Had these thoughts brewing for awhile…
Life is about who we are, not just about what we do. And who we are, though heavily made up of what we do, is also more than just the sum total of what we manage to accomplish with ourselves.
What I do speaks to who I am. My job fulfills an aspect of who I am: it fulfills a healthy desire and need to work. Work for my food, work for the sustenance and provision of my family. That is what I am given for my work: monetary allotment which is intended to relate to the value, quality and difficulty of the work.
And yet work is much more than that. There is something good in and of work itself. It has intrinsic value, whatever the vocation or location, regardless of pay or not. We are designed to work. We find this in the Genesis accounts where God gives Adam and Eve the task of tending to Eden, to naming the animals, for exercising healthy dominion over the land and its creatures. There is good work set before us. It fulfills us in some fashion. It should.
Yet we so often sever work as not speaking to our being. We lop off the what we do from the who we are—or we dangerously enmesh the two: we are only what we do or accomplish. The first disintegrates our lives, fragmenting our experience into compartments. The second sees no distinction at all: it is these people who, should they lose their jobs entirely border on suicidal tendencies. “There’s nothing left to live for. That job was all I had. It was who I was.” Both extremes, I think, can be dangerous.
Instead of thinking of who we are and what we do, the being and the doing, as distinct parts of ourselves we need to see them as part of the process of understanding who we are as whole people. I act out of who I am, and what I do also shapes who I will become. An illustration that might help us here is that of an upward moving spiral. Are being impacts our doing, and our doing speaks to our being, yet there is also progression: we are moving forward, growing older, changing, learning.
In our Spiritual Theology class at College, Lauren introduced us to Parker Palmer and the idea that “we live our way into a new way of thinking, we don’t think our way into a new way of living.”
Living is both: it’s the doing and the being. It’s finding that they are not distinct aspects of myself, but part of a whole. Biblically we find that the doing and being are wound together in one another. This where we often have trouble with the Book of James: we see so much of it as doing, seemingly apart from the being: from the work of Christ in our lives who has saved us. But James is not advocating for salvation by works: his point is that because of the work done in our hearts, because of how we’ve been changed—live it! If you’re not living it then you haven’t seemingly changed. It should make a difference.
Jesus transforms lives. He transforms the living: both the being and the doing. Who we are and what we are about. He reminds me that I am more than one or the other, and more than both. In light of Him, who I am and what I do with myself take on fresh meanings. And that, I think, is where joy lies.