Working for the Department of De Fence

fence(Note: I wrote this article and posted it on my blog before my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession was published by WestBow Press in February 2018.  This critical topic was later included in the book.  I invite you to check it out.)

I want to reflect on what I did for six hours today.  A friend helped me paint our fence.  It had been a little over a year since we treated it with a clear protectant, so it was due.  It does not change the color of the wood; it brings out its natural beauty.  Sounds like a restoration effort to me.

As I have developed a biblical perspective of work the last few years, I see every work project as a spiritual journey of sorts.  In a manner similar to when I picked blueberries last summer, I want to reflect on what I experienced, as I found myself doing Immanuel Labor, work in God’s presence.

The first thing I thought about was the value of preparation.  I went out to the garage at 8:45 to get my equipment and supplies together.  I was dismayed to find that I was not ready to go to work.  I recalled there was some paint leftover from last year, but when I took inventory, I found that two of the five-gallon cans were empty; the third one was only half-full (or half-empty, depending on your perspective.)  There was also one other small one-gallon can.  I would have to make a trip to Lowe’s.

My friend arrived on time with his professional spray apparatus.  I had my hand-held spray gun.  He was able to start right away.  I had to go and get some paint.  Thirty minutes later, I was ready.  The Steven Curtis Chapman song, “Let us Spray (Pray)” went through my head.  This emphasized the second thing I wanted to share: the value of having a co-worker, a partner to share the load.  I started on the inside; he did the outside.  When he was done, he came inside to help finish the job.

It did not take long for me to feel the strain as I used muscles I have not used in a while. It was a good feeling, actually, although I am still a little bit sore even now.  Work was designed to be challenging to us mentally, physically, and spiritually.  It took a different set of skills than I usually use at my job every day.  It felt good to do something active, something artistic even.

As many of us know quite well, one of the most important biblical concepts of work is that of the curse.  Because of sin, God made labor for men and women much harder than it needs to be.  It is frustrating.  It will take longer than expected.  Things will go wrong.  Thorns and thistles would grow up and interfere with what was planted.  All of us experience this phenomenon at work.

It didn’t take long for me to experience that this morning when I had a major spill.  (I knew Major Spill when he was a 2nd Lieutenant.)  After working about one hour, I spilled about half of my paint container all over the front of my sweatshirt.  It was now going to become a rag.  It was time for a break to change clothes and clean up.  It was officially lunchtime!

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After a leisurely lunch, we went back to work.  I had it down to a science, or so I thought.  I noticed that I had been underspraying the tops of the horizontal crossbeams (2 x 4s).  The front of the boards was good, but when I did the vertical planks, there was not much paint on the tops of those boards.  This forced me to go back and repaint (repent?) what I had done before.  I changed my technique from that point forward.  Isn’t that just like work?  When you think all is perfect, surprise!  Humility is developed in these kinds of moments.  God will provide opportunities to grow in character and Christlikeness (the fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22-23) every day, if we will keep our eyes open.

The final thing I wanted to reflect on was compensation.  I could not remember what I paid him last time, so I asked him.  It was a smaller hourly wage than I had thought.  I decided I would increase it substantially, as he not only brought his experience and expertise to help me do the job, but his own equipment as well.  I recalled a verse in Scripture: “A worker is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7).

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The time flew, and we were done. We looked at the results, and like God did every day at creation, we said, “It’s good!”  After we cleaned up, I took a victory photo.

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

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