Your Work Matters: Unspoken Agreement

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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It’s nearly midmorning when I stand on the porch watching the heat rise off the asphalt. The girls chalk their way down Avent Street, and the boys swing from the tire swing in the big oak tree. The baby and the toddler nap under the ceiling fan inside, and as the sweat beads on my brow, I’m envious of their scheduled nap time.

I do a mental head count of the children scattered about: fifteen. I’m responsible for only eight, but I still feel the weight of responsibility for the others. Their mamas work, and I fill the gap between the time mama leaves and the time she comes home again. I am one of only a few women home during the day, and my house is a safe place. It is where the preacher lives. Children as young as two are free to wander down the street to my house to play for the day, and when it’s time for supper, mamas come calling. The unspoken agreement between us stands, and some days, it’s what breaks me.

I read snippets of Leaving Church between cat fights and boy brawls, and at a quarter of ten, Jaylen rounds the corner, and strolls down the sidewalk to my house. He wears headphones and nice shoes and he looks much older than his 14 years. He’s coming to cut the grass with our lawn mower and our gas, and I sigh because Jaylen’s visits cost me $1.75 a minute. But he needs the jangle in his pocket, so we give it because we have it to give. In eleven minutes, he’s gone, along with my $20.

At noon, when the kids circle up around my rectangular farm table, she knocks at the door. I’m dripping in sweat and the house is a wreck, but she’s got a box of kittens, and I’m a sucker for balls of fluff. She promises to be back before dinner and I promise to house them for the afternoon.

After lunch, Rhona comes to fetch her children. We chat about the heat and the cost of electricity and she thanks me for serving three extra PB&J sandwiches. She mentions how hard it is to feed her kids when school is out. I search her face, trying to really see her. And when she’s gone, I do the only thing I know to do.

I write her story.

And I write her story, not because I want to write it, but because the writing is where I make sense of my life and her life and the Jesus who is making himself known in my city.

But here’s the rub: I’m bone-tired.

I’m suffocating under the weight of poverty and racism and good-ol’-boy, Bible Belt theology. My house is the place I live, but it’s also the food pantry and the clothes closet and the pastoral counseling center. My yard is the neighborhood playground, and my porch is the landing ground for weary kids with nowhere to go. The front door swings wide open to the people who have become my work. And I am always writing the stories of the people who cross my threshold, always forcing my eyes to see what Jesus sees.

Have I told you I am tired?

This everyday work of breathing in and out and then in again is wearing me thin. And some days, I cannot bear to crawl out the bed.

I am tired.

And in the midst of the tired, Jesus invites me to keep breathing, to keep showing up, to keep letting in, to keep writing the story of our life among the least of these. So I do, keep breathing and showing up and letting in and writing the story.

And little by little, the drudgery is transfigured into something less like work and more like worship. And in the worship, I am being transfigured into someone more like Jesus.


Your Work Matters

What if your work is drudgery? What if getting out of bed to head to your daily grind is just about to push you over the edge? What if Monday morning always arrives with a feeling a dread? We all want to feel as of the work we're doing is meaningful. We want it to fill us up, and we pray it makes a difference in the world for good. But what if you're stuck in a job that has nothing to do with what you feel called to do? What if you feel trapped and discouraged? In this series, Your Work Matters, we'll be asking some of these same questions. We don't promise to have all (or any) of the answers, but we encourage you to wrestle with these tough and painful issues, right along with us. Tell us your story. Offer your wisdom, and come away encouraged that you are not alone, and that God sees you, right where you are.