Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Work (07/27/06)
By Stephen Paynter
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As I stop and reflect back over my life, certain days stand out from all the rest. Days like one when my little sister was born; when I first kissed a girl; when I first met my future wife; the day we got married; the day my daughter was born; the day I became a Christian, and so on.
Two other days stand out as being particularly important: the day I started work, and the day I retired. I wish I had known what I discovered on the day I retired, on the day I started work … maybe I’d feel differently about my life, about myself.
I always knew that there was more to life than my work. Indeed, if you had asked me, I would have said that there was more to me than what I did. I had multiple roles, son, husband, father, and they were all more important than engineer … employee. However, I’m afraid this knowledge was not deep knowledge. At social gatherings when meeting new people, I would naturally introduce myself saying something like, `Oh, I’m an engineer. I work in the defence industry developing techniques for forming new alloys.’ Sure it bored some, but it also established me as somebody.
My identity may not have been sunk into my job without remainder, but I can’t deny that my work contributed significantly to my self-identity. In a way it summarised my entire school days – it testified that I was someone who had studied hard and who was clever enough to have gone to university. It also testified to my role as a professional, someone with responsibility and technical competence. It was who I was … day in, day out, week after week, year after year.
Then came the day when I cleared my desk for the last time. My colleagues had gathered round and presented me with a few tombs on theology, and told me that now I would have time to read these weighty works all day, and not just in my lunch hour. Then I had left. And as I left, I felt like I was leaving a part of me behind. Part of me died that day.
Who was I? A son? My parents had died years before. A father? Yes, still a father, but my daughter had long since left home, and was married now herself. It wasn’t the busy role it had once been. A husband? Yes, a husband, but … well, was that all? I was not employed. I didn’t earn anything. I didn’t produce anything. I didn’t have a team of younger men and women seeking my advice. Was I just to grow old? Was my life effectively over?
It took me the best part of six months to come to terms with my new existence. Partly it came about because of new work that I took on around the church: mentoring and teaching, and so on. But mostly it emerged from a spiritual crisis, one that taught me to look much harder at how God saw me. When you dwell on his assessment of us, you quickly see that it has very little to do with what we do to earn a living, or even to serve him. It has everything to do with what God has done for us, redeeming us through his Son and filling us with his Spirit. We are the adopted sons of God. That is who we are, ultimately, and intimately. And it is enough. It is who we are supposed to be.
I wish I had known that – in the way that I know it now – from the beginning of my life.
So now when I introduce myself, I say “Hello, I’m Adam Smith, and I am … me, an adopted son of God.”
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