Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was 9, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle.
As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow's flight, and then young Frank's tracks meandering all over the field.
"Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again," his uncle said. "And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that."
Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how this experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy in life. "I determined right then," he'd say with a twinkle in his eye, "not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had."
Labor Day is, of course, the time that we rightfully set apart each year to acknowledge the many benefits of our collective labor together as a society. Indeed, we Americans have been blessed with many things. And much of this is due to our historic willingness to get up every day and head off to work.
But Labor Day is more than this. It is also a time to remind ourselves that the essence of life is more than just working. Work is what we do. But it should never be our sole purpose for existing. Rather than be an end in and of itself, it should be a means to some other end. And what is that end? To get us to the point that, having had our lives enriched, we can then recognize and enjoy both the beauty and the bounty of God’s created world and give Him glory as a result.
So, yes, on this day when you reflect upon the blessings of being gainfully employed, take time to thank God for whatever employment you have. As well as what that employment has provided for you. These things are fitting on Labor Day.
But more than this, take five… By this I mean take time also to slow down and actually enjoy some of those blessings; and, above all, to thank God for having provided the means to obtain them in the first place. Otherwise, what purpose do they really serve?
Perhaps wise old King Solomon said it best (in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 and again in 8:15):
This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them - for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil - this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart…
So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.
SOURCE: Focus on the Family Newsletter, September 1992, Page 14. As might be expected, this story has been reproduced in many published works down through the years. See, for instance, John W. Walton, Ph.D., Compassionate Care (Xulon Press, 2009), p. 162. It can also be found online in various forms. See the blog titled "Don't Miss What's Most Important" at: http://www.dialhope.org/1783-don-t-miss-what-s-most-important.
NOTE: Selah is used 74 times in the Hebrew Bible, most often in the Psalms. It best translates as "Stop and Listen".