Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer. Zondervan. 295 pages. 2015
This book was recommended by Jordan Raynor in his book Master of One: Find and Focus on the Work You Were Created to Do. In fact, the main idea for Raynor’s book comes directly from Garden City. Comer, a pastor, has a lively and witty writing style, and uses scripture throughout the book, often citing the original language. We can learn much from Comer in this book on the subjects of work and rest.
The book is organized into three sections:
Part 1: Work (the largest portion of the book)
Part 2: Rest
Part 3: The Garden City
Comer tells us that what we do is central to our humanness. What we do flows from who we are. Both matter. The vast majority of our lives are spent working, with the next largest amount being resting. He states that in the church, we often spend the majority of our time teaching people how to live the minority of their lives, but we need to talk about all of life, which includes work.
He tells us that the core question of the book is What does it mean to be human? or Why do we exist? What are we here for? What’s our meaning? Our purpose? Is there any? He states that we were created to rule over the earth. That’s our meaning, our purpose — it’s why we exist.
In Part 1, he tells us that the Garden was never supposed to stay a garden; it was always supposed to become a garden city. This world is what’s left of the Garden. Our job is to take all the raw materials that are spread out in front of us, to work it, to take care of it, to rule, to subdue, to wrestle, to fight, to explore, and to take the creation project forward as an act of service and worship to the God who made us.
In this section he addresses our calling, indicating that for most of us, our calling or vocation won’t become clear until our thirties. He writes about the erroneous – but widely believed – idea of a sacred/secular divide, that some things are sacred or spiritual, and they matter to God; but other things are secular or physical, that don’t matter to God, at least not much.
He writes that as followers of Jesus we have a dual vocation. Our original calling — to rule over the earth, and to make culture. And a new calling — to make disciples. To help people come back into relationship with the Creator, so that they can rule over the creation.
He writes about disliking the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none”, and states that many of us don’t really have one thing that we’re good at. But he challenges us to find that one thing that we are really good at, which can be very narrow or quite broad. This is the essence of Raynor’s book Master of One.
In Part 2, he discusses practicing the art form of Sabbath. Just as God worked in creation, and then rested, so we work and then rest. He tells us that Sabbath is not the same thing as a day off. On a day off you don’t work for your employer, but you still work. On the Sabbath, you rest, and you worship. He states that like work, when it’s done right is an act of worship, the same is true with rest. You can rest as an act of worship to God, yet very few of us actually take a Sabbath— a day for nothing more than rest and worship.
In Part 3, he writes that we were made to work, and we will work forever, that our work in this life is practice for our work in the coming life. He states that some of the good work we do will actually last into God’s new world, and that perhaps even our occupation will follow us, past death and into the age to come. He writes that all good work done in this age will be rewarded in the age to come.
In a brief Epilogue, he tells us that there will always be someone who does their work better than you. We should do our work as an expression of love and service, ultimately to God, and then to our neighbor.
I found this to be a helpful addition to my library of books that discuss calling and the integration of our faith and work.
Below are a few helpful quotes from the book:
- Your vocation is your calling in life.
- So much of finding your calling is about finding out who you are and what you alone can contribute to the world.
- It’s just as important to know who you’re not and what you aren’t called to, as it is to know who you are and what you are called to. Because the clearer your sense of identity and calling are, the more you can focus on what God made you to do.
- Do one thing. And do one thing well. And do that one thing well as an act of service and love for the world and to the glory of God.
- When we stop working, we lose a part of who we are.
- Your work is a core part of your humanness. You are made in the image of a working God.
- The best way to find your calling is to start asking questions. Lots of them.
- For most of us, our sense of calling starts out vague and unclear — more of a feeling and a desire than a five-year plan — but over time it comes into focus.
- Listen for God’s voice. Ask him to help you discover your calling.
- To focus, we need to know what we’re called by God to do, and what we’re not called to do. Who we are, and who we aren’t.
- Our job isn’t to fit into some mold or prove something to the world; it’s to unlock who God’s made us to be, and then go be it.
- Sabbath is a way to break our addiction to accomplishment and accumulation.
- The Bible opens with God giving humans a vocation, a calling to rule, to look after his creation and make it flourish, and ends with that vision finally coming to pass and even going forward.