when the work just seems fruitless
I got the green light for that article. Then there’s the interview request. Plus the friends’ books I want to read and write about. There’s this blog and the e-book I’m supposed to be working on. Not to mention a couple of other books–one of which I’d like to finish in my dad’s lifetime–and mine. There are blogs to read because I’m richer for the words and I can encourage the writers with comments. There’s the mission field of social media. (Yes, mission field.)
All these years here and all the things let go, and this house is still not the organized, minimal, and serene sanctuary I envision.
There are photos to organize and grandchildren to influence. Finances to handle, meals to prepare, clothes to clean.
There’s the music I want to make. Classes I want to teach.
Dreams. For my work as a writer and (dare I say it) photographer.
For my work as a wife and mother and grandmother and daughter.
Kingdom work in the palace. Because I’m convinced that God has brought me here for such a time as this.
But most days I feel like I’m just spinning wheels.
I don’t feel like any of my work’s particularly pointless or necessarily selfish or idolatrous–three of the problems Timothy Keller says we have with work as a result of the fall–in spite of God’s original perfect design for work.
Though if I let my mind ponder too long, I’d probably disagree with myself.
Big time bingo
I often feel like I produce less fruit than I could–or even should.
Keller reminds us that this world is broken and disordered now, and nothing works as it should. We don’t produce like we could. Paul tells us the whole creation groans, and we’re part of that creation. In Genesis 3, Keller says, “God ties the pain of love and marriage and the pain of work very closely together . . . and work, even when it bears fruit, is always painful, often miscarries, and sometimes kills us.” ~p. 89
That’s a bit discouraging.
He tempers it a little by telling us that what he means by fruitless is that “in all our work, we will be able to envision far more than we can accomplish, both because of a lack of ability and because of resistance in the environment around us. The experience of work will include pain, conflict, envy, and fatigue, and not all our goals will be met.” ~p. 90
He goes on to say we should expect to be regularly frustrated in our work, that we’ll never be as fruitful as we want, and we’ll often fail miserably, even though we are exactly where we’re supposed to be at a given time–for such a time.
Genesis 3, verse 18, tells us not only that “thorns and thistles’ will come out of the ground but also that “you will eat the plants of the field.” Thorns and food. Work will bear some fruit, though it will always fall short of promise. Work will be both frustrating and fulfilling, and sometimes–just often enough–human work gives us a glimpse of the beauty and genius that might have been the routine characteristic of all our work, and what, by the grace of God, it will be again in the new heavens and new earth. Tolkien’s dream and the resulting story, “Leaf by Niggle,” are simply a depiction of that hope. Niggle imagined a beautiful tree that he never was able to produce in paint during his life so he died weeping that his picture, the great work of his life, was not completed. No one would ever see it. And yet, when he got to the heavenly country–there was the tree! This was Tolkien’s way of saying, to us as well as to himself, that our deepest aspirations in work will come to complete fruition in God’s future. ~p 96
“Somehow,” Keller promises, “people will taste the fruit of the project you are working on right now.”
I’m hanging on to that hope.
And getting back to work.
We’re discussing “Our Problems with Work,” Part One of Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Timothy Keller (with Katherine Leary Alsdorf) over at The High Calling. Hop on over to listen in or even contribute a word.
Oh, and my previous posts are here:
Introduction: When We Work without Love
Stilled by hope,