|I took this photo while in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2007, on board a wind-powered sailing vessel [no engine--just sails] loaded with wooden beams that were hand carried down a narrow plank to the dock below by men working from 6am to 6pm for $9 a day.|
Last week I quoted a Coca-Cola executive who said, "we don't find meaning in our work, we bring meaning to our work." Bonnie Wurzbacher went on to say that until we understand "there is no secular and sacred split," and we "see how our work truly fulfills and advances God's purposes for the world," we cannot bring meaning to our work.
So how does a man carrying beams off a ship all day bring meaning to his work?
Watching those men do their back-breaking work in Jakarta tested my theology of work. In Indonesia, where the average wage is $100-$200 per month, these workers were at the upper end of the scale. But putting money aside, I had to ask myself: could I even do this kind of work? And for how long?
I wasn't asking this question in light of the physical challenge. That was easy to answer! I figured I could last about 45 minutes. I was asking in light of the mental challenge. Could I really bring meaning to this kind of work? Month after month? Year after year? If so, how?
Over the next few weeks I'll be discussing the matter of bringing extraordinary meaning to "ordinary" work. Even the so-called "mundane." But before I get into this, let me say that if you really feel like you're "carrying beams off a ship all day," and you have the means to do so, I suggest you meet with a trained job coach who can assess your situation and provide counsel regarding a better job fit. I once advised a young man to see a Christian "calling coach," who later told me it was the best $200 he ever spent.
But most people in developing nations don't have the luxury of a job change, and many in the "first world" don't either. Furthermore, all jobs have "chores." Perhaps the "chores" are not as dramatic as that shown in the photo above, all jobs have difficult, unpleasant, and sometimes loathsome aspects.
If your work "energizes" you 60% of the time, consider yourself blessed! But would you like to bring more meaning to the remaining 40% of your time? And if you are "energized" by only 10% of the work you do each day, would you like to bump that percentage up?
You don't have to change your job to bring extraordinary meaning to "ordinary" work. It's a matter of thinking differently about the work you're already doing.