Whether we’re is young or old, work is there like an annoying little brother following us wherever we go, preventing us from doing the things we actually want to do, and finding every opportunity to make us cave in and say: “you’re ruining my life!”
Monday comes around and we are mad at it for wrenching away the freedom of our weekend. We dread going back to work, and dream of the day – oh, that special, glorious day – when we don’t have to work anymore.
But what if this wasn’t the way it was intended?
Doug views work not only as opportunity to do something he feels passionate about but as a job with an additional mission – a purpose that carries far more weight than any amount of money could ever match, or more meaning than any trip to outer space could ever hope to equal.
Doug is an astronaut.
“My job is to just sow seeds. I can’t make it rain and my job is not to till the ground and pull the weeds,” Doug Wheelock, 55, said. “I’m just to cast seeds. Just to plant seeds and that’s all. I’ve got to trust that God is going to make it rain.”
Doug considers himself fortunate because he’s doing what he always dreamed of doing as a kid growing up in upstate New York. He knows that not everyone gets to do exactly what they always hoped to, but believes that our purpose and passion in life are directly connected.
“My dad didn’t have that experience. I remember him, before he retired, start X-ing days out on the calendar. And my dad had a great work ethic, but I remember those calendars,” Doug said. “I remember as a kid, thinking I don’t want to be like that at work, I want my work to be my area of passion as well. And so then that of course is the big question for all of us: what is your area of passion?”
Not everyone gets hyped up about flying science labs and geo-synchronous orbits the way that Doug does, but there is something like that inside every person.
Discovering a purpose can make all the difference in someone’s work life, and it starts with the work Jesus has already done.
Sometimes all it takes is knowing there is in fact a purpose behind it all, and then seeing the ways God is working in the long-term – something Doug calls “vision.”
“One kind of cool thing that I found at NASA is this: you walk in those gates, and you walk into any building, and the guy sweeping the floors or the woman emptying the trash cans, or the guy fixing the railing that broke off – everybody in there launches rockets. They [help] launch rockets to space. I like that kind of mentality and that kind of thinking. And I think we have to do that more in our own lives as well because when we start looking at our life in two-dimensions, you know just the little world around us, it’s sometimes grim. We don’t look up and see where we’re going or what we could become or where we could take our family or where we could go spiritually. But if we cast our eyes down on the dirt that we’re standing on at the moment, we allow ourselves to get sucked into meaningless stuff like ‘why am I doing this?’ or ‘how is this ever going to influence the world for any kind of good?’ instead of ‘I launch rockets into space.’”
And then there’s Amy.
Amy Bueermann is 29 years old and teaches kindergarten at a low-income school in League City.
She chose to work at that particular school.
And while she receives a paycheck for teaching small children basic knowledge and life skills, Amy sees her job not only as a way to help kids build better futures, but an opportunity to help those kids, their families, and her co-workers build better eternities.
“My first purpose is to be an example of Christ and after that is to be a teacher,” Amy said. “If I can do that through being a teacher, then that’s my goal.”
That may sound simpler than it is, because let’s face it: kindergarteners can be difficult. Parents can be difficult. Co-workers can be difficult. People are difficult.
But God calls us into the difficult so that we can reflect his love and affection for people – even the most difficult ones.
“If I’m having a rough stretch of time, or if I have a really tough kid, I will seek out verses,” Amy said. “I just write them on a Post-It and put them on my desk – [verses] about giving grace and about patience, and about, you know, the fruits of the spirit, and the kind of stuff that can just remind me of my purpose and also that I have strength to be able to do things that are hard sometimes, like being patient or being kind when other people aren’t kind.”
Doug and Amy both started attending Clear Creek Community Church in the mid-to-late 90s. Doug came in 1996 after moving to the Houston area for work at the Johnson Space Center, and Amy started coming with her parents in 1998. Amy was in middle school. That was when the church still met in a school and all of the equipment and signage had to be set up and torn down on a weekly basis.
Both Amy and Doug served on that team over that stretch of years in the late 90s – one a grown man, the other a teenage girl, one went on to become an astronaut, and the other a kindergarten teacher. Although they were very different people in very different stages of life they served a common goal of serving in the church, and the same holds true today. They are different people, in different stages of life, working different jobs, and yet they still serve a common goal: to point the world around them to Christ.
Amy says it like this:
“Whatever it is that I’m doing, whether I’m a teacher, or a mom, or an astronaut or whatever, my first priority is to be a servant of God, and to live like the Bible tells us how to live, and to love people. And I think you can fit that into any job, regardless of what you do during the day.”