Workaholic or Faithful?

Ninette Di Gangi 

My grandmother was widowed and left alone to raise eight daughter- in those days (before widow's pensions, family allowances and subsidized housing), she worked day and night to keep her family together and to feed, clothe and educate them. She must have been a "workaholic" - but her children loved and blessed her.

My mother married young and had three children in as many years. She washed and cleaned, cooked and baked, preserved and pickled, sewed and mended before electricity enabled the manufacturers to liberate us from our chores, and the car and supermarket liberated us from the kitchen. She nursed my grandmother for the last three years of her life and still found time to love us and bring us up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Guess she was a workaholic, too!

By the age of eight, my father had lost both his parents. He had to get along on his own and found work as a dishwasher's helper in a large hotel. He rose to be chef. He worked seven days a week from early morning to late evening with Sunday mornings off. He made the hour trip (two streetcars and a bus) each way several times a week to spend a precious hour and-a-half with us on his afternoon break. Today, he would be considered a "workaholic".

I was asked to write an article on "How to Live with a Workaholic" and it started me thinking. It's easy to complain that a husband works too hard, is too busy - especially if he is involved in Christian work. But I am forced to the realization that we have allowed ourselves to judge the hours a man or woman works by the world's standards. Is a man or woman who works more than the average 5-day week, 8-hour day really a "workaholic".

My husband was called of God as a boy. He disciplined himself to study while developing his gifts of preaching, teaching and writing. He has taken seriously God's commands to those who would follow Him. Should I label him a "workaholic"?

This is my dilemma. There is bound to be tension in any marriage and the demands of the ministry add their own frustrations. You begin with the best of intentions of living a balanced life with time for the Lord's work, your family and friends, and rest and relaxation. But God blesses the faithful ministry. The services double. The meetings triple or quadruple. The evenings and the days off disappear.

Then God calls you to a new work and you move. You promise yourself and your wife and children that in this pastorate you will not let yourself get as involved. Famous last words - because being imperfect men and women living in an imperfect world, trying to meet the demands of family and of God, the reality will always be less than perfect. BUT there is a Biblical way out. At creation, God rested from his labour of love and established for us the principle of a day of rest each week. Difficult as this might be to arrange, it is God's provision against "burnout". Ignoring or disobeying this commandment is to our detriment and the deterioration of our family relationships.

My husband is not working long hours to make a profit for some company or business, or to build up our bank account. He's working long hours to fulfill the ministry God has given him to preach the Word, in season and out of season, and to prepare this generation of men and women to fulfill theirs in the years to come. When I feel resentment building up within me, I need to ask the Lord to lift me up to where He sits, and allow me to see the part He has privileged us to have in the building of His body, the Church.

Dr. Henry Budd said recently to an SIM Conference for missionaries: "God's work is done by overworked people - people who are willing to go beyond the point of comfort." I need to learn to say "Amen, so be it Lord".

Mrs. Ninette Di Gangi was the wife of the late Dr. Mariano Di Gangi who was Professor of Pastoral Studies at OTS. He was also the Canadian Director of the Bible and Medical Missionary Fellowship and an Evangelist at Large for the Presbyterian Church, as well as serving as Senior Minister at Knox.