How Love Makes a Difference at Work

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
19777389132 d73425cb7b z

The alarm buzzes. It’s 2 am. My husband and I rise, silent in the dark. We fumble for our clothes, put on rubber knee boots, gloves and layers of warmth against the winter cold. We stumble out onto the beach, turn on the outside light, pull in the boat loaded with 4’ x 8’ sheets of plywood and begin. We’ve waited until peak high tide so the ocean would bring the boat closer to shore. Duncan slides the first two sheets off to me. I bend, take them onto my back, cinch my arms around the wood behind me and awkwardly walk them up the beach then to the level spot we’re stacking them. There are 160 sheets of plywood in this load. We’ll work as quickly as we can in the dark and the wind to get the plywood out of the boat and onto level ground, but we know the real work comes in the daylight.

And it does. We get up again when it’s light, about 10, and start again. But the wind has come up, and now the plywood must be carried on our backs up a long steep hill to our new house. I nearly blow away in the gusts with my wooden sail. 160 sheets.

This is our winter work this year, building a house on a wilderness island in Alaska where no one has lived for 30 years. Now there are two. We’ll work day and night, racing to get the house erected and livable by the next commercial salmon season. All our supplies come by boat. We will do most of it ourselves, including digging a well by hand, hauling water by hand.

If someone had come along that night and thrust a microphone in my face to ask, “Why are you working so hard?” I might have growled, with labored breath,“It’s love, pure love!” as I trudged up the long hill, bent in half.

It’s possible. I could have. Because I know the difference. I know how it feels to build without love.

For most of my childhood, I worked with my family in rebuilding ancient, shambling houses, most of them our residence at the time. We worked when most of our friends played: afternoons after school, on weekends, over holidays. We carried wood, sanded, painted, tore down walls, cleared woods, and a million other tasks. The work was never done, and it was always done for others. When one house was finished, it was sold and we started over again with the next dilapidated house. We worked to eat and live, but food and breath wasn’t enough.

Decades later, I’m still building houses. We all are. We’re all builders. The New Testament uses the metaphor often. Jesus is the “chief cornerstone.” St. Paul has, by God’s grace, “laid a foundation as a wise builder,” and we are, all of us, building upon it. But Paul warns us, “Each one should build with care.”

I will amplify “care” to this: “Each one should build with love.” That’s what was missing all those years. I’m sorry for that wasted work. I did not know then the God of love, nor the love of God for all the earth and all the labor in it. When fire comes on that final day, if my work is the measure, all those houses will burn down.

I pray the houses I have built since will stand when fire comes. For love has come through Christ. And let love come to all our houses, to all the places we live and labor. Let Christ be with us as we haul the wood up the hundredth hill. Let Christ lift up our hands. Let Christ lift up our feet. For the work is His, and all the labor done in love will stand, will last, will rise up into a holy temple where the Spirit of God indwells.

Keep building and do not stop: Your work. His love. Your hands. His House.

Leslie Leyland Fields lives on two islands in Alaska, Kodiak Island, and her fishcamp on Harvester Island, where she hosts the Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop for writers. Leslie is the author of several books, including her most current, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom from Hate and Hurt.

Feeling the Love at Work

This article appears as part of a series at The High Calling, called, Feeling the Love at Work. By work, we mean, wherever it is you find yourself in your days. The carpool lane. The church. The board room. The fast food fryer. The museum curator. The blogger. The nurse, teacher, doctor, lawyer. The stay-at-home dad. Some of us are finding our way toward our dream job, and others are wondering if our work really matters at all. What is it like to work in a job you love and, how might your work impact your affections in the other areas of life? Maybe you know someone who's asking these very same questions. If so, consider sharing these stories with them, via email, Facebook, Twitter, or through your other social media and friendship networks.