"Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work." - Luke 3:23
Luke doesn't mean that Jesus lazed around for twenty-nine years and then, upon turning thirty, got off his duff and went to work. It's true, no one knows for sure what Jesus was up to before his thirtieth, but Christians have traditionally imagined him knocking out tables and benches in Joseph's shop. In other words, working.
So it's not work that Jesus begins at thirty. It's his work. Work only he can do; work that fits him; God-imagined, God-bestowed, Jesus-shaped work. A purpose so persuasive that he stops filling orders for dining room chairs, picks the wood curls out of his hair, and leaves his mother calling after him at the door. His work.
Each of us has our work, too. A purpose we find in the overlap of who we are, what we're good at, what we love, and what our human neighborhood is needing. Work that generates motivating joy as we lend ourselves to it. Work that makes us more fully who we were created to be as we give ourselves away in doing it.
Sometimes our work coincides with our jobs. Sometimes it doesn't: it disrupts and uproots us. Sometimes it leads to great public achievements. Often it's as hidden as Jesus was in those first twenty-nine. Whatever it is, we're meant to seek and find this work that is seeking us. We're meant to turn thirty, which we can do at any age. The important thing isn't how old we are when we find it. The important thing is that, like Jesus, once we find it, we step out in trust and do it.
God, may I find the work that is mine to do, and the courage and grace to do it.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.