A changing workbench, but stable work
A Christian Science perspective.
"Your workbench might change, but your work stays the same," a colleague once told me.Skip to next paragraph
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Clarifying what a person's actual work is, irrespective of his or her "workbench," or position, can bring greater career opportunities. Work can be the active expression of God's qualities. Paying attention to those qualities can enable tasks to be better integrated with one's personal life, and therefore be more effective.
Developing a sense of work and career is a continual process. It can be an opportunity to think "out from" the divine Mind – from God – with all its clarity and omniscience, instead of thinking "up to" a distant God. This occupation can be taken up each morning with promise and freshness.
Reviewing examples of Bible characters, such as Nehemiah and Joseph and others who endured hardships and prevailed, is helpful. So also is finding inspiration from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, a book full of rousing instructions on how to get a better grip on what true life-work is about.
This passage is particularly useful: "Man is not made to till the soil. His birthright is dominion, not subjection. He is lord of the belief in earth and heaven, – himself subordinate alone to his Maker. This is the Science of being" (pp. 517–518).
A farmer wouldn't go to work each morning feeling he or she was only tilling the soil, without any sense of the potential for new growth and eventual harvest. Metaphorically, any of us can feel we've been assigned to "till the soil" – to repeatedly go over the same ground with no promise or promotion. But we don't have to stay in that mental framework. The statement "Man is not made to till the soil" is direct and precise.
At one point I was in a difficult teaching situation. Day after day, I found myself struggling to reinforce the same skills and behaviors in the classroom; it was tempting to feel I was just "tilling the soil." However, instead of accepting that repetitive effort was what was required in order to teach well, I chose to practice more closely the "Science of being" – the laws of God.
I considered the qualities discussed in Mrs. Eddy's description of "children," found in the Glossary of Science and Health: "The spiritual thoughts and representatives of Life, Truth, and Love" (p. 582). She added that they are "not in embryo but in maturity." I endeavored to pay attention to the evidence of mature spiritual qualities in our classroom and to recognize that they came from God – from Life, Truth, and Love.
Where liveliness and robustness were expressed, I saw God expressing Himself as Life, as the only source of vitality, and that the children were therefore always safe and governed by divine authority. Under God's care, their behavior was not random or aggressive. I recognized truth, honesty, and courtesy as being part of Truth's government and as naturally expressed by our class members. Whenever I saw an act of friendship or kindness, I thanked divine Love for evidence of His presence.
That passage in Science and Health about not tilling the soil helped me identify with God's creation, and to experience the joy and dominion that God gives to His creation. I was also able to identify the students with the joy and dominion they experienced as "the spiritual representatives of Life, Truth, and Love."
Teaching the class stopped feeling arduous. I no longer believed that there was an influence more powerful than God, or good.
Over the 10-week term, the class exhibited a more constructive nature. Stolen items were returned with apologies. Students demonstrated independent, quiet working skills. A parent volunteered to assist with literacy work. The class became more cordial and mature, and lessons became more productive.
The principal had been aware of the challenges in the class, and at the end of the term he identified a turning point. Throughout the rest of the year he referred to the favorable change in the class.
The turning point for me, however, had come much earlier – and it had first come in my thinking. Irrespective of the class, my work was actually to recognize that I was subordinate only to God, and to express more of His dominion.
A year and a half later, I was promoted to a position that involved giving professional development training for other teachers. Then I became a deputy principal at a large school. My "workbench" kept changing, but my work essentially stayed the same – to exercise God-given dominion over any belief that we were made to till the soil.
Whatever the employment or redundancy figures tell us about the availability of employment, there is always the work that God gives us each day, along with the ability to achieve it. This employment is our birthright.