Friday, September 28, 2007

Joyful Work?

Recently as I read a friend’s words discussing the struggle of living a contem-
plative life versus one of more perceived compassion toward the world, I found myself getting anxious that I do not do enough to help the world, the poor, the marginalized. As I read on, tears came to my eyes when I sensed God speaking directly to me saying, "Don't you see how your gifts extend into the world, so that others may find their way?"

Words such as these can be hard for me to receive. While I have never understood much about asceticism per se, I have a sense (for myself) that if it feels too good (i.e. if I find joy in my work), then there must be something wrong. I see myself as not working hard enough or doing the "right" things. These are long-ingrained messages that I have only recently started to challenge.

I LOVE the "work" (and it is difficult to even use that word) I do with Soltura and at Mars Hill. My heart fills as I see men and women come to have more self-awareness, compassion for themselves and begin to understand what truly brings them alive in the world.

The psalmist said, "Harden not your hearts,” and it is when my heart is open that I see change happen in my world. Can I be satisfied with changing the world the way I am best equipped or must I be a woman doing big, radical, self-sacrificial things to be effective?

And so my challenge, and question perhaps, is can I allow myself to do the work that brings me joy without feeling that I must embody suffering along the way?

A wise man prompted me to remember one of my favorite quotes and suggested perhaps that is where I am already living. Hmm. Guess I'll keep pondering ☺.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." --Frederick Buechner on vocation

Where does your deep gladness meet the world’s deep hunger?

photos by lucy

11 comments:

Country Parson said...

There is in psychology the principle of mainting a calm, nonanxious and "disinterested" presence in order to be of greatest help to those who come seeking it while also maintianing your own wellbeing. It's a great idea, and it works most of the time, but embodying suffering cannot be avoided altogether when you are being the light of Christ in somebody's broken and dark world. It is a holy suffering in which you may become a conduit through which that persons suffering flows to God and God's blessing flows to them. The problem comes when you are overloaded and the embodyment of suffering has a very real, painful and sometimes quite dangerous physical and emotional effect. There comes a point when one has to say NO for one's own wellbeing and in faith that there is someone else not far away with capacity to say yes. I have not learned where that point is and sometime suffere the consequences. But I am very good at advising others about it.

Country Parson said...

You can tell from my spelling and grammar that I are a graduate of the George W. Bush school of "Childrens do learn."

Abbey of the Arts said...

Important reflections and the Buechner quote is one of my favorites. I love how it makes things simple really -- you don't have to solve the world's problems, just the one that your greatest joy can address. Very humbling in the best way. I still struggle with the justice piece and being present to people on the margins, but mostly I am trusting that the work I love most is what I am being called to devote my energy to.

Yolanda said...

I feel that mine is met in my job as nurse.I think that if you stay with this soul draining at times job for any length of time then you are called to this profession. That would be my two cents worth.

nwc said...

That Buechner cat is indeed a wise dude. :)

Now if I could only find where that place is.... I'm totally serious; I don't know....

Anyway, thanks for your own reminder to me.

Sue said...

Oh, there's the Buechner quote again. It's following me around yowling at me in my head, and then there I see it in all its glory on my screen. Thank you to you and to Country Parson for your wise words. I have come through a period of life where I am just overwhelmed by suffering - my own - and haven't been able to deal with anyone else's. I think it's wisdom that shows us when to remove ourselves so that we can heal and be refilled so that there is something to give to others. I guess the waters start muddying when we allow our shame to lead us by the nose, in thinking that we have to be out there doing stuff because there's so much suffering, and then wisdom goes out the window when shame is in the room :) And that stupid Protestant work ethic has done more harm than good. I love your words here. I am going to let them soak in and listen to them (how hard it is when your entire working life has been filled wth crappy jobs to think that you can do something enjoyable - radical!!! ;)

Gabrielle said...

Well, true suffering has, or will, come to all of us in one form or another. It's not something that we have to search for and masochistically attach to every facet of our lives. What's important is what we do with suffering when it comes - that we do our best to unite it with Christ's. I think the idea of being required to suffer in our work would be a kind of misguided asceticism. What is the real purpose of asceticism, after all? It is to free us, to free us to be able to live the gospel. You are living the gospel in this wonderful work that you do. What could be more radical and self-sacrificial than living the gospel? I think you are truly blessed to be experiencing such profound joy in your work. You are dealing, perhaps, with people who are not as visibly marginalized as others, but it is no less real or beneficial.

Shelby said...

well that's a tough one... kinda like 'how do you help the world peace problem?'

one person at a time.

Sunrise Sister said...

Missed you this week but am catching up today from my very SICK bed! Yuk - when I'm feeling a little better I may have some blog comments about how much we take our health for granted! In the meantime, your photos, your words, and your readers'comments have given me a boost. Thanks to all!

Shelby said...

I have a real life video posted today.. come see! :)

lucy said...

thank you all for your thoughtful comments. this is an area i will continue to ponder and i look forward to having you on this journey with me.