“How many times a day do you sweep your kitchen floor?”
The question was asked, ostensibly as a query in an informal poll, by my funny friend on her Facebook page the other day. And, by funny, I mean funny ha-ha, not funny weird. Well, maybe funny weird a little, but mostly funny ha-ha.
The question triggered a thought (again) that has been bothering me for many years. Maybe bothering isn’t the right word. I think perhaps the correct term would be frustrating. Because it certainly is. Frustrating, I mean.
Why is it that some jobs are never done? Even when you’ve done them?
Those of my readers who do housework will understand perfectly. Laundry, dishes, housecleaning, meal preparation–the list is endless. And repetitious beyond belief.
My own list, though somewhat less imposing, has the same challenge. Tasks done today must be done again tomorrow. Or next week. Or next year. It matters not. They must be done again.
The lawn needs to be mowed? Yep–I’ll have to do it again next week. Car needs to be washed? It’ll rain tomorrow and I’ll have to do it again. Time to paint the eaves? What, again? I just did that ten years ago!
The problem with life is that it’s so daily.
I want to be able to assign the quote to a certain person, but I think it has been spoken aloud so often by now that Anonymous will have to do. Still, the truth is, we all face the repetition of daily life–today, tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that.
I hate the dailies. Really. What’s the point? They’ll just have to be done again.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
We call it drudgery. Difficult work to do. Work that must be done repeatedly. Day after day.
I was amused as I searched for the definition of drudgery. I noticed a thesaurus listing which equated the word with an idiom Christians use frequently–at least in our discussions of fallen man:
By the sweat of one’s brow.
And the Creator said to His creation, “In drudgery shall you earn the food you will eat, until you return to the dust from which you came.”
Quite the depressing subject, no? Do you get the idea that I’m not just talking about all the physical, menial tasks I’ve mentioned above?
At this moment, I’m sitting in a dimly lit room with soft music playing, coffee cup at hand. No, I’m not all that comfy. The hard wood chair has a pad where it makes contact with my sitting-down parts. No place else. There is no plush rug to sink my feet into. In fact, my feet have to stay corralled under the wooden desk, sharing the already narrow space with a computer tower.
I do this most nights. I’m not playing games, not browsing the Interwebs, nor even answering correspondence from friends.
I come and sit here because I have to. For hours, almost without moving, at times.
I have to.
Writing isn’t something I fell in love with; it isn’t a path to fame and fortune. It’s not even an activity I chose to do. Well, in a way, it is.
I choose to be obedient to the assignment.
I know there are many writers who will disagree with me. I know of several who believe that every word they write is given to them from God. That’s not the gift I’ve been given.
The gift I have been given is a drive to write, a need to communicate God’s love through the printed words. The gift came from God. I have to write.
You want to know my problem with that?
The words don’t just fall from heaven onto my desk.
The nights I have plopped down in my hard wooden desk chair and had an entire essay flow like honey from my fingers, I can count on those sticky fingers.
It’s a struggle. A fight. On this emotional battlefield, I cry and I scream, all the while wondering if I’ll ever write another lucid sentence. From many of those battles, I’ve crept silently home, defeated. I lie in my bed, sleeplessly gazing at the ceiling and promising myself that in the morning I’ll break the news to the Lovely Lady that I’m finished. Washed up.
To my shame, from some of those battles, I have simply turned to my keyboard and slapped out enough letters and symbols to weave together the words which make up another empty and useless essay. My victims will read it and wonder what the crazy man was getting at this time. It’s still defeat.
The result is the same as before: no sleep, no rest in my spirit, an overwhelming sense of disappointment at my failure to achieve the purpose.
Funny. My restless night notwithstanding, the next nights nearly always find me back here. The hard chair is almost welcoming by now, the soft light calming, the beautiful music helping to keep the resolve in my soul firm and unyielding. Regardless of the defeats that have come on this battlefield, the gift demands my attendance.
Why do writers write?
You might as well ask why my friend, Ms. Barb, bakes rolls for her friends. Or, question why, in my town, Pastor Wayne builds ramps in front of the houses of the lame and the aged. Inquire about what drove my friends in Houston to adopt a child with lifelong needs, issues which will demand their attention from now until they no longer have the physical or mental strength to fulfill them.
God gives good gifts. The Teacher said it. If your child asks for food will you give him/her a rock? How much more–there can be no question–how much more then, will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to His children?
There are days when it feels more like a noose around the neck.
Ask my friends in Houston. Ask Ms. Barb–okay, don’t ask her. She’ll never admit it. Still, I wonder if sometimes, just sometimes, it doesn’t take all she has inside to muster up the energy.
Night after night, I struggle with my stewardship of this gift. It’s not a word we use much, is it? Steward. The word implies servitude–the administration of things which will never completely belong to us.
It is what we are if we follow Him. Servants. Stewards.
We give back the gift to the Giver. Only, we have taken the time and made the effort to make the gift, which was appropriate and necessary for us, priceless and beautiful for the King of all Creation.
Drudgery? Sweat of our brow? Yes, in a way. We labor at it, without doubt.
I struggle with tenses and punctuation, fight with malapropisms, wrestling the sentences into order, night after night. And still, the next morning, I await the emails from the Lovely Lady bearing the bad news. A comma placed incorrectly, fuzzy antecedents, abused hyphens–all are grist for her mill, and I get a steady diet of them.
It’s hard work.
No–these words don’t proceed straight from the mouth and heart of God. They are filtered through this bumbling and inefficient scribe. There will always be room for improvement.
In anticipation of this essay, I shared a couple of thoughts with my online friends earlier this week. It’s only drudgery if there is no purpose, I suggested to them.
I have a purpose.
So does Ms. Barb. And Pastor Wayne. And my friends in Houston. So does every single one of us who has also been given one or more of those good gifts. I suspect that includes most of those brave souls who have read thus far in this lengthy piece.
So. What happens with the gift now?
Often for a lifetime, and then again, sometimes only for a season, He gives good gifts. And, when He sees our faithfulness in using that gift, He usually gives bigger gifts.
Bigger jobs, you ask?
Yeah, they’re the same thing.
Life is so daily.
He made the days, too. Gifts as well. Seven in a week. Three hundred sixty-five of them in a year’s time.
So we’d have more chances to get better at being faithful stewards.
I’m just wondering how I’m going to find time to write all the thank-you notes for the gifts–what with washing the car, sweeping the floor, painting the trim, and…
Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.
(Leo Buscaglia ~ American author/motivational speaker ~ 1924-1998)
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:58 ~ NIV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.