How do we attain a sustainable work-life balance? That question is one that the book Work, Play, Love: A Visual Guide to Calling, Career, and the Mission of God seeks to answer. In the book Mark Shaw provides a unique approach to that answer and to the ongoing discussion of calling and vocation. His answer is to use Proverbs 8 as a focal point from which the overarching narrative of Scripture is interpreted. As he delves into the passage of Proverbs 8 and its emphasis on Lady Wisdom’s existence before God spoke creation into being, the reader discovers that a crucial interpretive key is that Lady Wisdom, as a craftsman and worker at God’s side, “delighted” in all things. Mark Shaw refers to this delight as important to recovering a sense of play and enjoyment in all that we do, everyone we are with, and everywhere we are. All of this he summarizes as Lady Wisdom’s call to play.
From there he examines our call to work in Genesis, how things went awry, and several other callings that find their ultimate dependence on and fulfillment in the call to play, the call which “precedes” the beginning of the space-time universe. These other callings are revealed over the narrative history of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures and include the Exodus call to freedom, the David call to relationships, the Isaiah call to “wow”, and the Jesus call to dance. If the calls I just listed seem a little unusual for a book on calling, it makes much more sense when the reader interprets those passages of Scripture in light of Proverbs 8. For example, God’s leading of the Israelite people out of slavery and providing them the Ten Commandments was in fact His way of keeping them free from slavery to other things and their passions with the practice of the Sabbath as a way to practice their freedom from work. However, that is only one example and Mark Shaw goes into more depth than that.
Overall, I found this book to be delightful, combining depth of though with straightforward prose. Of course, Mark Shaw sought to do that intentionally when he quotes Milan Kundera, a Czech novelist, in stating one of his goals for the book: “My lifetime ambition has been to combine the utmost seriousness of question with the utmost lightness of form.” I would also like to comment on the unique feature of this book and that is what the author refers to as “back of the napkin” drawings. This might seem juvenile, and one individual even commented to me that it looks like a kid’s book. But Mark Shaw was intentional in this respect as well, perceiving that “doodles” can free the mind in ways that heavy-handed writing cannot. This is yet another example of combining lightness of method with seriousness of thought.
While I am a part of the millennial generation toward whom this book is targeted, I believe the author’s approach, both in method and in theological thought, is effective. In fact, I believe it is so effective that I would recommend it also to the generation of whom the person who said it looked like a kid’s book belonged: the Baby Boomers. Yes, many of them have the majority of their working days behind them, but it’s never too late to discover new depths to God’s calling on our lives, including the call to play. And that’s a feature that this book embodies very well even as it stimulates the mind. It is a creative incarnation of Lady Wisdom and her call to play.