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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

The Work You Want to Do

I saw a link to this blogpost on Ann Voskamp's, A Holy Experience. She hadn't known what to make of the post but declared it, "thought-provoking" and "an excellent conversation starter." My interest was of course piqued. Bradley Moore writes in his post, "Don't Mistake Doing What You Love With Doing What's Important," that although he might like to ditch his day job for his creative pursuits, he could hardly justify such a choice. "There are bills to pay, after all, [and] providing financial security to my family is important." Moore is a writer and a creative dreamer, but his feet are firmly planted in today's sobering economic realities. Siding with Oscar Wilde, Moore quotes, "It is better to have a steady income than to be fascinating."

In part, I find myself agreeing with Moore who wants to take issue with Christians who shirk family obligations and financial responsibility to chase "fantastical dreams." "God never guaranteed that all of our deepest career fantasies would be fulfilled like an American Idol episode."

And on the other hand, I'm not at all comfortable with the false dichotomy he draws between, as he would say, the hard and holy work of one's everyday responsibilities (home, job, family)  and the fantastical dreaming of creative pursuits. One you supposedly hate and are inclined to shirk (can you guess which?), and the other you're pursuing with your stupid adolescent fever. In Moore's words, "The difference between doing what's important and doing what you want is that the important stuff is usually harder. It's not much fun. It generally won't fulfill all of your deepest longings."

He's hit for me a sore spot, considering that the book I'm currently writing is a book nestled right into the tension he surfaces. My question is this: Are the holy things automatically the things you hate doing, while the things you feel enthusiastic and eager to do necessarily life's lesser pursuits?

I don't buy it. There are important things that I like doing. I like hanging with my kids in the summertime and spending our lazy days in the park or beside the pool. I like reading books to them and seeing their eyes and hearts illumine with the candle of a story. I like getting up in the morning, making my ritual cup of coffee, and saying my first hello to Jesus. I like listening to the stories of others and helping them, in some small way, find there the divine script. I like writing and losing my hours here at this keyboard. I like all these good things.

And there are days that I still feel that lurking resistance to do even those things I've said I supposedly like. Days I decide that I will throw my computer into Lake Ontario and get a pedicure. Summer days I wish for September and the beginning of school. Nights I feel too tired to read, even when Colin begs for the Easter story. . . again. Days I won't answer the phone, can't bear to read and answer another email. Days that any work - laundry or blogging, making dinner or finishing a chapter I'm writing - feels overwhelming and hateful. Almost every day, I fight my impulse to spend the day in bed or to make that phone call I've been long planning (the witness protection program).

Loving our vocation, our calling, our work is one of God's greatest gifts: "There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?" (Ecc. 2:24, 25) Neither the responsibilities that I have to manage this family and home, nor the work of ministry to which I feel I've been called feel easy. It's not so neatly divided as Moore would argue, that hard work (begrudging? uninteresting? mundane?) equals holy work and easy work (creative? vitalizing? passionate?) connotes selfish pursuits. It has been my privilege to be, at times, granted joy in ALL the work of this life I lead.

Moore got it wrong, at least in part. It may well have been his intention to call us back from shirking the responsibilities we each owe to our families and our jobs, and for the ways we've neglected that work, finding it either too uninteresting or ourselves overly fascinating, he's made a reasonable point. But for the discrete (and false) categories with which he's left us, I say a hearty no! Let's do ALL the work to which God has called us, letting ourselves neither be conformed to a world hellbent on its own pleasures, nor betraying a more robust, more Biblical, theology of work as BLESSING, rather than curse.