This week my son started at nursery. Which means I started back at work.
I have mixed feelings about this. I love my job. I am completely blessed to work in a field which is my hobby (music) and in a very small team of incredible people. I have missed them very much, and as much as I have loved spending a year with my son, I am now pleased to share his care with others.
Yet while I work in music, I very rarely get to make music. There is always admin. Event organising, email sending, social media to update, donors to thank, promotional material to prepare. It is tiring and sometimes sucks the life out of your soul. I get to the end of my day and think, “What have I actually achieved? I have replied to emails. That’s it.”
So often in Christian circles we talk about vocation and not work. While it is lovely that some people get to do what their heart uniquely is passionate about, and feel that they are making a real difference in the world, for the majority, work hurts. It is hard, mundane, monotonous, and simply a way of getting food on the table and a roof overhead.
A couple of days ago I was listening to a podcast from RESOUNDworship which was an interview with Wendell Kimbrough, a songwriter in Alabama. He was one of the musicians to contribute a song to The Porter’s Gate Worship Project, an album of music all about work. He talked about a Tolkien short story called ‘Leaf by Niggle’. It is the story of a painter who was producing a glorious canvas which included a beautiful tree. He poured all of his energy into making each leaf unique and beautiful, but the mundane tasks of life and interruptions by his neighbour kept taking him away from the painting and it was never fully realised. Then in the story he ‘dies’ and finds himself in a beautiful afterlife-type place where his tree, now complete and utterly perfect and glorious takes centre stage.
“It’s crazy how much pain and frustration there is in the day to day of our lives. We almost have to be numb in order to get through – and that’s even in a good life with privileges and joy. There’s so much pain in our work but in some way God will bring to fruition all of the half-finished ideas and all of the dreams that we had that we didn’t get to actualise. All of the hopes that we have for ourselves and the people that we love – they are not lost, and in some way God will make them complete and perfect.” Wendell Kimbrough, RESOUNDworship Podcast, Episode 41
This is Wendell’s song on the Porter’s Gate Project that was inspired by Leaf by Niggle and Isaiah 65.
Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived in a French monastery in the 1600s found real peace in the most exhausting and menial of kitchen tasks each day. He pictured God right there with him, enjoying every small action. He developed the habit of recognising that everything he did was done in God’s presence and under his smile of approval.
What a privilege to have God’s constant attention and company!
So for those of you suffering with work stress, or the resentment of a boring or unfulfilling job – try picturing God at work with you, watching and approving. Or if that is too much, dream away. Have hopes and dreams. Have side projects of love and devotion. One day, in the new Heavens and the new Earth, they will all be brought to utter and perfect completion.