“Dad, when I grow up, I want to drive a trash truck.”
My four-year-old told me this with a straight face. Upon further examination, I discovered that he didn’t want to drive just any trash truck. He wanted to drive a “flying purple trash truck.”
I love that his career aspirations are so broad; he hasn’t yet fallen prey to the lie that white-collar vocations are somehow better than blue-collar. But I also love that he’s so genuinely excited about work. On some days, he dreams of driving this elusive flying purple trash truck. Other days, he wants to be a teacher, or a choir director or a farmer. Just yesterday, he had papers, toys and craft materials strewn about a table. When I asked him to clean it up, he told me matter-of-factly, “Dad, this is my desk. I have to work here. My boss won’t want me to clean this up!”
There’s something beautiful about his childlike enthusiasm for work. To him, work is not an obligation. It’s not a chore. It’s not even about making money. To him, work is thrilling. The world is teeming with possibilities, and he can’t wait to get his hands on it.
I wonder if that’s how Adam and Eve saw the world. When God made these first humans, he didn’t instruct them to twiddle their thumbs. He gave them work to do. The author of Genesis writes,
And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ (Genesis 1:28)
Later, Genesis describes Adam doing that work. God first tasked him with naming all the world’s animals (Genesis 2:19-20).
In these early days, I imagine Adam and Eve saw God’s world teeming with possibility. I bet they couldn’t wait to get their hands on it. Everything was new. Everything was possible. There were places to explore, work to do, culture to create. In a real sense, Adam and Eve could drive a flying purple trash truck and be teachers and choir directors and farmers. They didn’t have to choose.
But if you’ve worked a day in your life, you know that work is not so sublime anymore. Work isn’t always fun. Sometimes it’s difficult, exhausting, unfulfilling or frustrating. Oftentimes, we cannot always do the tasks we’re passionate about. We have to take jobs to pay the bills and provide for our families. And all of these struggles are compounded because we often work alongside other unfulfilled, frustrated workers.
We’re a long way from Eden – and long way from flying purple trash trucks.
Remembering the end of the story can help you live well in the middle.
Thanks to Scripture, though, we know why work is so frustrating – and how God will solve the problem. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command, sin entered the world. Their decision affected everything – including work. God told Adam,
‘Cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.’ (Genesis 3:17b-19)
Now, God told Adam, work will often be painful, toil-filled and frustrating.
Does this mean that my son’s workplace dreams are impossible? Is all work doomed to frustration? Not exactly. The same God who proclaimed that work would be frustrating also set in motion a plan to redeem all things – including work.
Fast forward to Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. These earth-shattering events began a process of reconciliation – of making things right. When we turn from our sins and trust in Christ, we are reconciled to God, and we begin the process of being reconciled to each other and to the world.
And one day when Christ returns, he will make all things right. He will bring restoration and healing to us, to the world and, yes, even to work. So in eternity, work will no longer be frustrating. It will be a delight.
In the meantime, that idyllic picture of work may not fully come to fruition. You may never get to drive your purple trash truck. Even the best of work will still have its ups and downs.
But when God saved you, he began that work of restoration. He has reconciled you to himself, and he is slowly but surely reconciling you to others, to the world and, yes, to your work.
In the meantime, you will face hard days at work. There will be days when nothing goes right, when your co-workers get on your nerves, when your to-do list grows ever higher, when you just feel like giving up. But remembering the end of the story can help you live well in the middle. One day, the frustrations will end, and you will be able to work with joy, purpose and excitement.
One day, you will work like a child.
Image Credit: Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash