture the fullness of this purpose. After still brooding over what my calling is or what company or industry I should look in after Mexico, I am seeing more and more that the whole of a person, rather than occupying the grand narrative of a job title, is best expressed in the micro-moments of everyday existence. One of my dearest friends is an architect, and I have always caught myself staring at his fingertips when he draws. Sometimes, I put the pad of my thumbs on my index finger and try to imagine what it would be like to hold a form or a scene in my mind and transport the three dimensions before me back to Plato’s cave. Another time in high school, I quietly approached the classroom where my mom taught, and I listened as she delivered a lecture, taking each seemingly random question or diversion from her class and molding the intellectual environment into something nonthreatening yet engaging. I was dumbfounded that my mom was anything else but mom, but there I had found a new path in the woods I had walked my whole life. I like to imagine that nature hushes and that the orb holding all our noise shrinks and glazes when we do what we were created to do. If the universe hibernates while I zone and give myself fully to a task, even if just from my perspective, then this rhetoric joining sacred and profane, worship and work, does not seem so unreachable.
But why do we do it? Why do I relish rearranging post-it notes in a fever before clicking away at a lit screen for hours, just to get the proportions of text boxes and org charts just right? Why does she nudge the entry-table vase with her fingertips into a more perfect plane? Who cares about the slope of a roof, the crust on a roasted chicken, the height of a pile of papers, the order of fantasy football list, the visibility of power cords? We give hours and days of our lives to tasks that matter to no one, practicing our own peculiar brand of blueprinting and scheming and rejigging, because there is something inherently affirming about losing ourselves in devotion to a task. We were created for it. I think this perspective on work—of finding and expanding the moments where we do what we were designed to do—is liberating. Mundane tasks are then attachment points between these moments and can themselves become sacrificial in the same way that so many of our small, forgotten moments already are. I used to get discouraged when any sort of boredom or repetition came in a new job or hobby—how could my calling ever be stale? I am coming to realize that narrative dictates the necessity of this rhythm, which means that tedium is anticipation and even the mundane (which I think, despite what most people might say on the surface, is more feared than intense suffering because of its stagnation) has a thrum of affirmation. God’s watchful eye toward all my moments means that my affairs fall under Providence’s gentle gaze. Wherever I find myself, whether deep in the heartbeat of enjoyment or sucking coffee through a straw to finish late-night sales forecasts, I know that light expands just far enough to illuminate the next task, even if the photons die out and reignite in seconds.
What I believe—and what I do with what I believe, if that’s even a dichotomy—is still a block of marble, at times indistinguishable in form, with the Spirit still hovering over the waters. But the voice has begun to speak. I am less about what and more about how and with who and why. I am not as fretful about outward shows of performance. The Kingdom paradox of last, first, first, last is, if not less mysterious, more attractive amid its mystery. And I can see the moments in myself and in others more clearly. There. Yes. Don’t stop doing that. That’s your pearl of great price. Sell your field, eat Ramen, get up earlier, but get hold of that moment and drive it into the earth. Tend to it and you will always find your way home.