Gifts of Imperfection – Guidepost 9 – Cultivating Meaningful Work

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A couple of days ago, I was walking to the church from home on a beautiful Autumn day. I was looking up at a particularly colorful tree when I felt my right shoe step on something that was definitely not sidewalk or fallen leaves. Yes, some wonderful dog owner left a particularly squishy and smelly dog poop right there on the sidewalk. So no matter what was ahead the rest of the day, I knew one task ahead of me was cleaning off the sole of this particular shoe.

Once I got over my grumpiness around it (and left the shoes outside the church so I wouldn’t track it in), I thought of how that captures how many feel about their work. A feeling that it is just like cleaning crap off the sole of a shoe. I know I have felt that at times about parts of my job. The reality is that every job will have aspects of it that are uncomfortable, annoying, frustrating, and so forth. But whether it is in a “paid” job or in some other work in which we engage, we can seek meaning, purpose, and depth.

In this latest guidepost, Brown speaks of” cultivating meaningful work” – work that is about more than the bottom line, about climbing the ladder of success, and so forth. She shares a beautiful quote from Howard Thurman when he says, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” This echoes the words of Martin Luther King when he said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

So for me as a pastor, one of my goals is to find meaning in all I do- from the obvious like leading in worship and caring ministries to the not-so-obvious like administration, minutiae and so forth. That day, there were some not so great parts of what I needed to do (beyond cleaning my shoe) but there were also places of true beauty and blessing. I also seek meaningful work beyond this- in my photography, in sharing beauty and (I hope) wisdom, in volunteer work, and of course as a husband and father.

How do you find meaning in what you do?

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