Photo taken in my office in Corner Brook, NL in 2015
The long weekend is here and on Monday, we will celebrate Labour Day, a statutory holiday in Canada since 1894. What better time to write about work and our view of it.
For many, work is considered a necessary evil, a drudgery, something we are compelled to do in order to make a living. We may have all felt that way at times, but surely, life was not meant to be that way. Why not take some time this weekend to settle your reason to labour.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” — Mark Twain
I have heard it said that your job is what an employer pays you to do; your work is what you were born to do. I first published this statement (defining the difference between a person’s job and work) in a blog post a few years ago. One reader wrote saying, “In a few weeks I will go to neither” meaning they would be retiring. The point I was making was that you certainly finish a job or change careers, but I question if you can really retire from your work, especially if it is what you were born to do. Maybe your work (or calling) is something that takes you an entire lifetime to complete.
The term “calling” has often been reserved for members of religious organizations, or people in public ministry, like a member of the clergy or an overseas missionary, for example. However, becoming a politician, lawyer, doctor, fire fighter, police officer, mechanic etc. has been considered more of a career choice and not typically connected to calling at all. It seems that calling, therefore, is “sacred” while the other careers listed are more “secular.”
Dr. Ken Boa in his book, Conformed to His Image says,
“Our primary calling is to know and love God. Our secondary calling is to express this relationship in everything we do and with everyone we encounter.”
As a teenager, I felt a “call” on my life and the best way I could interpret it at the time was to become a pastor. I attended Bible College to earn a theology degree and during my first year, my Bible was open on my desk to 2 Timothy 4 as a daily reminder to: “Preach the word; be ready in season …” but I felt for most of my life my calling was more “out of season.”
Most of my career was in the financial services industry providing insurance and investments. My perspective was that my work as a financial advisor was my job (secular) and I believed my “calling” to ministry was my true work (sacred). As the years passed, I questioned if I had “missed my calling” or was it possible that I could live out my calling by being a financial professional?
My problem was that my secondary calling (as a financial advisor) was somehow disconnected from my primary calling. Ken Boa explains that “If the secondary is not related to the primary, we slip into the error of dichotomizing the “spiritual” and the “secular” when they should really be integrated. When this happens, our relationship with the Lord is disconnected from the everyday activities of our lives.”
Wow! Looking back, I realize that I kept my primary calling separate from my secondary calling. I certainly felt I was serving the Lord but somehow allowed the everyday activities of my work to be completely separate from my relationship with the Lord.
For many years, my focus as an advisor was on building my business, which included developing relationships and serving clients. While my focus was good (and typical of this industry), my secondary calling lacked the perspective that only comes by incorporating my primary calling. My work as an advisor (secondary) needed to be an expression of my primary calling. Dr. Ken Boa explains it this way:
“Secular work becomes spiritual when done to the glory of God. Spiritual work becomes secular when done to please and impress men.”
When I recognized the opportunity to bring glory to God (primary) through my practice (secondary), my work was transformed and took on new meaning.
My level of fulfillment reached new heights because the secular and the sacred were merged after many years. Dr. Ken Boa sums this up perfectly: “When we keep our primary calling first and seek to express it in and through our secondary calling, we become more holistic in our thinking and practice.”
What about you? Are you living out your calling everyday through your work? Is your time at work fulfilling because it is a true expression of your calling?