This past summer will forever be known as the “Summer of the Path.” Sometime in May I embarked on creating a stone path around the side of my house and while I knew it was a hefty job, I wasn’t prepared for all that I would encounter on the journey. Four months later, after painful, back-breaking work; endless amounts of digging; two water line bursts; and wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load of stone—the job was finally done. It was an exhausting job and at many times I found myself spent and frustrated.
In the midst of the work—sometime in August—my three year old was “helping” me form the edges of the path with landscape edging. The work involved a shovel, a hammer, a saw, and a wheelbarrow. This prompted my son to haul all of those same toy tools that he has accumulated over the years to the work site. As I worked away, he mimicked my work with his toy tools. I was surprised by his engagement and delight as we labored. At one point, he looked at me and said, “Dad, work is fun!” Startled at that statement, I paused to gather my thoughts. I soon looked back and said, “You’re right.”
As I went about the path building for that day, I started wrestling with my son’s statement. Is work really fun? Even though the work was difficult, I did find myself enjoying it. My joy in the work seemed disproportionate to the labor and difficulty that was involved. Why was that?
The idea of toilsome labor is a part of the Fall in Genesis 3 yet work was never designed to be that way. Work was designed for our flourishing and enjoyment. Genesis 1:28 says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” This command is what has been known throughout the history of the church as the Cultural Mandate. I love the way Richard Pratt describes the Cultural Mandate in his book Designed for Dignity, “The Great King has summoned each of us into his throne room. Take this portion of my kingdom, he says, I am making you my steward over your office, your workbench, your kitchen stove. Put your heart into mastering this part of my world. Get it in order; unearth its treasures; do all you can with it.” This was what I felt while crafting the path. I was making something and felt God’s pleasure as I did it.
I like to make things. This simple truth has been a revelation in my life over the past few years. There is something intoxicating and life-giving for me about having an idea and helping it become a reality. As I do this, I’m tapping into the God-given creativity that we all have (God was creative and we were made in His image which means that we are creative). When I make something, I feel the satisfaction of “unearthing treasure” and am engaging in the joyful discipline of creation. Of course, Satan would want none of this. He would rather us drudgingly go about our endeavors and see them disconnected from God. The Cultural Mandate is about propagating God’s image and kingship in the world. Every part of Satan is against this. So, as I gleefully make things, I like to imagine my undertakings as acts of rebellion. I’m fighting the good fight and am engaging in kingdom work. As Nancy Pearcy says in her book Total Truth, “The lesson of the Cultural Mandate is that our sense of fulfillment depends on engaging in creative, constructive work. The ideal human existence is not eternal leisure or an endless vacation—or even a monastic retreat into prayer and meditation—but creative effort expended for the glory of God and the benefit of others.”
So, feel free to rebel! Make something and push back against the darkness. Cultivate the art of meaningful, joyful, and redemptive invention. And when you do, know that you are adding to God’s fame. Know that you are engaging in kingdom work. And know that God will delight in what you have made.