“I’m going to work.” “I’m going to church.”
Both of these statements take our humanness and turn it into a place. Church is not a place and neither is work. We can easily see the error in this thinking about “church” by simply looking at scripture. The church is human beings communing with Christ and overflowing with His presence into the world. We are the church. This realization helps us see more easily the Kingdom of God everywhere. It helps us disabuse ourselves of the notion that “church” is somewhere we go or something paid pastors do.
But work is a different animal, isn’t it?
Work has to be a place, right? Work has to be something we do, right?
Work, though commonly thought of as a place or as something we do, can hold life-transforming potential if we can learn to embrace it as something we are.
First of all, let’s say right from the start that work has meaning to us because God says it does. Work doesn’t have meaning because we do it, it has meaning because God has given it meaning. Work existed from the very beginning (Genesis 2:15) and is part of humanity’s original vocation.
Work has meaning because we have meaning. (Click to Tweet)
Most of us try to derive meaning from our work, however, once you locate work primarily to some external place (either a location or an action), it becomes controlling, addicting and all-powerful. It becomes something we want, instead of something we already have. It becomes something we do, instead of being something we are. It becomes some place to go, instead of being right where we are in the moment.
Locating work extrinsically makes it something that then gets to define us, something that we avoid, fearful of it’s power to define us negatively, or something we pursue, coveting its power to define us positively.
Work can easily become something we avoid through procrastination or covet through workaholism. These ugly twins, procrastiholism, are then free, under the ruler of this world’s dominion, to exert a powerful influence in our lives.
So, how do we defeat procrastiholism in our lives? It isn’t easy. The part of us that sees what we do as separate from who we are must die. As in other areas of our lives where we’ve gone through the painful process of identity formation, a soul-stripping process of death must ensue to find the resultant freedom.
In order to defeat procrastination, one must be free to work, yes; but even more importantly, must be free to rest. In order to defeat workaholism, one must be free to rest, yes; but even more importantly, must be free to work. Freedom can only come through death, death to finding ourselves in what we do and death to finding ourselves in what we don’t do.
We rebel against being nothing (workaholism) and we rebel against being something tied to performance (procrastination). We are afraid of not performing and being found empty; or, we are afraid of performing and being found empty
Joyfully, God located work in our creation, in our dirt bodies, in the essence of who we are. There’s nothing to prove. There’s no place to go. Work is embedded in the paradoxical empty fullness of our existence. It’s part of who we are.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:15
It seems there were no training programs that Adam had to first go through, there were no employee orientations. Adam did not have to take a personality test to find out how he could best contribute to the care of the garden with his personality strengths. God made everything. And He made Adam, made work, and located work in Adam.
A blog post is too short to prescribe exactly what this process will look like for you. How will you find freedom in the garden with Him? How will you become completely emptied of any desire, possession, relationship, or view of work that blocks your march to being human dirt God can shape? The long process to death and detachment is different for everyone. I can promise you that the journey to be free from procrastination and workaholism is to understand you are already there.
The good news is that work is such a harsh pursuit for most of us, requiring all that we are in exchange for layoffs, burnout, fatigue, empty monetary rewards and more. It has the potential to deeply shape us if we let it do its stripping work. Enduring fleeting reward after fleeting reward can help us to learn to surrender, trust and find joy in serving others.
In the end, God wants all that we are as much as He wants all that we do. Work is one of those things we are and God wants that, too.