How Work Is a Part of Image-Bearing

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By Brandon Garrett

My life is anything but linear. Its trajectory resembles the meandering wanderings of a mountain road carved, not through the mountain, but out of inherit reverence for its majestic topography, with the mountain. At times the road turns to the north along the valley, then slowly to the east as it starts to ascend upward before taking a sharp turn south that turns still until it heads north again. Yet through all the twists and turns, the road knows where it leads, even if it appears circuitously confused along the way.

I am a lifelong lover of writing who found his way to an engineering school before venturing off to seminary and upon graduating took a job first with an engineering consulting firm then with a general contracting firm. The road winds still. I then took a pastoral staff position with a church in my hometown during which I finished post-graduate seminary studies before returning to the world of general contracting in which I now work while launching a network of neighborhood house churches. 

What appears to be circuitous confusion, an inconsistent teeter-totting between the worlds of the secular and the sacred, is in fact profoundly (and admittedly surprisingly) consistent. Not that I have always known this or been assured of its consistency. I have discovered it as a travailing traveler who stumbles onto unexpected treasure along the unknown road—something that (re)orients the traveler to where she is and where she is going, reminding her that though it twist and turn, the road is the same still. That unexpected treasure, that (re)orienting signpost discovered in my meanderings is the universality of the divinely bestowed human vocation.

When God created the world and crowned humanity with the grace of image-bearing vice regency, he bestowed upon humanity a vocatio—a single, universal summons he intended to define and occupy the whole human endeavor. In the opening scenes of the human drama, the Lord summoned his image-bearing creatures and placed (literally, rested) them in the paradisal Garden which he had hewn out of the cosmic chaos and invited them to “work and keep it.” Intrinsic to humanity’s being is our being like, to image and be like God in our human vocation—to hewn out of chaos places of holy habitation, to restrain the abysmal waters that erode places of flourishing, to rest the anxiousness of the world in the temple of God, to offer our work as signposts signaling the way to the One whose image we bear and whose world we keep.

Our work, in all of its diversity and variety—whether as economist or entrepreneurs, in homemaking or husbandry, as mothers or mathematicians—is the thread that weaves together the tapestry of our humanity, connecting us to the God whose image we bear and the earth to which God calls us “work and keep.” In this way, our work in the world makes us human. It not only serves as a portal through which the image of God in heaven appears on earth, it tethers and turns us to the earth onto which on we etch echoes of the God in heaven. 

That God has summoned humanity to be at work in the whole of his world towards a single end—working it and keeping it like him, of expanding the Edenic temple to include the whole of the earth and life herein—has proven to be that trail maker that reorients me from my dizzied disorientation, reminding me that though my path winds, the destination of the human vocation is same. The road knows where it leads still. It may, at times and for a season, meander quietly along the valley straights. It may meet sharp, unexpected twists in its accommodating ascent up and around the unmovable, majestic mountain. It may endure carousel-like turns that turn every which way but incessantly so, threatening to cast us off the road and over the cliff with its de-centering centrifugal force. But, by grace and the kind patience of the Lord, I am learning to see signposts emerging from the Scriptures like trail markers emerging on the trees for a stray hiker. I am learning to be centered by the Scripture’s centripetal force that also (re)orients me to the telos of the whole of human life.

Though it has the appearance of the meandering wanders of one trying to find his way (or worse, make his way), and though its disconcerting doubts about the value of my work haunt (can this work really matter to God?), I have come to interpret my circuitous journey as the kind orchestration of the Lord; to receive it as a gracious invitation to discover more fully God’s design for his image-bearing creatures and to practice more broadly the priestly consecration of God’s world by our work within it. Wherever we are on the road of life in God’s world, and whatever work to which we set our hands and our hearts, our imaginations and our intellect, we are there priests and priestesses, called to imprint the image of God on the earth and proclaim the gospel to the world around us. In doing so, we are doing for the world around us what God has done for us first in creation and ultimately in re-creation through Jesus: signaling the way to be human, fully alive.

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Brandon Garrett

Brandon (M.A., Th.M. Southeastern Seminary) is husband to Emily and father to Elizabeth Ann, Whittaker, Olivia and Elijah. He launched and leads Village Network, a network of neighborhood house churches which began in Stone Mountain Village, east of Atlanta. Brandon is also a project manager for an Atlanta-based general contractor and the primary content creator for The Beautiful Tension, a blog that explores faith in the already-not-yet of Christian life.

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