On Twitter, I follow a shepherd who lives and works in the Lake District of the English countryside. He farms a breed of sheep called Herdwick, and while I am generally ignorant about all things livestock, I can say that these particular sheep seem to be off-white and mostly fluffy. As I read this shepherd’s often witty updates and posts, which sometimes include pictures like the one to the right, I imagine how different his life is from mine. He is a shepherd herding sheep in the fields, just as shepherds have done for millennia. On my days at work, when the news is bad, or when the stress is high, I fantasize just a bit, about escaping to herd some sheep myself.
But that is not my calling, and I don’t believe it is the work that God intends for me to do. At least not at this stage in my life. Through prayerful consideration, and numerous conversations with others along the way, I feel confident that God has called me to be here, where I am, serving people in Silver Spring.
Work is an interesting thing. During some stages and seasons in life we may feel and know we are in the right place – right where God wants us, even though the work that we do may not be easy. At other points along our journey we may wonder, “Am I on the right path?” “Is this the best use of my time?” “Is this task really for me?” And sometime we look out on the horizon longingly and imagine we might feel more fulfilled or less stressed doing something else.
Our work takes many forms and functions. I do not believe work is limited to our occupations, but can be extended to any aspect of our lives where we use our time and energy productively and for a purpose. This can be parenting children, tending a garden, tidying a home, or employing our education and skills in an arena that is beneficial to the world. Some work returns a paycheck. All work is beneficial to ourselves, to others, or creation itself.
But our work is not always easy. Sometimes creation rebels and chaos reigns. At other times, our progress is slowed by people, who like us are broken and sometimes selfish. Regardless of these challenges, our work is worthwhile. We trust a loving God who himself worked to bring creation to existence, and hasn’t stopped working since. We know a savior whose work has made possible forgiveness, redemption, and the eventual restoration of all things and his people.
You may, from time to time, evaluate your work, and prayerfully ask God’s guidance in how you spend your time, but once the decision is “I will do this!” I hope we can all move forward boldly and with purpose. For all work is good and God pleasing. And it may be helpful to be reminded, that whatever you may be doing, from picking tomatoes, to preparing a meal for your family, to working out a complex ratio or formula, if you are doing what you are doing, to the best of your ability, there is no one, in any place, that can do that work quite like you. God is pleased with your contribution. He has given us each unique gifts, talents, and ways of expressing our production, and all add beauty and benefit to this world.
I know that reflecting on these things helps me, when my work is difficult or uncertain. When I start to think that maybe herding sheep would be an easier course, God has a way of revealing unexpected joy, even in small successes. It helps as well, that on very rare occasion, when God has blessed the work I do, I might be so bold as to think of myself as a shepherd also. Maybe my English friend and I, are not really quite that different.