One of the dangers in writing a book is the perception that the author has somehow arrived in living out the message of the book. As I’ve said before, writing is something I’m learning to do before I’ve arrived. Otherwise I would never write. As Glory in the Ordinary is now officially out to the public, I am reminded again just how much I have not arrived on the “finding purpose in at-home work” front. So, lest anyone think I wrote the book from a place of strength and domestic prowess, I hope this post helps settle that notion once and for all.
A few weeks ago, in a moment of feeling completely overwhelmed, I exclaimed to my husband “I just feel like I exist to be everyone’s slave!” I don’t know the context, or what was going on that contributed to my outburst (though it certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve uttered those words), but it was a low moment for me. And much of writing the book was filled with low moments for me. As I studied more about the purpose in my work (and in all work, really), I began to realize that it’s a rare day that my feet hit the floor in the early morning hours with a sense of purpose that I am working as God’s representative in the world. If I’m honest, there are many days that I resent the work I do. I don’t serve with joy. I don’t love my neighbors. I don’t see the order that is being brought out of the chaos that is life in a fallen world. I don’t see the good that my work is bringing to society. I just see tasks that I can’t finish. I see the work that never ends. And I’m confronted with a self-directed performance review that never seems to tell me if I’m doing a good enough job.
My feelings in my work are not new to me. I’ve felt this way before about my work, just in a different context. When Daniel was in seminary, and we were newly married, I worked in a call center. My lonely cubicle was all I saw for eight hours a day. My work was dictated by an automatic call service that called people for me. I had little control, little face-to-face interaction, and felt little purpose. I couldn’t see beyond the work I didn’t like to know that even work that felt awful was really glorifying God. How? In my work I was loving my neighbors. In my work I was God’s means of loving this broken world. I loved my neighbors in the cubicle next to me when I did my job, so they didn’t have to pick up my slack. I loved my neighbors when I listened to the people on each call and attempted to meet their needs. All this is in hindsight, because I never got there theologically in my work in the call center. I was simply bitter and frustrated that I had to work in a job I didn’t like—an ordinary, mundane, and thankless job. Fast forward a few years and I still struggle with the same things. I miss the forest for the trees. I miss the point of my work most days. Don’t we all?
All of my work prior to being primarily in the home was leading me to this point where I am standing in the middle of the kitchen unable to see that sweeping the crumbs off the floor again is really God-honoring, creation care work.
I’ve said this elsewhere, but I needed this book for me. It’s just a bonus that others get to read it and hopefully learn from it. The daily battle in my heart against my own sin, the sin of others, and the feelings of futility that come from life in a fallen world is a fierce one. I need regular reminders that my work is good work, that it is the work God has called me to today, and that it is work that is for the good of the world. I hope that as you join me on this journey of discovering how God has infused purpose into every aspect of our ordinary lives, you will know that you are not alone. I’ve been there, too. As a matter of fact, I’m probably there even today.