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Happy Day Three

In eLetter
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At the outset of a new year, it’s natural to wonder about the future. No, not natural. COMPULSIVE. Will I end up with that new opportunity I’ve been hoping for this spring? Will my family reach that resolution we’ve been working towards come summertime? Will I be able to take back some ground with my health by the fall? We want to know things in advance. All sorts of things. We want to know if all the effort, striving, and stress will pay off.

We don’t want to waste time, especially when it comes to work. Most of us are back at work this week. Today, Wednesday, January 6, is Day Three. You’re re-finding the coffee pot in the break room, re-booting your computer, re-minding yourself of where you left things with that client. And it just hits you: this is All. So. Relentless. Work never ends. It’s not seasonal. Not optional. And the New Year can feel like an interrogation: was my work worthwhile last year? How will I face it, unflinching, in 2016? 

Before we all run screaming for the hills, let’s pull out our Rolodex (remember those?) of go-to Scripture truths. Maybe there’s something here to help.

Indeed, there is: Ephesians 2:10.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  

In the earlier verses of Ephesians 2, Paul is advocating for a grace-based view of our salvation. We were not saved because of the good we do, but because of Jesus, who saved us first and THEN prepared individual assignments. In the context of the passage, these assignments seem open-ended. Yes, they probably include giving blankets to the night shelter, but could they also include teaching, practicing medicine, or playing an instrument? Could the energy we have for our vocation flow from the understood, undefiled wholeness we have forever in Jesus? I’m gonna go with Yes. If WE are whole, then our lives should be holistically expressed.

We are workmanship — a work of God. A product of his work, made for work. And made not for value-neutral work — but for good work. And not just for good work — but for specific work. We were made, in advance, for good, particular, pre-ordained work. God worked to make us something specific so we could work to make other specific things, and thus continue His current of creation downstream into time. Grace upon grace overflowing out into the world.

Okay. But.

Did he REALLY fashion me, from the foundation of the world, to answer phones at a dentist’s office? If I hold my mouth just right, can I see this load of laundry as a good work, prepared in advance? Seems like a stretch. But as Frederick Buechner observed, “One of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making is the attempt to be more spiritual than God.” Perhaps God isn’t above being glorified by your attention to detail in the lesson plan you’re crafting for kindergarteners. Maybe he DID prepare that bathroom floor for you to scrub. Today, January 6, 2016. Really.

“One of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making is the attempt to be more spiritual than God.” Frederick Buechner

Let’s give him what we have, because of one thing I am at least 87% sure: He does great work with loaves and fishes. And if you’re going to make any resolution this year, maybe it could involve deciding NOT to be the judge of how worthwhile your work is in 2016. Yes, set goals and blah, blah, blah. But accept that you’re probably the worst possible judge of actual GOODNESS and worthiness of what you’re doing. We’re all tapestry weavers on the wrong side of the pattern, just plugging along and grabbing protein bars in our way out the door. Maybe we could all resolve to embrace the pen, the washrag, the stapler, with more trust, because our work has been prepared in advance by Someone very good. And maybe that can be enough, worthy enough for us, in 2016. If it doesn’t work out, well, 2017 is just around the corner and we can all go back to the time-honored habits of compulsion and control. Life is long and we have options.

In the meantime, let me be the 874th person to wish you a belated, yet very Happy, Very Worthy New Year! And especially a Happy Day Three.

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