Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Gospel of Labor

This year, I attained the age at which most American citizens choose to retire from full-time employment go on to whatever comes next. As one who chooses to remain part of the workforce for the foreseeable future, I find myself increasingly called on to answer the question "Why?" and the honest answer is I don't really know. Maybe I continue to work because it's a habit and I'm simply too old to know better or to change. I've been called to work since I was grown enough to make a difference on Dad's farm, where I learned a lot of truth at the end of a long handled hoe. I've worked in a machine shop, and learned the value of always striving to be a master of the craft. I've been a full-time student, earning grades rather than money. I've been a soldier and known the freedom of eagle flying armed helicopters in harm's way. Most recently and currently, I am employed as a systems engineer (and refugee from a Dilbert Look-alike Contest) figuring out how to make diverse hardware and software platforms play together in perfect harmony to do useful things. I know of no life without useful work. Maybe I continue to work because I like what I'm doing. All of my jobs have been interesting. All have spoken to some aspect of my psyche. And all have been emotionally if not monetarily satisfying. I like getting paid to do interesting things. Or maybe I continue to work because work is what I was made to do. The way I read the creation story, God placed the man he had created in the garden, to dress and to keep it. And when the man and his wife were driven from the garden the curse was not on the man but on the ground, that it not yield its fruit without increased labor. And so, I continue to work and to eat my bread by the sweat of my brow. And, as I age, I find it all good. In the words of an anonymous poet, "This is the gospel of labor, Peal forth, ye bells of the kirk, For the Lord of Love Came down from above To live with men who work. And this is the seed that He planted, Here, in this thorn-curs'd soil: Heaven is blessed With eternal rest, But the blessing of life is toil." Have a great labor day!