Usually at this point in a writing, the author will begin h/er expose with a Webster's definition, and build from there. But I, quite frankly, am a little scared to read the "correct" definition of this word, because I've been having such a blast discovering it for myself. Or at least what it means for me.
I used to define work as something I did to make income. I clock in, I clock out. I'm at work, then I'm not. Someone's looking over my shoulder, then I'm free.
Now I define work a little differently: Work is ministry. And by "ministry" I don't mean that I'm walking around the world in sandals preachin' the good news and eating grasshoppers. Ministry is simply the opportunity I've been given to work.
An opportunity. A gift. A grace.
We all have this gift. According to Seth Godin, when you realize this gift, you become a linchpin--The third group of workers who are slowly overtaking the traditional commercial worldview of managers and laborers. You also become a good reason for Seth Godin to write a new book (case in point).*
Whatever it's called, it's seriously challenged my way of life. I no longer have the ability to simply not be at work. My work is almost always on my mind. There's no more clocking out; no more leaving work at work. I can no longer blame my stress on my uptight boss or my snotty coworkers. Everything (e.g., success, happiness) falls on me.
But on the bright side, I'm doing something (actually multiple things) that I really enjoy. It's like I'm just "being myself" and getting paid for it--joyfully. Suddenly, work is no longer work. It's ministry.
Which brings me to Sabbath, which has also taken on a new meaning in light of my new view of "the world of work." I never used to take Sabbath particularly seriously. As long as I scraped up some free time to (a) not be on the clock and (b) not be tired from previously being on the clock, I figured that was good. But now, there is no clock. I have to intentionally create a sacred time. Just like removing my shoes when I'm on sacred ground, I need to remove my productivity when I'm in this sacred time.
Why is this so important? Because now that I give a crap about what I do, I want it to matter. Which is great, but also dangerous, because it means I want to do it all the time. Which means I'm going to get burned out. But I'm just going to keep on truckin', because in my blind ambition I'm going to start thinking that what I do matters a little more than it actually does, and that I matter a little more than I actually do.
In his song Perfect Desires, Aaron Niequist puts it perfectly:
Perfect areOur desires are a gift. We're created to enjoy them, and when we do, we discover the difference between worldly happiness and everlasting joy. But the truth is, whether we act upon them or not, the world is still going to turn. God is still going to love me. But God has bigger things on his plate than whether or not I feel important. And "importance" is exactly what I feel when I work non-stop.
the good desires
You have given me
Be their end
as You have been
That's where Sabbath comes in. It reminds us that even though we have this awesome God-given thing to do, that thing doesn't control us, give us value, or define us. It's simply there for our enjoyment... Much like the Sabbath itself.
*If you read any Seth Godin and also read anything on the postmodern movement of the Christian church, there are some weird parallels. Um... I hope I didn't just give away an idea I should be writing a book about.