“Then Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab, and every gifted artisan in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, everyone whose heart was stirred to come and do the work.” — Exodus 36:2.
This passage in Exodus provides a wonderful insight into what work can be even after the fall, and the goodness of God in how he makes each one of us. Bezalel, Oholiab, and the other artisans who worked on the temple were made for their task – divinely set apart for the construction of a dwelling place for the Lord God Almighty. But they are also clearly not automatons, and mankind’s agency is writ just as much in this passage as God’s providential choosing of man’s vocation.
For not only does God call these men by name to this task through Moses, their hearts were stirred to come and do the work. There is something in the work that moves their hearts, excites them, is close to them and it is also the work that God has called them to. There’s no promise in this passage that this is the way calling always works. That the task that God sets aside for someone to do will also stir their heart and be at the very core of what they themselves long to do. But in this passage in Exodus that is what happens, and I think helps us to see what our calling should invoke in us – a stirring of our hearts.
It’s really beautiful that the things that we’re called to do are also things that we take joy in. Even if we do not take joy in the thing that we are called to do, there is some comfort in the fact that we are meant to take joy in our calling. So if it is not currently something that we take joy in there is at least the reassurance that we should be able to. Whether that means finding a different line of work that does indeed stir our hearts, or go into that calling knowing that there might be joy there in it waiting to be found, or going into our work with joy.
Throughout my life that joy has been a helpful guide that I’ve followed in the various choices I’ve made. The thrill of tracing a story, understanding characters, or letting the imagination explore the possibilities of a fantastic world, the joy of working words until they ring, the puzzle of computers – trying to get them to do something new, something useful, or just cool, or the study of different languages; all of these things and many more have driven me as a person to pursue a degree in English, to take up poetry, to set up and fix computers. Throughout my life I’ve used that joy as a guide. I chose one class over another because one class “was more interesting”. In other words, one area of study stirred my heart more than another.
Part of the reason that I have so much uncertainty about what job or career I should take for the rest of my life isn’t because I don’t have things that stir my heart, but because out of the many things I don’t know which one to follow. Keeping in mind what I love to do will be helpful as I consider my next steps but I can’t do everything at once, and making the decision of which thing to do will be difficult. But there is another element to this passage that I should keep in mind as I set out to make these decisions of what I should do.
It is very easy to focus on joy, for me to pursue what makes me happy. I think it’s a good instinct, but it’s one that can very easily go awry, especially if it’s the only consideration guiding decisions. In this passage there is another consideration – the object of their labor. The work before Bezalel and Oholiab is not just in a field that stirs their heart, it is labor that has at its end the glory of God. They are tasked with working on the house of the Lord. That is more explicit perhaps than my work will be, but it is another factor to keep in mind along with things that stir my heart. Whatever I do must build the house of the Lord and bring him honor, whether that is in explicit ways like it is for Bezalel and Oholiab or whether that looks different for me the end for all of us should be the same.
image: freeimages/Bo de Visser