Wrestling with Restlessness…

Last Wednesday I attended the Spring Career Fair at U of O. It wasn’t because I was desperate for a job; I have two. It wasn’t because I want to make more money, either; I make enough for the time being. I went to the career fair because I am restless.

I love my jobs; they’re fun (most of the time). But what has been kind of bugging me throughout the last few weeks is the fact that when I come home from either of these jobs, I haven’t really done much. Sure, I might make a few customers happy by making them a good pizza or finding the item they were looking for, but beyond that, what’s the draw? What have I accomplished apart from bringing in a paycheck?

In school, I felt like I was doing something meaningful. Yeah, I hated the midterms, papers, and projects, but my constant motivation was the fact that, little by little, I was achieving my undergrad degree. It made those tests all the more critical to excel in. It made the tedious assignments of blog comments and one-page writer’s responses less dreadful. And it gave those research papers a sense of immediacy as I wrote them – as if my entire future depended upon it.

The “real world” is boring. Sure, during football season things get busy at both my jobs. It’s important that we find the missing items in the warehouse. And there’s a great deal of urgency to make those 12 large pizzas on time for that 13th-Birthday party. But finding something and making a few pizzas in a timely matter aren’t really accomplishments. No one puts those things on their resume.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God,” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Paul has a point: Glorifying God is supposed to be our number one priority no matter where we are or what we’re doing. But then Paul goes on to talk about spiritual gifts two chapters later. He says basically that no matter which gift you have, it’s absolutely vital to the purpose of Christ and His church; “The members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” (12:22). And just when it looks like there might be a slight message of “just keep doing what you’re doing,” he says this toward the end: “But strive for the greater gifts,” (12:31). So if he actually means what he says when he writes 10:31 and 12:31, then doesn’t it stand to reason that if we aren’t striving for the “greater gifts” we aren’t really glorifying God?

I understand that these chapters in 1 Corinthians are leading up to chapter 13, which is by far the most important thing for any Christian to learn and practice. I’ll get to that. What I’m trying to guard myself against here and now is idleness. No, not idolatry – the worship of false gods; idleness: doing only what needs to be done for the present time in order to have the most relaxation possible.

When Jesus is telling the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), there’s something the master of the house says that really strikes me: “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’” (20:6). And in the parable of the talents, the master again says something similar: “But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant!’” (25:26). To borrow from C.S. Lewis, God is not fond of slackers.

I don’t think I’ve been particularly lazy; I’ve been working a lot over the past seven months. But I can tell you that I have felt terribly restless. I want to do more than show up on time, work hard, work efficiently, and then come home. And it makes me wonder: If I feel that what I’m currently doing is lacking in a deeper spiritual sense, then shouldn’t I do something about it? Doesn’t James say that he who knows what he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins (4:17)? And if I feel that I’m not doing enough, doesn’t it at least suggest that there’s something I’m supposed to be doing?

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing,” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Paul says that without love, whatever we do in this life, on this earth, is meaningless. Or, to put it in the opposite way, love (as described in vv. 4-8a) gives meaning to everything we do – be it playing a professional sport, receiving a third PhD., or making a pizza for someone just the way they like it. But what Jesus reveals in his parable of the talents is that we’re supposed to do more than the bare minimum. We’re supposed to keep striving, to keep climbing, and to keep pushing ourselves not to our fullest potential to glorify ourselves, but to our fullest potential to glorify God in all ways possible. From this point all that remains for me (or anyone in a similar boat as me) is to choose to start pushing.

A new job won’t be the fix to my restlessness. But refusing to try for a new job might be even worse. In a pickle like this it’s best to figure out which way is the most difficult. It’s probably the way I’m supposed to be taking.

God bless.

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Jeremy

Cherokee / Whovian / Sherlockian / Aspiring Auror / Lover of Jesus, Scripture, and creativity / MATS Student at George Fox Seminary.

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