I’m going to start this post out today like we’re at a recovery group meeting (which is one of my favorite spaces): with confession.
When I started out on this month’s topic of Spring cleaning for the home & soul I had aspirations that I weighed out and thought were do-able. I picked 4 spaces with 4 soul-dragging lies and had 4 weeks and a plan – so how hard could it be, right? Well, I’ve been reminded (again) that there are some things I am good at and other things I need to outsource. My ability to judge time commitments and energy expenditure are as good as my ability to judge distance – which is horrible. Ask the rims of my tires.
Not only did I not finish my Spring cleaning goals, some spaces of my house look worse than before I started. The kitchen has rediscovered unnecessary items, a pile is growing in the corner of my bedroom of winter clothes to sort through and store away, my basement has a craft table in the middle of the entrance and next season’s decor sitting around on the floor patiently waiting for its turn on the shelves. Our home office has wanted our attention since we created it, but it’s going to have to wait another month or more because it is simply not my main thing.
And to tell you the whole truth — I even have a mantel with Christmas ornaments still on it. Ya’ll. If Spring cleaning is anything, it’s the time you put Christmas paraphernalia away.
Now doesn’t my confession in some weird way make you feel better right now?
But how can this be? How can hours of my hard work still amount to…well, nothing I can measure today?
Maybe you can relate to this frustration another way. Have you ever eaten within healthy boundaries and exercised for several days only to find you’ve gained weight? (Which by the way, has also been the case for me this week! Jesus, hold back the tortillas.) It can feel so incredibly defeating! Not only did you not achieve what you hoped for, you spent precious energy or sacrifice you cannot get back. Instead of cleaning my house I could have been hiking, harvesting beehives, or holding hands with my husband watching Netflix. That’s maybe the ringer too — that our time, energies and sacrifice are weighed out and found to be a complete waste.
When I dig down in the midst of my most frustrated and overwhelmed moments I find a fear that I am wasting my time — which may be fine for an hour or a day — but the gnawing is that all my hard work will still add up to a meaningless life.
Do you ever feel that way? Afraid that all your hard work will end up being meaningless in the end of all things? That you will ultimately go unrewarded? That when your work is measured — the scale will not lean in your favor?
I took these fears to God this week in the midst of my work writing this post — in this workspace.
We live in a scale-worshipping culture. We measure and rank and rate and weigh and base worth and rewards on quantifiable terms. And yet much of our human story is unquantifiable, at least not with our limited tools!
When we engage our work life, what if we are using the wrong scale to measure the fruitfulness of our efforts? (I would love it if my scales were wrong, in every way!)
Take my Spring cleaning. What if instead of using the scale of perfection that requires every space in my home to be Springy, cheerful, light, airy, and toothbrush-in-the-cracks-clean I use the scale of progress. Instead of seeing my home through the lens of failure with its piles and clutter still sitting in places, I look at the spaces that have been brightened up even a smidge? I see the hint of warmer days in the sleeveless pink blouse that now hangs in my closet? I see the vitamins I finally bought sitting at attention bringing a little more nourishment to my family? I see the black wicks in the candles that were burned while reading Scripture this morning early in a cozy spot with soft blankets? I see the provision God has given us for clothes, bedding, hygiene, food, hospitality, shelter, comfort and delight? I see the evidence of joy in my family with toys and books laying on the floor.
There are endless gifts in the scenes in my home. I could miss them so easily if I use the scale of perfection and focused only on the goals unreached this month.
I could also miss the gift of hard work and the good it does for my soul if I reject its value based on outcomes alone.
You get me if your full-time job is parenting – sometimes you can feel like your hard work is going unrewarded.
You get me if your full-time job is discipleship and mentoring – sometimes you can feel like your hard work is going unrewarded.
You get me if your full-time job is selling goods or services – sometimes you can feel like your hard work is going unrewarded.
You get me if your full-time job is teaching others – sometimes you can feel like your hard work is going unrewarded.
You get me if your full-time job is as a speaker or writer and/or a blogger – sometimes you can feel like your hard work is going unrewarded.
You get me if your full-time job is in the medical profession – sometimes you can feel like your hard work is going unrewarded.
You get me if your full-time job is in the legal profession – sometimes you can feel like your hard work is going unrewarded (in spite of billable hours!)
You get me if your full-time job is in the creative arts – sometimes you can feel like your hard work is going unrewarded.
You get me if your full-time job is as a business owner – doing it all. Sometimes you can feel like your hard work is going unrewarded.
But here is hope: change your scale and work for a higher Boss – One who sees your hard work and rewards you when you work at it with your whole heart!
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” Colossians 3:23
When I work to please others and get their approval, I give them the power to measure my work. I make myself vulnerable to their definition of success and failure. Soon I may find myself bound to their opinions and responses to my work and the job I do becomes a burden I bear.
But. When I know that the hard work I’m doing is a work God desires for me to do, I can do it with my whole heart regardless of what comes from it! Of course, who wouldn’t enjoy a little applause for a job well done, or to see or hear something concretely good that happened as a result of your energy spent? Sure that helps, but remembering that God sees what is done in secret and can reward it openly (Matthew 6:4) stirs me up with hope for what is possible when I work with God as unto God.
…all hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table.” Proverbs 14:23
Taking dominion over my home was hard work, and though it didn’t put bread on the table ($$ generated), I made a clean place to set the bread! I was energized with gratitude for the home I was blessed to clean, and connected again to the season of my life that will pass soon enough.
Maybe today you need to remember that God sees your hard work and wants to partner with you in it to do a work in you and in your world that matters!
We can all get weary when we are inching along on the path God has set before us bravely showing up day after day with our gifts and offerings extended, unsure of what will come of it all. But doing the work God gives us is a walk of love — a choice to give our whole selves to the generation we live in and be all-in to the story God is telling through our lives. Whatever that story may be…
Each week I have to choose again to work for God as my Boss when I parent, mentor, speak and write. If I don’t, I’ll work for followers and likes. I’ll work for praise from people and pats on the back. I’ll work for my own fame and will bear the burden of “keeping up”. I’ll work for money and will find no end to that road.
When I make God my Boss I follow in the steps of Jesus. When Jesus was about to be elevated into fame as king, rather than take the opportunity to spread His message widely through worldly power He sought His Father’s will, retreated and prepared for the cross. (John 6:15). Instead of trying to make things happen for Himself, He submitted to God’s charge for His life. He changed the scale — and countless men and women will forever be impacted eternally for His brave decision to be rewarded by God alone.
What could God do in and through your hard work if you let Him join you in it? No piles or mess can keep you from the rewards God is storing up for those who seek Him! (2 Timothy 4:8)
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17