Theology 101

What My Engagement Taught Me About the Theology of Work

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While engagement is full of joy and excitement, there were many moments my fiancé and I wanted to hit fast forward to the wedding.

Choosing the design of our wedding invitations, the flavor of cake, and the hundreds of other micro-decisions at times made our eleven-month engagement feel more like eleven years.

I found many moments joyful and enriching, but in others I felt like an indentured servant to the next menial task on my wedding to-do list. Why do the centerpieces even matter? We just want to be married!

Now on the other side of our wedding day, I appreciate what the mundane decisions of engagement taught me. I grew in my understanding of the eternal significance of work, despite the tension and weariness it sometimes brings.

A few months before my big day, my friend texted me this quote:

The more we grow in grace and love, the more we want to be with Him. At some point I think every engaged couple says, “We just want to be married.” Similarly, that is the ache in the heart of the Christian who is growing in love for the Savior—we just want to be with him at last! In a way, planning a wedding is the unique opportunity to do practically what we are all doing figuratively as we await Christ’s return. You will look forward with eagerness to the wedding day, but in the meantime there are tasks you must complete and mundane decisions that must be made.

In light of eternity you might think, ‘What does it matter which chairs we choose?’ Or, ‘Who cares what the centerpieces look like?’ These are mundane decisions—the banal details that can send an otherwise sane bride over the edge. But while planning a wedding is an unusual experience, having to carry out seemingly pointless tasks is not.

This excerpt from the book A Christ-Centered Wedding: Rejoicing in the Gospel on Your Big Day encouraged me as a fatigued bride-to-be. I realized engagement holds significant theological meaning in symbolizing our day-to-day work.

If marriage is a biblical picture of the final consummation of Christ and his bride, the church, what is engagement? Maybe it acts as a snapshot of our life here on earth, preparing for eternity with God. During engagement and during life on earth, we work while we wait in anticipation.

I found planning a wedding to be like our work on earth in these four ways:

There Is Tension

Most engaged couples will experience tensions that are spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational. For me, engagement felt like a weird “neither-here-nor-there” place of relationship limbo. On earth, we experience this same tension with God. We can be in relationship with Christ, but we still long to stand face to face with him.

This reminds me of the tension of living in the “already but not yet,” as Paul describes in Philippians 1:23-24:

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

It Can Disappoint

During my single days, I romanticized engagement. What’s not to love about being in love and planning a big party?

However, the difficulty of meshing two lives together overwhelmed me, and my expectations did not meet reality.

Just the same is our work at times. Many students long to begin their careers after college but quickly lose enthusiasm for their work when things don’t turn out as they hoped. Some days on the job are defined by stress, toil, and disappointment rather than satisfaction and fulfillment.

This is the reality of sin at work in the world. It’s the bad news, but it’s not the whole story. There’s a reason for all of it.

Details Seem Insignificant, but They Don’t Have to Be

While planning my wedding, I often felt like many decisions were unimportant. Who cares about the cake topper or the program font?

I find myself sometimes wondering the same about my work. Will anyone even read this blog post I’m writing?

Wedding details and little tasks at work may seem insignificant, but they all have the potential to point to something greater.

For the bride-to-be, there is a healthy middle ground between obsessing over details and not caring at all—details aren’t the point, but they do matter. Micro-decisions are parts of a greater whole.

Likewise, even our most mundane tasks at work carry meaning and have the potential to play a small part in God’s plan.

We’re Working towards Something Greater than We Can Imagine

My wedding day wasn’t about the live band or which signature cocktail we chose, but when I saw my guests laughing, sipping old-fashioneds, and dancing, all my hard work seemed meaningful.

I did not fully realize this during the planning process, but afterward, it all felt worth it.

Similarly, we cannot fully realize the meaning of our work on earth. It might be difficult to understand the significance of database entry, blog writing, or whatever it is you do at your job that feels mundane, so we must labor in faith we’re working toward something so great and wonderful beyond our comprehension.

The work we do will be worth it.

Editor’s Note: On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on Oct. 15, 2015.

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