Sunday, December 2, 2018

To Believe In Your Work: A Sunday Rumination

     Welcome to Advent, Gentle Reader. The four weeks preceding Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, constitute a special time which Christians are exhorted to devote to preparation. “Preparation for what?” the agnostics may ask. For the emergence into our temporal realm of a Figure who had a greater impact on our world than anyone before or since.

     Yes, Christians worship Him. We hold that He was God made flesh. The sacrifice of His life brought about the Great Remission that opened the gates of eternal bliss to fallen Man. But even a total atheist must concede His gigantic influence on human history. No mortal ruler or philosopher can claim an equal stature, let alone a greater one.

     And so we prepare: specifically, for the re-enactment of His story. It begins in a stable. His parents had been compelled by the decree of Augustus Caesar to travel to Bethlehem, the place of Joseph’s birth, to be enumerated in census. But they could not find conventional lodgings. His birth was relegated to a stable, surrounded by animals.

     Not even His mother knew the extent of the work her Child would undertake.

     We often hear about someone experiencing a “calling” to this or that occupation. It’s the common way of referring to the sense that a particular kind of work is what one was meant to do. Meant by whom? God? Well, yes. Those of us who believe sometimes conclude that God has directed us to some specific effort, including our lifelong trades. Hopefully we’re right about that more often than not.

     But even an atheist can get that sense of having been called to his trade – that this, and nothing else, is his proper work, at least for the moment. And sometimes it’s not about work as such:

     “Older priests have told me,” the priest said, “that one of the tests of a true vocation is whether, when the regrets surge up—and we all get them—you can look at what you’ve renounced, compare it to what you’ve done and can do, and sincerely say that you’d do it all over again. It might be hard. It might even be a little delusional. After all, I have no idea what I could have or would have done if I’d gone some other way. But I do know what I can do as a priest, and I do it every day, and I love it. Every particle of it.”
     He rose, went through an elaborate stretching routine, and resumed his seat. “I sit too much,” he said, “but these days most people do. Anyway, as I was speaking it occurred to me that it’s a good test for the accuracy of any sort of calling, clerical or secular.” His gaze sharpened. “Maybe it’s a test for your calling, too.”
     Her brow furrowed. “As a novelist?”
     “No, dear. To your variety of womanhood.”

     [From Experiences]

     For some of us are called to be examples to others. Preferably good ones.

     It’s my belief that to rise to the highest level of achievement, a man must love the work he does. He must feel that there’s nothing in his world that he’d do better, or do to better effect, or would rather be doing regardless of the available rewards. Such a conviction necessarily involves complete commitment – love. There’s no other word that fits.

     To my mind, that constitutes a calling. Let’s return to yesterday’s emission for a sentence or three:

     “Any life must be perfect in proportion as it does what it was made to do....For God, in creating us, equipped us for the work for which He created us. We have every gift of nature and of grace, of mind and body that is needed for this work.”

     There are several assumptions built into that statement, but they’re perfectly consistent with one another and with the nature of a calling. A true calling must perforce direct one to what he’s best fitted to do. When he finds that thing, he will embrace it; it’s built into what he is. And he will never regret the choice, or the “opportunity cost:” the renunciation of all the other things he might have done.

     It’s in the nature of fleshly existence under the veil of time that not everyone finds his way to what he’s best fitted to do. Survival necessities are unforgiving. (So are tax authorities, spendthrift spouses, and whiny kids.) In this lies a great part of the “tragic vision” of which Thomas Sowell has written so often.

     As I wrote yesterday, it’s a high blessing to believe in your work: to be confident that the work you’re doing is the work you’ve been called to do. It conveys a sense of life’s sacredness. It opens the horizons of achievement. More, others can sense it, and honor it. It’s a state I wish everyone could share.

     One of the ways Christians should prepare for the coming Nativity is to ponder the work we ought to be doing. It needn’t be salaried work. It needn’t displace you from your paying trade. Indeed, it needn’t involve money or commerce in any way. And it just might change from moment to moment.

     Advent is the perfect time to make a practice of asking oneself, as frequently as appropriate:

What should I be doing at this moment?
Am I doing it?
Did I spurn it for something less important?

     Jesus of Nazareth knew what He was put on Earth to do. It’s why He was able to change the world. Well, yes, it helped that He was the Son of God, but really, who else’s calling could have been that high?

     May God bless and keep you all!

1 comment:

Tracy Coyle said...

Having been Christian, I learned the lingo...ok, that is petty...

The wisdom in Scripture is undeniable. Though those that reject it would argue otherwise. Someone once said to me 'to answer a calling is a blessing, to fabricate one is always a burden'. I think that was a paraphrase.

"Do what you are supposed to do" is a core tenant for me. You can see the people that answer a calling by the 'fruits' of their efforts and their own happiness. Those that don't, suffer in many ways.

Have a fruitful Advent Francis