I’ve been paying more attention lately to our language around work and vocation. I’m realizing patterns that I think are embedded pretty deep within us and serve to rule our lifelong actions rendering us unable to truly live the way we were intended to live. If the church is to stand apart and model an alternative lifestyle to the society as a whole, then I wonder how much of our dreams should be caught up in the rat race of “work.” Our economy rules; all dreams must exist and function within the regular flow of how our economy flows.
The regular successful white Canadian life now looks like extra-curricular activities, school, well-paying job, family, land and house, vacations, retirement and then death. If you experience that life, then you are successful, should be happy and are expected to pass this kind of ‘freedom’ and ‘opportunity’ onto your kids so they can also have this fulfilling life. Everything we do exists in and around how money exchanges hands, and we have no clue what it looks like for it not to be this way. From allowances to RRSP’s our lives are dictated by how much money we have, are going to have or don’t have. The first half of our lives only purpose is to lead us and prepare us for a well-paying and fulfilling career and the second half of our lives is using that career to our advantage so we can get everything we want and die well-intentioned and happy.
I’m not content having my entire life climaxing at a career. In fact, when I die, I don’t want people to know me by my job at all. I don’t want my career to define my life and give me my identity. Even if it leads to all the good things that jobs to provide, I still don’t want my values and what I think are good things to be defined by job. Even if my job is good and I love it (which I do). I wonder if Christians should be about something drastically different. Instead of living for work, as the saying goes, we work so we can live. It’s simply a means to an end. A necessary evil that we should do as little as possible of so we can actually experience and contribute to all that life has to offer. I’m not talking at all about those that love their job and those that hate it. I’m not talking about being irresponsible and slacking off and doing as little as possible. I’m talking about reshaping the way we raise our children and how they see vocation. Not setting them up with values so they have the appropriate canned response to “what do you want to be when you grow up?” But giving them a platform to see participating in a global economy as a small part of who they are as a human and unleashing them to discover and imagine who they are and how they can participate with God in his reconciling work in the world.
Everyone says they just want their kids to be happy. But then in the same breath we go and define what happiness should look like for them. It is obviously going to university, working a prestigious job, having cool shit and having more kids and repeating the cycle. Obviously. How can one be happy if they don’t finish their high school? Work as a server at a restaurant? Not have a luxurious vehicle? Not travel to exotic places? I don’t think we really want our kids to be happy, I think we want them to look like us, because anything else is terrifying and way too risky and for some other family or community. So we work our jobs, make lots of money, because that’s just what we do. Then we pass those values onto our kids, because that’s just what you do.
In being downtown I’m starting to get a better grasp on what living looks like. There are a number of people downtown that are living out their lives and excited about everything they are doing in the world. There is Shawn who’s mission in life is to help people see how beautiful the world is and reshape people’s habits to become more based on geographical location rather than politics. He doesn’t really care about his “job” but his entire life is consumed by his mission, sometimes he makes cash and other times he doesn’t. His entire life is consumed by one central idea and money and jobs and the economy are simply either in the way or become tools to help him accomplish what he has set out to do. Ask him the question, “So what do you do?” And where everyone else spouts off what field their job is in, he probably couldn’t tell you. His job does not define him. Christians can learn by this kind of ordering of his life. We too have a mission in life. We too should be entirely consumed by the idea that God has saved the world and is restoring all of creation to himself. That is where identity lies. That is what should drive us to participate in the economy or not.
We need to infuse proper values into our communities that give our children an identity that runs deeper than what society offers them. If we just want them to look like everyone else and fit in, then let’s just keep on doing what we are doing and we’ll just raise more robots that tow society’s lie of identity and fullness. If we want kids who actually have something worthwhile to live for (and will probably end up dirt poor) then I suggest we start taking some cues from our downtown friends and those that have been able to model an alternative way to the normal way of doing things.