Bad job?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

The other day the phone rang, and a friend shouted out, "I can't stand this job! If I have to work here another day, there can't be a God."

He feels trapped. Like most people, he has to work. He has a family and is working on a college degree at the same time. The job is not in his field, but it pays the bills. The job leaves him too tired at the end of the day to do much work for school. It's the proverbial vicious circle.

I remember the first job I had when I was in college. The firm was starting to computerize their records. But first everything had to be microfilmed. So I would get a file drawer of advertising records at the beginning of the day. I had to unstaple them and put a sheet of green paper between each card. That was it. At the end of the first day, I saw the room where the files were kept. There were rows and rows of file cabinets.

The first week or two I strove to break my record each day. How many file drawers could I do? But the bloom of accomplishment faded fast, and my fellow workers were not thrilled with my speed-demon haste.

But it was still June, the file drawers were endless, and September seemed impossibly far away. I talked with my supervisor to see if there was anything else I could do. The answer was no. I had no experience, and this job had to be done.

The way the office was set up, you couldn't talk very much with others, so I started talking with myself. I probably started out like the friend who called the other day - how could God have put me in this position?

But I didn't complain very long. And this is the reason. As far back as I could remember, I'd been told that God is good. I knew by heart the verse that ends Psalm 23: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." It was a habit to think of God as the source of good.

Off and on as I worked through a file drawer, I would think about the fact that God is the source of life, of my life, and that He is the giver of good. This didn't make the work any more stimulating. But it did reawaken my gratitude. I needed a job. I wouldn't have enough money for school without it. It paid better than any job I'd had before. So I thanked God for the things that were good.

Then it struck me that the work was useful. Still boring, but it needed to be done. This undermined the argument that I was wasting my time, wasting my life. I was doing something useful.

The first chapter of Genesis, which speaks of God's creation of man and woman, concludes with the instruction to "be fruitful, and multiply." Lately I've been seeing those words in a broader context. They tell me that our lives are meant to be productive. Rich in good works, effective in bearing witness to God's goodness and love.

This broader sense of those words has helped me challenge the notion that anyone can be unemployed or unemployable, unproductive, or unable to contribute meaningfully in some way. We are ordained to be fruitful. To be effective. To lead a life of value.

In a brief article called "Angels," the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote: "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896"). When I began thinking about God at work and seeking fresh inspiration, I was happier on the job. I no longer felt drained at the end of the day. I had plenty of energy to do other things when work was over.

Then in August my supervisor asked if I'd like a change. Would I ever! There was an opening in the newsroom for a copy clerk. I couldn't believe my ears. That was my dream job at the time. So my last month of work that summer and almost every vacation after that was spent in the newsroom.

This experience has often helped me remember that we aren't stuck in a job. We are fulfilling a need. And we can keep in mind God's command that our lives be fruitful; we have a divine right to feel a sense of satisfaction as well. When we stay close to the ideas that come to us from God, our lives will be more and more wonderfully productive.

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