It’s Saturday night, and I’m sitting here with blisters on my hands and my feet, and a couple of tiny thorns stuck in my thumbs. I’m sore, I’m tired, and I am settled.
It’s been a bit of a discouraging week. And as the week wound down and we approached Friday, I looked longingly at Saturday and made plans to be a slug. To hide, in my house, and pathetically feel sorry for myself.
But we do that, don’t we? When we are exhausted, overwhelmed, discouraged, aching–our first response is so often to sit in a corner and lick our wounds. And whine to God–“Why, God? Don’t you see? Don’t you know? Don’t I deserve to sit here and be discouraged? To sit here and hurt?”
Don’t get me wrong; there are certainly plenty of times, in life, when we do need to hide. When we need to seek quiet and solitude and, o my soul, rest–real rest. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. You know that, and I know that.
No, I’m talking about the inward-facing, retrospective, self-centered, cynical, bitter attitude that we all slip into some time. Unfortunately, I know it well.
But something switched in my brain and soul, this morning. It started with scripture work. It wasn’t earth-shattering. It wasn’t “powerful” (cliché) or comforting, but just the act of working through 5 verses, in Isaiah, was not only settling, but it was motivating.
Which then led to a full day of work. Solid, hard, back-breaking, sweat-producing work. Cleaning the house, doing laundry, cleaning at the church (October is my team’s month to do that), cleaning out a friend’s overgrown flowerbeds, trimming bushes, mulching my flower beds, mowing mowing mowing, and then a very long walk.
It was, oh, so very good. So very good.
All of it was good, even the cleaning inside. But it was the outside work, in the warm fall sun, under the blue October sky, that helped reorient my mind and my soul.
Especially the mindlessness of it all. It doesn’t take a rocket science degree, to pull a bunch of bermuda grass out of a flowerbed. It’s repetitive, dirt-ensconced work. I won’t use a metaphor or analogy here about some ridiculous symbolism that can be found in comparing weeds to sin in our lives, although I suppose a more creative person could. But, to me, they were weeds. They needed to be gone. And so I pulled them out. Over and over and over again. And cleared the flowerbed.
Same with mowing. Row after row after row.
And, at the end of the day, when I dragged my sore self, covered in dirt and twigs and chopped up leaves, into the house, there was a true sense of joy.
I suppose it is the joy that comes, from knowing a job has been completed.
And, beyond that, the joy that comes from being outside, where one can breathe and see that the world is so, so, so much larger than I am.
I am small.
I am seen, and known, by God, but I am also so very small under the big, amazing, awe-striking blue sky.
And, there is comfort in that.
It brings to my mind two verses. The first is found in Colossians 3:23-24 ~
I love that phrase, “work heartily”. To me, it means to give everything I’ve got. To go until I can’t go another step. To pull weeds until the job is finished. To do my work tasks with enthusiasm and with excellence, to the best of my ability….as for the Lord, and not for men. Not to earn His “approval” or to earn salvation; rather, out of obedience. We are told to work heartily.
Maybe there is a sense in which hard work is also a type of spiritual discipline.
And then, this verse, in Proverbs 13:4 ~
At first glance, this verse may seem like a pithy little saying–something to spout off to your kid when they are being lazy and not doing their chores.
Oh, but it isn’t a pithy saying. No, it is much more. There is much here.
When I allow myself to sink into slug mode, and into the despondency of self-pity, I find that I crave, and yet those cravings are not met. Cravings for peace, for being settled, for being assured, for being at peace, for so many other things—and yet my soul gets nothing, in those dark slug-like moments, apart from self-loathing. I can even name times when, in selfishly choosing to be a slug, I have craved food, and have eaten far too much, only to find that it did not satisfy. Having the soul of a sluggard is a downward spiral.
When I am diligent to do whatever work is set before me–be it care for others, or my work tasks, or parenting tasks, or responsibilities such as pulling weeds and mowing the grass–O, my soul, it is richly supplied….
….with settled-ness. With joy. With satisfaction of a job well-done. With a good-type of exhaustion, that more readily lends itself to uninterrupted sleep.
And my soul is richly supplied with the peaceful knowledge that the sky is huge, and God is huge, and while I am so small, He knows my name.