Passion of Work
My friend Andy Chan headed up the placement office for the Stanford School of Business, helping graduates find work. He says that someday he wants to write a book called The Myth of Passion. This is the myth that somewhere out there is the perfect job, the idealized calling that fits my soul the way a key fits into a lock, and if I could just find that job, torrents of passion would cascade out of my heart like water going over Niagara Falls. Passion for our work is not usually a subterranean volcano waiting to erupt. It is a plant that needs to be cultivated. It is a muscle that gets strengthened a little each day as we show up — as we do what is expected of us, and then some. We almost never get to know ahead of time the full significance of what we do or don’t do in our work. We are simply told, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10, NIV)
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all trace their roots to Abraham — not a priest, but what we would think of today as a rancher. When he was “now old and well advanced in years,” he realized the time had come to find a wife for his son Isaac. Since there was no eHarmony, he assigned the task to the “chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had.”
In Genesis 24, we read the servant set out with a caravan of ten camels to the region Abraham had directed him. Finding a wife for your boss’s son was a high stakes assignment that required considerable thought. So the servant began his work with a prayer: “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today. . . .” Do you ever pray to ask God to make your work successful? People sometimes wonder if it’s okay to pray for work to be successful. Of course! If success is becoming my god, I will have to find a way to dethrone it. But generally speaking, if you can’t pray for the success of what you’re doing, start doing something else!
When the servant arrived in the town of Nahor, a young woman named Rebekah greeted him and offered to get the servant a drink. When he had finished drinking, Rebekah said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking.” We are told she “quickly” emptied her jar into the trough and “ran” back to the well to draw more water. It all sounds fairly unremarkable, until you read between the lines: One gallon of water weighs eight pounds; a thirsty camel can drink up to thirty gallons of water; and there were ten camels. Do the math. Rebekah is running to the well. This girl is drawing three hundred gallons of water for a stranger. She does all that could be reasonably expected of her and then some. This was the pivotal moment of her life. Because of her act of service, Rebekah became the wife of Isaac and went on the adventure of a lifetime, becoming part of sacred history. To this day, her name is remembered and revered by people of faith. But Rebekah did not know all this was at stake. She did not offer to draw three hundred gallons of water because she knew what the reward could be. It was simply an expression of her heart.
When we discover the gifts God has given us and the passions that engage us, and we put them to work in the service of values we deeply believe in — in conscious dependence on God — then we are working in the Spirit. We are the ones who make our work significant — not the other way around.
© 2014 by Zondervan. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Visit JohnOrtberg.com for more about John Ortberg’s work and ministry.