I sat down to write and nothing came. Short, stifled sentences laced with anger and lacking purpose. I became so frustrated I ran downstairs and baked some cornbread, distracting myself.
I put the cornbread in the oven and went and stood out on our deck. It was that perfect temperature, where fall hasn’t completely stolen the warmth of summer nights. I inhaled deeply as if I had been holding my breath all day.
Sitting on our deck, beer in hand, I talked to God. Actually, these days I don’t talk to God all that much. I just sit with Him, and it is the one place where I feel entirely okay. He offers so much peace.
He whispered softly: do the holy work. I’m in that weird stage of life where it feels like it is all beginning, even though it started a long time ago (27 years and one month ago, to be exact). It can often feel like everything I am a part of is just the opening act of what someday will be my life.
My best friend and I talked on the phone and she said, “I think my current situation has made me feel like my life hasn’t started yet.” I told her, “It sounds like you need to start living your own life.”
It is just as true for me. Do the holy work. More specifically, I feel like the Lord is telling me: Do the holy work of showing up for your own life. Do not just send your representative out into the world to live for you in some kind of numb, emotionless way. Show up. Do the thing. Feel the feelings. Stop just doing the things people tell you that you should do. Make decisions, follow your passions, do what scares you. Dream up the big, be faithful with the small.
Do the holy work. Grade the papers. Read the emails. Create the spreadsheet. Study for the exam. Eat the pizza. Have the conversation. Do the workout.
Do the holy work, and do it well. Treat it like it is the most important thing you will ever do with your life.
Do the holy work. Don’t do whatever other people tell you that you should do. Don’t live someone else’s life, don’t do someone else’s work. Do your holy work.
I talk to students on a daily basis who are wrestling with the idea of purpose. They wonder, Does God actually have a purpose for my life? I asked some of them the other day, “What if right now, instead of wondering about purpose – grand scheme, overarching life purpose – you asked what your smaller purposes are? What are the day-to-day purposes? In each moment of every day, what is your purpose?” We fulfill or fail miniature purposes all day everyday. The phone call, the exam, the project, the meal, the comforting, the chance to be kind. Whatever it is that is put in front of you, in every moment of everyday, has a purpose. God is paying attention to your life. So much so, that He has orchestrated it all so that you can learn and grow and play an important part in His Kingdom. When you feel like God doesn’t have a purpose for your life, look at the people He has placed around you, the work He has given you to do, and the opportunities that may be coming.
What if we viewed it all as holy work? What if we saw purpose in it all?
I sat out on the deck and looked at the trees. I have been staring at those trees for the past week out of my bedroom window. As part of my practice of paying attention, I decided I would sit at my desk and do nothing but look. I observe the trees as the seasons change them. So that night as I sat and watched them, listened to them rustling in the wind, I saw a leaf fall to the ground. You may know that I struggle with fall as a season, while everyone else is all about boots and pumpkins I am thinking about loss and death. I saw this leaf fall to the ground and realized, it did the holy work. It served its purpose, and now it is done. It didn’t complain about how long it got to be on the tree, what shade of yellow it turned, or how big it was. It lived, it changed, it let go. It did the holy work.
Today, my friend, wherever you may be in your life’s journey, I encourage you with this: Do the holy work. Pay attention to the little purposes God puts in front of you at any moment of the day. Maybe your current purpose is simply to be with Him, aware of His Presence and His love for you. There is no greater purpose, really.