I did not want to do work today.
And not just the work that pays the bills and provides for my family. I mean any and all work–the soul work that occurs during prayer and study, the health work that occurs when I stomp around the neighborhood to get 10,000 steps and 5 miles done, the hard work of parenting, the work of cleaning and weeding and calendaring and organizing. None of it. Sinfully, I’m sure. But also weariness.
For several different reasons, I did not want to do the work that this day–that each day–requires. Mind reasons. Soul reasons. Physical reasons.
Fortunately, though, reason and habit won out, and the work got done.
And then, as life would have it, I was reminded three different times today of the value of hard work.
The first came as I stomped (what I do can not, in all seriousness, be called walking. Walking is graceful. I am not.) around the neighborhood this morning. Usually I use that time to think and sort things out, and pray some. This morning, though, the only thing running through my mind was a sort-of mantra: “Do the work. Do the work. Do the hard work. Work hard. Work hard, do you hear me self? Work. Hard.” And, similar to how sometimes just writing out scripture over and over again will start to settle my mind, so does “doing the work”. Sweat equity, I suppose.
Later on in the day, in between work calls and before my crew came home from school, I went outside to knock out some more mileage as a stretching break from the computer and phone. I didn’t get very far, though, because a church member/neighbor was outside, and called me to his yard to chat. Our conversation turned to God, and God’s view of the world, at-large, and God’s view of us, and our view of God. He made a remark along the lines of “you are so strong in spite of everything”, and he asked me how can this be? My response, first and foremost and always and always and always, is that I am standing because of the completely undeserved grace that God has granted. And, of course, the completely undeserved kindness of my church family, other local churches, our school district, and our county that I’ll never be able to repay, though I wish I could.
But I also told him this: there is a kind of salvation in hard work, too. Not salvation that saves the soul from death–not the salvation that only the cross can deliver, but there is a type of salvation. A saving of the mind, if you will, which helps settle the soul. There is something settling in knowing this: “Today I will do hard work. By God’s grace, I will accomplish it. And then, tomorrow, I will get up and do hard work again.”
Interestingly enough, the very same thoughts came to me tonight, while sitting with a church member at the soccer fields, watching our boys play soccer (on opposite teams). As we chatted about normal, every day stuff–kids, soccer, work, church, food–out of the blue she said something, too, along the same lines as my neighbor earlier in the day.
And, for the third time today, sitting by that soccer field, I was reminded of the importance of working hard. And the grace of working hard. Which has led me to writing about it here, because of this: I wonder if it is kind of like what Paul says in 1st Corinthians 15:
The first few times I heard or read this passage, my reaction was “Good grief, Paul, that sounds so arrogant…the whole ‘I worked harder than any of them’ bit, is a bit much don’t you think Paul?” It even sounds whiny, to an extent. Maybe I read it that way, though, because I recognize the nearly constant arrogance and sinful pride in my own life. If I had said what Paul said above, it would have been out of pride and arrogance. But I am nearly fully convinced that wasn’t the case with Paul.
Instead, I think that maybe Paul has hit upon something important here.
There is grace in work. There is grace in working hard. There is grace in putting in the long hours doing documentation and hosting meetings for work, in putting in the miles and steps physically, in cleaning the toilet and repairing the van yet again and paying the bills and doing volunteer work. There is grace in chauffeuring children and reviewing homework and listening to your child’s dreams and fears and worries and attending sporting events and concerts and parenting. There is grace in caring well for others through the privilege of sitting with and listening. There is grace in working hard–doing hard work–and then, knowing at the end of the day, that the work that will be there the next day can be counted on. It is trustworthy, reliable, sure and steadfast.
Hard work is kind of like God’s mercies. New every morning. There will be work to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. It is trustworthy. It will not abandon. Hard work will not despise me. There is always work to be done. Brain work, soul work, physical and health work, job related work, parenting work, responsibilities work, organizational work, disciplines work, caring for others work.
And, there will always be grace to be able to do the work.
I find Proverbs 13:4 to be interesting:
I think I find it interesting, because it doesn’t speak of bank accounts or houses and boats and goods and retirement accounts, which is what we most associate with hard work.
No, instead it speaks of the soul.
There is soul work that is done through the hard work of putting one foot in front of the other each and every day. Of doing the tasks laid out before us each and every day. I know the pull to do nothing. I know the pull to hide. I know the pull to just stop. To give up. To quit. To go Home. I know these things well; I knew them even today. I may know them again tomorrow. I hope not, but I may.
And you may, too.
But I also know the settling and grace that infuses hard work. And the reliability of hard work.
I know that, by grace, tomorrow there will be hard work to do, and the grace with which to do it.