The Christian Life & Work: Passing it off

1 Oct

Last week I was supply teaching a gym class of grade 10 girls. I love gym and I love teaching girls. After all, I was just like them only 12 years ago! Yikes. Actually, I wasn’t exactly like all of the girls in your typical gym class. I enjoyed (still enjoy) sports and looked forward to gym more than any of my other classes. But I still remember that 95% of the girls in all my gym classes didn’t feel the same way. Since gym was mandatory up till grade 11, most of the ladies were unenthusiastically forced to run, dribble, kick, and “compete” in all sorts of sports that they would by no means be drawn to naturally. I loved laughing with and at girls who thought sports were just times to braid hair and catch up on the latest high school gossip. Most of my classmates were good-natured and didn’t mind that they looked ridiculous when they would take aim at a soccer ball and send it flying about five feet in front of them, or when they’d try to play floor hockey and end up looking like they were flailing about with an out-of-control stick. It was all in good fun!

Not much has changed. Gym for girls still looks about the same. I was standing by trying to “coach” them as much as a supply teacher can, by giving them pointers like “Bend your knees when you’re standing at home plate”, or “No one is running, you need to come back and help your goalie!”, or “You’re going the wrong way, turn around and shoot in the other direction!”. The funny thing I noticed is that even without much desire or skill, there’s one thing that most of the girls still did. They’d look to the one or two players who were clearly more talented, and try to pass off the ball (or responsibility) to them. As soon as a girl who wasn’t that talented found a ball had come her way, rather than try to do something with it herself like control it and move up the field, she’d quickly look for someone else with more confidence and talent, and do her best to pass it off. It was a funny thing to watch. I couldn’t help but be amused at how natural it was to not want to take responsibility for the job that was given to them in the moment, but to look to someone else to take over for them.

Without turning this into an overly-analyzed metaphor, I was reminded of how many of us can default into the same response when it comes to our relationship to work as Christians. Paul uses the farmer, athlete, and soldier metaphors to paint a clear picture of Christians as workers. All three connote a commitment to a job, a disciplining of the body and mind, and hard work. Just taking a look at the idea of being an athlete, we can see that there’s a lot that doesn’t come naturally but needs to be worked at in order for real accomplishments to be reached. Yes, there are obviously naturally talented people who don’t have to work as hard to see results in athletics, but regardless, in order to be considered a professional in any sport, a lot of work needs to go into achieving that goal. Hours of practice, tryouts for teams, a disciplined diet and workout regimen, rejection, passing up of other lucrative opportunities, suffering and recovering through painful injuries. Athletics are not for the faint-hearted. Its no wonder that in grade 10 girls’ gym, there’s not much of a desire to have your body pummelled by balls when at the end of the day you don’t really view yourself as much of an athlete at all.

But as a Christian, we don’t have that option. We can’t “pass off” our work to someone else or just decide that we’re not really athletes. Maybe we feel like we’d rather be fans, cheering on the sidelines, or the water girl/boy that goes along with the team, but never really makes it onto the playing field. This isn’t saying that those jobs of cheering and water-girling aren’t important, but it is to say that no Christian is called to be anything less than athletic when it comes to how we run our race of faith.

We don’t all have the same jobs and responsibilities but this doesn’t change how we are to perform. Some of us are moms and wives; others are husbands, workers, pastors, children in school etc. Each one of us has jobs to do and carry out that require us to flex our muscles and develop our skills, learn more about our jobs, and do them well. We are not given the option of passing off our duties to someone who’s better, or more interested in doing them than we are.

Take for example being a mom with small children: If you didn’t grow up in a home where your mom cooked meals for you every day, or played creative games and sewed your own clothes, you might look out on your own situation and at times feel intimidated and overwhelmed by Pinterest pressure and the incessant updates of what everyone else is doing with their kids on Facebook. Someone else’s two-year old just learned the entire alphabet, and another lady has knit six sweaters and matching blankets for all her kids, for Christmas, in August! You are a failure. Or at least that’s what it may feel like when you think about whether or not you’re doing a good job at your job. In fact, maybe you feel like you weren’t cut out for this work. Maybe you just see a sea of talented people out there, doing tons of talented things and you can’t seem to make Kraft dinner without it tasting soggy and bland. Or, maybe you don’t even feel like a failure, so much as you’re not even interested in doing any of those things! You’d rather be lounging on the sofa with a good book, or hanging out with friends at the local Starbucks. Here are several possible responses, depending on how you look at your job and responsibilities. One: wallow in false guilt over an uninformed understanding of what your job is and how you are supposed to fulfill it. Two: decide that you’ll never be better at cooking, house-keeping, caring for your children, and just find ways to avoid doing those jobs by buying pre-made food and sitting your kids in front of the TV for long periods of time so that you can soothe your guilt with some online aversions. Three: Keep on doing what you like most, not bothering to ask yourself whether or not you’re being disobedient, lazy, or indifferent to the job you’ve been called to do. Four: Stop, repent from ungodly attitudes, seek God’s word for wisdom and clarity about what you are to be doing, and then learn how to do it well.

I’ve been guilty of numbers one to three many times. But I also know that number four is the only right answer, and when I do that, things change. I’m not a natural at many things. In fact, when I started out cooking for my husband when we first got married, we’d laugh after I’d made dinner, because it had taken me about four hours and I’d dirtied almost every dish in the kitchen. I’ve still got lots to learn, but things have gotten better and cleaner. I know that when I read the Bible, I’m called as Christian to work hard at all I do, and to do it well as unto the Lord. I know that I’m a wife and a mom. I’m also a member of my local church. I’m a daughter and daughter-in-law. I’m a friend. In all these categories, there are things that I need to learn more about and do better in. Even if I’ve failed or don’t have much talent, I need to learn more and do whatever it takes to become “athletic” in those areas. I forget who it was but I think Edith Schaefer (the infamous encourager of making your own furniture out of things like a used leather saddle- seriously who does that?? I love Edith) said that when you don’t know how to do something like sew, pick up some books, read a lot, take a class, and learn. Her advice is true to all of us in any station or situation in the Christian life. We are not allowed to panic and pass our ball off to the next person who’s better at doing what we’re called to do, or just pass our ball off to no one. We can’t say to ourselves, “Well, no one ever showed me how to work hard at school and develop good study habits, so I just won’t try very hard.” or “I don’t know how to lead my family with Scripture since no one did that for me growing up.” or “I just don’t like working at a job, I’d rather spend my time relaxing at home.”. Our weaknesses and struggles with sin are all opportunities for God to show His strength working in us. In 1 Corinthians Paul reminds his readers that not many of them were wise by the world’s standards when they were called to the Lord. We are those same people- not many of us have knowledge and understanding, but by God’s grace we can and will grow. He will enable us, but we also must exert ourselves and learn to flex our muscles and see areas of weakness, lack of talent, and failure, as opportunities for God to do good things through us. Thank God we’re not trying out for a team, and thank God we don’t have to win His approval. All the hard work will be worth it, for the opportunity to show others a testimony of faithfulness in this lifetime. We work because He’s already approved of us because of His Son, and we do it because we love Him and know that in running our race faithfully, we’ll one day receive a crown, a real prize that we can lay at His feet.

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7 Responses to “The Christian Life & Work: Passing it off”

  1. Jac October 2, 2012 at 12:39 AM #

    So encouraging, Maja! Motherhood and being a wife comes with SO many opportunities to feel inadequate. May God gives us the grace and wisdom so see what is truly important and the strength to persevere! God Bless you!! Your posts always come at the right time. 🙂

    • majay13 October 2, 2012 at 11:34 AM #

      Jac- it’s good to know there’s lots of us struggling alongside one another.. I’m glad you felt the post was useful, and I’d love to hear more of your comments and thoughts about things youre learning too.. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. host7 October 2, 2012 at 10:08 AM #

    Maja, may the Lord continue to use your writing ability to bring others to the knowledge of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    • majay13 October 2, 2012 at 11:33 AM #

      Mom, thanks for the encouragement! I do hope that any writing or sharing on this blog will be used that way.. 🙂

  3. digdeepwithdina October 2, 2012 at 4:41 PM #

    Maj…this post is fantastic!! I love the comparison with the girls in the phys ed class. It really captures the point. How often I have passed the ‘ball’ to someone else and relied on them to do the work…rather than strain myself to get it done. I also really like the application to motherhood! P.S. I’m glad we weren’t in the same gym class. I’m pretty sure I would have been braiding my hair!

    • majay13 October 2, 2012 at 6:31 PM #

      D- I think definitely we all must struggle with this issue in different ways.. Motherhood just brings to light how hard it is to be forever responsible for people other than ourselves, and how selfish we tend to be, or how defeated we can become, no? Love chatting with you, and everyone else through the comments.. I want there to be more so we can all hear what others are thinking!

  4. Debsie_K October 20, 2012 at 3:14 PM #

    Maja, such an amazing post! So many good insights! Miss you lots!

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