We’re all trying very hard, aren’t we?
This morning I was awake an hour before my alarm was set to go off and I was filled with both excitement and anxiety (I start college today!). I decided to work out with that extra time and while working out I had so much inspiration about this specific post. I was going to title it, “Work: Burden or Blessing,” and it was going to help us all get a better view of God and who He has made us to be.
Not surprisingly, I managed to get really tangled up in stress before I could sit down and start writing. Instead of that calm inspiration I felt on the elliptical machine, I was staring at a white screen and I was filled with wordless frustration…
Whatever I planned to say is something I desperately need to hear right now.
What was it again? Right. Work.
The real truth underneath a bunch of worries I had about what other people think and what God thinks is what I think of myself. Every excited idea or blazing bright dream was accompanied by a list of “I can’t” and “I’m not.” I was sure I would disappoint others because I was constantly disappointing myself.
There’s this great song by Mutemath which expresses it well called Blood Pressure. The song itself is even more expressive than the lyrics alone, but the pertinent lyrics say;
Why can’t you be more like your older brother
Why can’t you do a little more for Jesus
Why can’t you
You’re on the road; on a road that’s bound for nowhere
Why don’t you do what you’re told? Blood pressure
Don’t worry I will help you out on one condition
Be more, do more, check your blood pressure
A while ago I was feeling the full force of this pressure, when I came upon something written by Paul the Apostle which startled me and called me to seek a different perspective. The book of Philippians is this beautiful and kind exhortation from Paul to his friends to encourage them to go deeper in their love for each other and for Jesus. In chapter one he’s talking about his peace with a possible death sentence he is facing in jail and he’s kinda like, “Yeah, I’m totally ready to be with Jesus face to face… but since there is still more to do here on earth I would also be cool with sticking around longer.”
What he said that grabbed me is, that sticking around on earth would mean “fruitful labor” for him.
A flood of things occurred to me as I pondered that phrase.
1. I didn’t want to be doing all the work I was doing because,
2. I didn’t believe it would be fruitful.
3. I didn’t believe it was fruitful because I was focused on the myriad of ways that I fail throughout any given day.
4. The above three things meant that I was constantly exhausted and this exhaustion helped me repeat the cycle of poorly done work and self recrimination.
In the last year this has all changed for the better, but it was just the other day that I recognized the bridge away from exhausted duty to fruitful labor. On one hand it’s so obvious, but on the other hand it’s not a short path between knowing it and the belief which makes it transformative reality.
The bridge between duty to fruitful labor is love.
Not my love for other people… I already felt love for others and wrestled hard against the emotional apathy and anger which are born out of fatigue. The love that strengthens hearts, heads and hands is the real and deep love of God for each of us.
“But, Peggy,” you may say, “you’ve been talking about love for the past few years now. Are you only just now believing your own words?” The answer to that question is yes and no.
In 2013 “I love you” was what God said to me in answer to most of my questions. It took some rather extended visits into the darker places of my soul for me to recognize that God was present and loving me there, too. Even if I never do anything more for him, even if I fail at every future endeavor. God takes delight in me and enjoys this woman he created.
Before it could motivate me in the daylight, I needed to see it in the darkness.
Another really important part of this idea of fruitful labor is that I am not the one making the work fruitful. I don’t have to measure it or turn it in as homework for a grade. I just wake up and say yes to God, believing that He delights in the yes and can cover the many areas where I fall short.
I’m glad I wrote that out because the stress of early has in fact calmed.