Work and Rest

Guest post by Mariel Ariwi



This week I’m starting something new and exciting for the blog! I was thinking a while ago about how fortunate I am to have so many wise and wonderful friends to have learned from, and realized it would be great to get to share some of their wisdom here on the blog. So until further notice, I’ll have one of these friends sharing a post on the blog once a month. First up, the lovely Mariel Ariwi.

 

When I started at my first “career” job, it surprised me to see how much and how often my peers were working. The city that I live in seems to be unanimously focused on maximizing profit at the expense of their time. My colleagues in healthcare at my full time job would ask what my second part time job was – I didn’t have one, naively assuming that one was enough. Most small talk at work includes how much one is working or when one’s working next.


I went into university thinking that I would find my purpose in my work. The way that I perceived work was more as a vehicle to a life of purpose; earning money was certainly essential, but doing something ‘important’ and ‘meaningful’ was more important than doing something that paid well.


My first few years of work were very difficult, in part because I HATED it. I couldn’t stand the people who loved their jobs because I was the exact opposite – the fulfillment and sense of meaning that I had been expecting from my work just wasn’t there. A few years later, it still wasn’t there. My job exhausted me. I came home angry from the events of the day and dreaded having to go back the next day. I felt burnt out at a young age, tired of what I had just started to do. Initially, the answer to my frustrations seemed to be that I should go back to school, to try something different, to switch jobs. However, all these options, though not wrong, still felt hollow and empty, substitutions that would end up being equally disappointing.


Without realizing it, I’d absorbed the predominant narrative of our culture which told me that I had to find meaning in my work, that following my passion would lead me to find my true calling in life. What I thought was a passion did not last long in the harsh light of reality. This idea of work as the source of purpose has saturated our culture, leading to a generation of people who put the full weight of their purpose on their careers. Our desks were never meant to be our altars. We, as humans, will by default worship something; in many of us, it’s become our work. We’ve taken a good thing that was created by God to bless the world, and turned it into an idol.


When I look at the story of God and his people, I see that he calls all of us to more than just our ‘day jobs’. He’s called us to be set apart, to worship him and him alone. Jesus calls us to make disciples, to lay our lives down for the sake of others, to follow him. This is my ultimate purpose – but how does this translate into ‘real’ life? God also created us for and has called us to work, it is a good thing.


Tied into this unhealthy expectation of fulfillment was the amount of work that I felt pressured into doing. In the “hustle culture” of today, where there’s pressure to monetize your hobbies and to turn what you love to do into a career, the idea of rest has taken a backseat. With the addition of the near-constant stimulation from technology/social media/ the news cycle, our minds are rarely free from any sort of input. It’s rare that I’m doing something without some sort of input, without a podcast or music playing or a book in my hands.


Look at God, while he creates the world: he creates and then rests, declaring his creation good. The idea of rest is not a legally imposed, coerced plan from God, it’s a gift meant for his beloved people. I don’t want to see rest as an evil thing. I want to slow down, to free myself from the urge to be working all the time in order to prove my worth, to enjoy the gift of rest that has been extended to us.


When I ask people around me what they’re doing to rest, most people don’t even know how to answer. We are sacrificing rest and true purpose in the name of greed, in the pursuit of more. I don’t want my life to be controlled by the love and need for money, status, or a false sense of meaning. I don’t want to spend my life worshipping at the altar of career, instead, I want to worship the one, true God.


Jesus calls the weary to him, the burdened, the tired, and promises them rest. I want my life to be lived out of that rest, learning from a gentle and humble teacher upon whom we can cast our cares. There are many instances in the Bible that portray God’s heart for his people; he is described as the living water that brings life, growth, and refreshment, as the source of strength for the weary, as sustenance for the hungry.


Learning to uproot the wrongful worship of work and the glorification of busyness has been difficult. There are practical steps that I’ve been trying to take; learning to practice Sabbath, reshaping my identity’s emphasis on job title. As I learn to reject the the world’s gospel of work and accept the truth of rest, I am also learning to find that rest not only in cessation of work, but in Jesus as well. He is slowly changing what I hold in high importance, rearranging my priorities, and refocusing my eyes onto him.