On Work: Question Two

Recently I picked up a John Piper book called “Don’t Waste Your Life”.    It’s been on my shelf a while.

A few days ago, one of my students spotted it, pointed at it, and said, “Well that looks depressing!”  Ouch.  But true.  Her simple comment made me simultaneously laugh and want to trudge forward in this search. After realizing there is such a thing as a perfect job, there’s still another question.   Is it important that what you’re passionate about and your work be aligned?

How do we ensure that we don’t waste our lives?  I think our culture would say– put yourself entirely into work that you are passionate about.  To put it more simply, Passionate Work = Happiness.  But perhaps the truth isn’t that warm, fuzzy, and vague.

In Nashville surrounded by musicians, it is easy to feel like I’ve missed the boat on passionate work.  Create, be your own boss, and make meaningful art that speaks to many people?  Wow!  Sounds great.  But when a song-writing friend of mine, Neal Carpenter, responded to this first post— he explained that not everything is glamorous in the music biz.  Though he is greatly satisfied in his work Neal also said “98% of my work may never be heard or seen by more than a few people.” 

Here’s a song he wrote… and its awesome.  Maybe I can help change those numbers a little.

After spending some time reading other articles about the nature of work, (this one describes the lessons to be learned from Jim Halpert) I realized, once again, that I wasn’t getting anywhere.  
Should I be passionate about the work I’m doing? 

Deep down the answer in my soul says yes. I want to be. 

Unfortunately, if I’m honest, the things I am passionate about are all very selfish things.  More money.  More friends.  More clothes.  ugh.  gross. When one (noble) passion doesn’t come to the forefront, I trudge through the long list of “activities” I’ve done since childhood, looking for my “passion.” 

Raised in the era of “you can do anything you put your mind to!” I often feel there are too many ideas running through my head.  (Start a restaurant! Be a lacrosse coach! Write a book!)  Believing I could legitimately do any one of them, I don’t commit to any of them.   All of these ideas march through my head: a litany of ambition, pride, and self-glorification.   

But serving my own interests can’t be what my soul was saying yes to. Can it?   “Don’t Waste Your Life put words to exactly what I’ve been feeling:

“Why am I here?  To be happy? Or to glorify God?  There was in me a feeling that these two were at odds.  Either you glorify God or you pursue happiness.  And that is why I was confused and frustrated for so long.”

As it turns out pursing happiness and glorifying God are one in the same end.  I’ve been spinning my wheels trying to make myself happy, because I was created to be glad and joyful!  I can be happy AND spend my life making God look great.  Because He is. 

So a person doesn’t waste their life where they work, but how and why (Piper’s words again). 

This gives us great freedom!  If I am passionate about music–I can pursue music to glorify God.  If I am passionate about teaching, I can teach to the glory of God.  If I have no idea what I’m passionate about–I can work where I am for the glory of God!  I can be in this world, but not of the world.  I can work, but not be a slave to the demand that I LOVE what I’m doing, but instead, explain that I love and am glad in the great God who gives me freedom to do it. 

In the Lord, we can be passionate about anything, because He has created all things.  

So what do you think?