The Work is Never Done
If we only stop when we are finished with all our work, we will never stop — because our work is never completely done.
~Sabbath, Wayne Muller
There’s always something else that needs to be done.
That statement can either be overwhelming or freeing. I guess it’s really a matter of perspective. It’s not intended to be a nihilistic declaration that should throw us into despair, but I can see how that would be the case. I can see how the sheer amount of work that needs to be done can be too much for some people.
There are times in worship when I will open with a prayer and say something along the lines of, “We lay down our worries and concerns now, knowing that they will be there when this is all said and done, but not allowing them to take our attention off you for this brief moment in time.”
Things in life don’t tend to just disappear. They need to be dealt with, and, typically, while we are dealing with them, something else is bound to show up as well. Life is not really about getting everything accomplished; it’s about finding a rhythm in the ebb and flow.
I’ll admit: I’m really bad at this. I have a certain amount of work that has to be done every week. As a pastor, there’s always the stark reality that Sunday is coming. People will show up on Sunday morning with an expectation of hearing Scripture read and expounded upon, songs to be sung, prayers to pray. For a brief moment on Sunday afternoon, there is peace and rest to enjoy what was, but then Monday rolls around, and it starts all over again.
I’ve been preaching regularly for just over 13 years now. I plan ahead, but I don’t always work ahead. Every once in a while, I’ll have a sermon finished on Tuesday afternoon. It’s rare, but it has happened.
And, then, some weeks, you have special services and multiple messages to write; someone passes away and there’s a funeral to put together, a family to console; you get asked to do a special project or take on a special role, and that work stares you in the face. Next thing you know, it’s Friday morning and you’re just getting to the meat of the message. Then the cycle starts all over again.
I have a regular “To Do” list each week. At the top there’s the things that I have to get done for Sunday. Those things tend to take priority. At the bottom of the list are the other things that I would like to get done during the week. Most of them are for projects that are coming up. Sometimes, it’s just something that I want to do that doesn’t have a hard deadline. And as much as I enjoy researching, writing and preaching, one of the highlights of my week is when I can get that stuff done early in the week and turn my focus to some of these long term projects.
But here’s the thing that I’m slowly coming to embrace: the work is never done, so why stress myself out getting everything done when everything is never going to get done?
Maybe this is an outpouring of some of the reading that I’ve been doing in Stoicism. One of the main tenets that has really stuck out to me is that we can’t control everything around us, and so, we should focus on what we can control and don’t worry about the rest.
It’s also a realization of the importance of Sabbath, something I’ve written about before. Sabbath was created and commanded that we wouldn’t be so focused on what needs to get done that we end up consuming our precious moments in life with work. It’s an important lesson, and one that we should all take seriously.
So, if I can offer you some encouragement today, it’s this: don’t worry about what needs to be done still. It will get done eventually. Take a breath. Take a break. Enjoy the life you have without worrying about that which is unfinished.