Monday, March 29, 2010

The Curious thing about doing invisible work

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I learned something about myself recently. Something that I already knew, but hadn’t been able to articulate. Something that relates directly to pastoring and ministry.

Stephanie asked me a few weeks ago if I’d start a certain project. It sounded interesting. It sounded like something that I could do. And it sounded like something I’d like. But I couldn’t bring myself to tell her “yes”. Not right now. And I told her why: Because I won’t be able to see it completed for quite some time, and for the moment I couldn't bear to begin a project that would be ages before I could point to it and say, "I'm finished!"

See, lately I’ve been getting great enjoyment—yes, enjoyment!!—out of ticking things off the weekend honey-do list. A little furniture repair here, a bit of paint there. Small repairs to my old truck. Recaulking the tub. Hanging pictures on the wall just so. Installing baby-proof latches on bathroom cabinets.
A couple of months ago I thought I had projects to do because I enjoy working with my hands and liked the diversion from routine pastor work. But when Stephanie asked me about that new project, the real reason I do those things clicked into place like the last piece of a puzzle. I enjoy those projects because I can get them done.

There’s a great amount of simple joy in pulling out the proper tools for the job. In measuring and leveling and planning how each piece will fit into place. The reason for that joy is because I know that if everything is done just right, the end result will be a finished project that adds beauty or functionality to our home. Even the occasional mid-project course correction (when things just aren’t quite playing out according to plan) are not stressful at all, because then I get the joy of revamping the plan to suit the materials or tools or skill that I have on hand to accomplish the task I want to get done. And in the end, I can point to a specific piece of furniture and say, “There, I fixed it.” I can touch the results of my own efforts. Admire a photo hung true and square. Use a repaired appliance. And—let’s be honest—I can also bask in a little bit of appreciation from wife and family even as I pat myself on the back just a bit.

That “project accomplished!” feeling . . . that’s a good feeling.

It’s one that I absolutely crave at times. But if it’s a feeling that I compulsively crave from pastoral ministry, I run the risk of trying to make that work into something it shouldn't be.  Instead of fixing, I'll create a kludge.

More on that tomorrow.

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