It took me a while to get into this book by Mark Shaw , but once I did, I found myself mining a deep vein of Biblical thinking which yielded plenty on which to reflect. Described as a visual guide to calling, career and the mission of God, it examines a holistic approach to life in which work, relationships and faith are viewed as integrated strands of one single thread.
Designed for a visually literate generation, key points are presented throughout the text using ‘back of the napkin’ type sketches. It’s also a deliberate choice of medium through which to transcend the limitations of verbal communication. As it spans biblical history from Creation to the early church, the text calls on a rich knowledge base, drawing on contemporary positive psychology (Haidt), philosophy (Nietzsche), literature (Tolkien) film (Star Trek and Star Wars), mythology and Christian thinkers such as Os Guinness.
The central premise of the book rests on the interpretation of life in its three parts (work, leisure and relationships) through the battle between Wisdom (Proverbs 8) and Folly (Proverbs 9). Wisdom workers delight in whatever they are doing; wisdom workers delight in the person with whom or for whom they are working, and wisdom workers delight because God is at work. The totality of our calling through which this should be expressed is defined as: to work (Genesis 1) to be holy (Leviticus 20) to worship (Isaiah 6) to be born again (John 3) to disciple the nations (Matthew 28) and to serve the Lord in everything (Colossians 3).
Folly, meanwhile, wreaks destruction (Proverbs 9) not just in personal lives, so that life becomes a fight for money and power, but also in wider creation. Using the acronym EDEN, Shaw demonstrates the outcome:
Earth ravaged: instead of the beautiful garden that God created, the earth is used to man’s advantage, in pursuit of money, pleasure and power
Delight distorted: worship of creation, rather than the creator
Ekklesia subverted: those who are called become subverted, speaking loudly about saving the earth and healing the nations, but failing to do so in their own power
Nations enslaved: broken systems and institutions in the public sphere.
The work-life imbalance which characterises our modern lifestyle is just one external example of how badly broken Eden is.
Each chapter traces a step in the span from perfect creation through destroyed creation to restoration. As you read, reflect on Abraham’s call to believe, the Exodus call to freedom, the David call to relationships, the Isaiah call to wow and Jesus’ call: to mission (Matthew 28:19-20), to rest (Matthew 11:28), to love (Mark 12:30-31) and to abide (John 15:5).
This book is not just about restoring work-life balance. It is about the principle of bold believing. It is about trusting upward as we seek to love and serve God, and it is also about understanding that we are building God’s new creation right here and now. Ultimately, it is about being transformed from frustrated worker to fearless kingdom player.