When looking through chapter titles for a topic to write about, I noticed Chapter 7: “Checking Email.” As a career academic, I have certainly had to deal with a lot of email. For many years it has been one of the primary means of communication at La Sierra University. My thoughts then turned to the many ways we can communicate with each other in the church community.
We can communicate by using written letters, using social media, email, texting, calling each other, and visiting face to face. About 15 years ago, we joined one of the small groups that were set up by this church. Group members have come and gone, but this experience of discussing together books of the Bible or other religious books has drawn us together and created a close-knit group of friends. Being part of this small community of believers has been a very instructive and inspiring experience. Without effective communication and a feeling of belonging, it is very hard to create a strong community of believers.
The author, however, does not use this chapter to discuss the importance of effective communication but instead uses it as an example of a work task that she finds tiring and boring as well as demanding of her time and energy. In her words:
My brain cannot take in the sheer volume of email… My eyes glaze over. I want to escape. I know people should empty their inbox every day. These people have super powers and exist on cheerfulness and productivity as food. I don’t like it and therefore I avoid it. (88-89)
“What does worship have to do with my everyday work?” she asks. Often our everyday work seems tiring, boring, and insignificant. The chapter points out that one of the outcomes of the Reformation was the notion of vocation. “The idea that all good work is holy work was revolutionary.” Our everyday work is indeed part of God’s kingdom mission.
The real challenge is integrating faith and the everyday work we do each day. Too often we see them as two different worlds, but the author argues that these two “are intrinsically part of one another.”
This kingdom vision—our identity as blessed and sent—must work itself out in the small routines of our daily work and vocation, as we go to meetings, check our email, make our children dinner, or mow the lawn. (93)
As we try to do our work with love and compassion, our task is not to somehow inject God into our work “but to join God in the work he is already doing in and through our vocational lives.” As we work in the workplace or home, play with our children, or volunteer in the community, we need to do it mindfully. We need to faithfully represent Christ’s mission in the way we do all our everyday tasks, even if they are boring and we don’t like doing them. We truly need a way of working “that is shaped by being blessed and sent. This … way is marked by freedom from compulsion and anxiety because it is rooted in benediction—God’s blessing and love.”
I know that in my life, this inspired approach to everyday work I do will take some time to sink in and become habit. But the end result is that by doing our work in this spirit, we can live lives that truly bless others.