“The thought doesn’t come often, but when it does, it’s pretty scary—what if I spend the rest of my life waiting for some definite direction from the Lord, and when I’m forty or fifty I’m still waiting to begin on any real life-work? ….there must be something eternal for me to be engaged in, besides incidental opportunities along the way!”
Dear young woman who wrote that in my journal a few years ago,
Can I tell you what happened to me the other day? I spent part of the afternoon picking up branches around the perimeter of one of our hayfields. The snow has receded enough on the south-facing slopes that we can see grass again—or at least the dead grass stalks that were left from last year’s hayfields. It was slow, monotonous work, but the beautiful afternoon made up for it. A few optimistic birds were singing about spring, and the brilliant sunshine was warm enough to make up for the chilly winter air.
As I was walking back to the house to get supper, it hit me: this is it. This is life. I’ve arrived at that nebulous thing called “being grown up.”
Not only that, “this” is my life work. This living from day to day, receiving my daily work with my daily bread. This learning to walk by faith, not knowing the plan for the remainder of my life. This buying up of opportunities, and realizing that they are neither incidental nor accidental. This realization that immortal souls are cloaked in the highly mortal bodies that are always crossing my path, and so every interaction is “something eternal for me to be engaged in.”
God has given each of His children a life work—to live. Living entails a host of difficulties, disappointments, perplexities, and surprises. But it is in the context of “just” living, that God meets us. In fact, and, as Paul the apostle said, “To live is Christ.” No so-called “life work” can be carried on through the passage of all of life’s seasons; it must be laid down eventually. But the real kind of life, the life that is Christ, only grows stronger as we get closer to heaven—and it even crosses over into life after death, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
Life, when lived to its fullest, is all about Christ, not about my work for Him. If only I could get this solidly in my head, life would be splattered all over with glory. Most of the time I obsess over my to-do list and yes, often I try to make a to-do list for God too. How much better to slow down to watch for His fingerprints in my day, and listen for His voice and His approaching footstep.
Do you catch the beauty of this kind of life? It is the dust of earth being blown into living significance by the breath of God. It is the filling up of weak earthen vessels, with the glorious treasure of the gospel of God. It is washing dishes and scrubbing floors in the anteroom of heaven, and enjoying fellowship with the eternal God while bumping over muddy roads and getting little kids bundled up to go sledding.
It is strange that human sweat and tears, when shed for Christ’s sake, can be converted into heavenly treasure. Strange that the mundane and the sublime can seem so far removed from one another—and yet rub shoulders. Strange that the warm sunshine can so transform the chill of winter. Strange that picking up sticks from a sodden hayfield can be the prelude to such a revelation about the meaning of life!