Posted by: gcarkner | May 21, 2013

Work & Identity: Freedom in Context

Reflections on Calling, Work & Identity

Two priceless quotes from Eugene Peterson’s Practice Resurrection put in perspective our hard work as students and faculty, our deliberations, research, debates, writing, teaching and study. They give life to and empower what we do and how we do it. They offer a qualitative difference.

Work is first of all what God does, not what we do. Genesis 1-2 is our entrance story of God in his revelation to us. Most significantly, it is a story of God at work, working the very same environment in which we do our work. The first thing we learn about God is that God works. God goes to work making the world and all that is in it (Genesis 1) and then invites us into his work, giving us work to do that is commensurate with his work (Genesis 2)…All our work is preceded by his work. All our work takes place in God’s workplace. All our work is intended to be a participation in God’s work…. It is the nature of work to provide material form for the invisibilities of grace.” (Practice Resurrection, pp. 99-101)

It is essential that we assimilate God’s Genesis week of work if we are to live what ‘God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.’ The Genesis week is the story of God pouring all the Trinitarian invisibilities into forms that are accessible to our five senses. God’s grace, the basic giftedness of everything that God is and does, becomes present to us exclusively in the form of work. The works of God—light and sky, earth and sea, trees and vegetation, time and seasons, fish and birds, cattle and kangaroos, man and woman—are the forms by which we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell grace. The works of creation, including we ourselves as part of those works, provide the forms by which we enter into and participate in the world of grace. The visible creation is the form, the context, in which we experience grace. Invisible grace permeates the forms of creation, filling them with content…. Creation is all gift. We receive the gift and participate in the gift in the forms of work…. We are God’s work, before we ever go to work.” (PR, p. 102)

Gift is Life:We begin as gift. We don’t make ourselves. We don’t birth ourselves. We find our fundamental identity as a gift. And then, immediately, we are given gifts: gifts of love and food and clothing and shelter, gifts of healing and nurture and training. “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (I Cor. 4:7). Gradually these gifts develop into the strengths and responsibility of maturity. Now we begin to exercise these gifts in community. We gradually learn to live what we have been given wisely and well. We grow up…. If we are to become mature, we must gradually but surely realize ourselves as gift from first to last.”  (PR, p. 46)

Gratitude is a Pillar of Human Flourishing: This involves appreciating all of life as an ongoing gift from God daily, appreciating his goodness to us in the everyday details of the journey, living more deeply into our current location rather than wishing we were somewhere else. It is a cultivated art which refuses to take life for granted and rejects the spirit of entitlement. “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. Amidst much of the hubris of academia, the humble, thankful life is deeply enriched through the appreciation of gift: the mercy, goodness and superabundant generosity of God. The Sabbath Principle (Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythmns) is important here: time to retreat and collect self in God’s presence, in order to refocus on our God-infused reality, recovering transcendence and awe, deep meaning in our work and vocation. “Give thanks to Yahweh (the Lord) for he is good and his love endures forever.” This places stewardship of our gifts and our work on the front end of our agenda, giving us a larger horizon or perspective.

Recommended Books on Calling from Emerging Scholars Blog:

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