Labor Laetitia Nostra—“Work is our happiness”—is an old Latin motto that a lot of people would probably dispute these days. But with a change of outlook, many of the Labor Days of our lives—whether fishing, driving, or keyboarding—could metamorphose into a Long Weekend Bash. “The secret of happiness,” said J. M. Barrie (the creator of Peter Pan), “is not doing what one likes, but liking what one does.”
Back in our Chiloé days, one of the young guys, when asked what he was thankful for, cited Work. And he didn’t refer to his job or his paycheck, but to the actual physical labor of Work. After I finished gulping, I realized that even the service leader—a hard worker if ever there was one—was a bit taken back. Gratitude to God for the opportunity and health to work!
Play and Work
In Chile, Labor Day is on May Day, which is also in the fall, not the spring, in South America. Here it marks the waning of the sunny season and can often drag by as the dreariest of days.
For whatever reason, the popularity of Labor Day celebrations has dropped off since I was a child. I doubt it has to do with the weather. In my childhood, Labor Day was one of the biggest “play” dates of the year, the last hurrah of summer vacation. Back then, the weekend coincided with two important events for me—my birthday and first-day-of-school preparations. I looked forward happily to reading and studying again.
I know, I know. A little weird, right? Some people count school as work, not as play or pleasure. But I don’t. That work for me was joy.
Certainly, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” but loving your work can transform it into play. What a blessing when “real work is play, not drudgery,” as the novelist Madeleine L’Engle put it.
God Himself, during the week of creation, invented work, and I’m pretty sure He enjoyed Himself thoroughly. He has passed along to us the Labor Laetitia Nostra mindset, for three reasons:
- Our personal fulfillment in accomplishing what we’re called and gifted by Him to do.
- The opportunity to minister to others in meaningful service.
- The glory of God and His kingdom.
Droplet Gift #16: I will make His assignments the joy of all my labor days. (Believe me, I have a LONG way to go on this one. I’d far rather watch soccer than scrub toilets.)
Faith and Work
However, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17-18). We remember that salvation is by grace through faith, not works, of course (Eph. 2:8-9). But I also take to heart James’s challenge: “Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works!”
Putting our faith into action demonstrates the most essential element of that faith—authenticity. It shows our confidence that God is working in our character through each circumstance and that even the smallest deed done for Him will not lack its reward at the end of the labor.
Truly, as John Ruskin remarked, “The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.” Our daily work, in God’s eyes, is a testimony to who and what we really believe.
Thankfully, we have His promises for today, “Your strength will equal your days” (Deut. 33:25), and for tomorrow, “Your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (I Cor. 15:58).
“And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame;
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame;
But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the Thing as he sees It, for the God of Things as They Are!”
–Kipling, L’Envoi, In Seven Seas
Dream and Work
No matter how motivated we are to labor for the Master’s praise, assured that it’s worthwhile, still life can be hard and the load heavy. Life@work for many people means slogging away at jobs that are less than ideal—more boring than stimulating.
Amid the daily routine, dear sister, seek the niche where you can work and play at the same time. I often recall the line of a folksong I heard many years ago at a Prince Edward Island ceilidh: “Let your dreams bind your work to your play.”
Nourishing the dreams God plants in our hearts will allow Him to take the tedious and troublesome and turn it into that mysterious intersection, the “labor of love” (I Thes. 1:3). Presbyterian minister and writer Frederick Buechner describes it: “The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
God calls us to work where need and passion ignite in a blaze of joy. This vital concept prompted my husband and me to give our youngest daughter a name which means “Industrious” and “Happy.” May she—and all of us—find that gladness in work as we hitch our most beautiful dreams to the cart of Labor Days.
“Work and dream. But never dream more than you work.” –Beryl Markham (early female aviator), West with the Night
Lord, don’t take me home…until your work call is my happiness. (And ah, remind me of this the next time I grumble about waxing my brick walkway.)