It can be often be difficult to meaning and purpose in our work.
Whether you are going and sitting in an office to balance spreadsheets all day or making sales calls to the 99,000th company on your list, sometimes our work just feels meaningless.
As a nurse, there are many times I have heard either fellow coworkers, media, or patients refer to myself and other nurses as “just a nurse.”
Often times family members want to talk to the doctors more than they want to talk to us.
Doctors can sometimes come across as annoyed by our many pages and concerns.
And sometimes “RN” often feels like it stands for “refreshments and narcotics” instead of “registered nurse,” here to care for you and improve your health.
We tend to get more code “browns” (use your imagination) than we do code blues that actually require life saving skills.
And many times it can feel like we spend more time passing meds and charting than we do actually changing lives.
So we come to believe that we are just a nurse.
We begin to believe that our work doesn’t really matter.
Then there’s that one patient.
That despite how the day has gone or how many times you’ve been talked down to or ignored, there’s that patient.
Who you end up spending just a few extra moments with because quite frankly you just need a break from the rest of your work day that goes on without you outside of their room.
And in those extra few minutes you spend with them, they kindly compliment you and thank you.
They tell you, the work you’re doing matters.
That they appreciate you and that your work is not going unnoticed.
They remind us, that what we do is actually so much more.
And you thank God for those moments.
Because He knew it was just the words you needed to hear.
In the book, Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller, he tells the story of a doorman and how he does his work. He writes…
Now in his early sixties, Mike emigrated to the U.S. from Croatia as a young man and worked in many kinds of jobs, from the restaurant business to manual labor. He has been a doorman in the building for twenty years and is clearly distinctive in his attitude toward his work. To Mike it’s far from just a job. He cares about the people in the building and takes pride in helping with loading, finding parking spaces, and welcoming guests. He sets the standard for keeping the lobby and front of the building clean and attractive.
When asked what makes him drop what he’s doing and get to the curb in time to help unload a resident’s car after a weekend he responds, “that’s my job” or “They needed help.” Why does he remember the name of every child? “Because they live here.” At one point, to the question, “But why do you work so hard at every part of this job?” he replied, “I don’t know..it’s just what I need to be able to look at myself in the mirror in the morning. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try my best every day.” He appears to work out of gratefulness for the job and for his life. He is glad to be in this country and for the opportunities it has given him.”
Most of the people Mike serves are professionals or businesspeople who are probably glad not to be doormen. Some might even find the work of a doorman demeaning if they had to do it themselves. But Mike’s attitude shows that he recognizes the inherent dignity of the work he is doing; and in this, he brings out its goodness and worth.”
He goes on to write, “All work has dignity because it reflects God’s image in us, and also because the material creation we are called to care for is good.”
No matter what occupation or type of work we find ourselves in, it has dignity. It is not wasted work.
You will never be just a nurse. Or just a waitress. Or just a mom.
What you do is actually so much more than what you think.
You are a caregiver. A willing servant. A disciple maker.
You are a servant of God. Given life and work to serve and enjoy His people and His creation.
And while our people and our creation and our work may remain broken now, they will one day be made whole again.
And there is nothing more beautiful.
Whether you are getting someone a warm blanket, a cup of water, cutting their grass, or carrying their luggage, your work is important.
Because the truth is, you aren’t just giving someone a warm blanket – or cutting their yard, or carrying their luggage – you are serving a person, created in God’s image, loved by Him, and caring for His creation.
What you’re doing day in and day out is really and truly so much more than you could ever imagine.
Caring for and cultivating the material world has worth, even if it means cutting the grass. This also means that “secular” work has no less dignity and nobility than the “sacred” work of ministry. We are both body and soul, and the biblical ideal of shalom includes both physical thriving as well as spiritual. “Food that nourishes, roofs that hold out the rain, shade that protects from the heat of the sun….the satisfaction of the material needs and desires of men and women…when businesses produce material things that enhance the welfare of the community, they are engaged in work that matters to God.”