How to Love Toil

zach posting:

Branford Marsalis – Berta, Berta

Before entering law school people warned me that I would work harder than ever before. I knew that coming from four months of unemployment and a six-week European vacation into an 80-hour workweek would be a shock to the system. As much as I tried to prepare myself, it has been even harder than I expected. On average I work from 7am until 9pm at night minus an hour break for dinner. I work seven days a week except for a break Saturday evening for friends and Sunday afternoon for church. So much for my Sabbath.

I entered law school thinking that the next three years would be a training period, a time where I pay my dues in order to enjoy life later. I realize, however, that it will not change once I leave. Firm jobs require just as many hours if not more. Furthermore, I live in the moment. I cannot help it.

The saving grace in all of this is I have somehow learned to love working this hard.  I enjoy reading cases on Constitutional law, sorting through contracts and making arguments for criminal cases. Much of the time, however, is toil: there are long readings I don’t want to finish, there are mornings when I wake up at 3am to finish a paper, and there are countless nights where I sit down in my room, in my closet, to drown out the sound of friends enjoying themselves upstairs.  I am almost always tired and have little time to give to friends, family or even God. So where is the up side?

The experience is forcing me to grow dramatically. I normally can’t tell that I am making any substantial step forward. Instead, I look back each 6 months and realize that I can barely recognize the person that I was such a short time ago. Now, however, I can feel myself being stretched and pushed. I understand that I am gaining perseverance, humility, wisdom, and perspective. For the first time I have been pushed to my limits. For the first time I have straddled the line between success and failure. More than anything, however, it just feels right.

The image of the bible can sometimes be dark: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” Genesis 3:17. “What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 1:3. Yet it also paints it as good: “That everyone may eat and rink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:13. “Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him” Ecclesiastes 5:18.

I understand why God has put us on Earth “to toil under the sun.” How else would we ever grow? All this being said, I do not want to live to work, I want to work to live. I cannot help looking into the future about all the things that I can ‘accomplish’ for God, but what really drives me is the thought of family and friends. Many will say I am in the wrong profession, but I still hold out hope that I can have both an incredible family and have a career that creates substantial change in the world.

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