Archive for April, 2007
Last month a few of my friends had some honest, thoughtful, and good things to say about work, found here and here. Work… it’s just like a lot of other things in life- created as a good thing by God (Adam and Eve were commissioned to tend the Garden before the Fall- a good thing, Genesis 1:30, 2:15), distorted by the Fall (“cursed is the ground… through painful toil you will eat of it…” Genesis 3:17).
Not long after reading those posts, I came across the following in a book I was reading. It struck me as potential fodder for an unhealthy view of how God created us and work. But I knew the author was getting at something more, something that would actually be very healthy. He prefaced the quote with a story about a season in his life working as a butcher. Good butchers, he learned, let the meat type and unique features of the particular carcass guide their cuts. Bad butchers “imposed their wills” on the meat, without regard to each piece’s uniqueness…
The quote is definitely worth mulling over given the (worldly?) pressure around us that says the best jobs around are those where we have the most opportunity for self-expression.
“Real work always includes a respect for the material at hand. The material can be a pork loin, or a mahogany plank, or a lump of clay, or the will of God, but when the work is done well there is a kind of submission of will to the conditions at hand, a cultivation of humility. …
“‘Negative capability’ is the phrase the poet John Keats coined to refer to this experience in work. He was impressed by William Shakespeare’s work in making such a variety of characters in his plays, none of which seemed to be a projection of Shakespeare’s ego. Each had an independant life of his or her own. Keats wrote, ‘A poet has no Identity…he is continually…filling some other Body.’ He believed that the only way real creative will matured was in a person who was not hell-bent on imposing his or her will on another person or thing but ‘was capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable searching after fact and reason.’ …
“Real work, whether it involves making babies or poems, hamburger of holiness, is not self-expression, but its very opposite. Real workers, skilled workers, practice negative capability – the suppression of self so that the work can take place on its own. St. John the Baptist’s ‘I must decrease, but he must increase’ is embedded in all good work. When we work well, our tastes, experienes, and values are held in check so that the nature of the material or the person or the process or our God is as little adulterated or compromised by our ego as possible.”
Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, pp.100-102
I’d definitely love to hear your thoughts on this subject…
I guess this is sort of a follow up thought from my last entry. I saw this article today, and I just can’t believe it… Wow.
We were on a rather wide and fairly remote bike trail. Our older daughter was sleeping in our jogging stroller, the younger in the baby sling on my chest. The wheel of our stroller had just broken off, and so we were trying to somehow manage with two wheels- slowly weaving our way back home, stopping every so often to rest, figure out this tire, and redirect our course.
We had stopped, trying to figure out this tire when all of a sudden:
“One way, this is a one way road!” an irate biker coming toward us yelled. (It was not a one way road)
“Get out of the way! This isn’t Japan!” he hollered as he zipped past us with his female biking companion. He continued his complaint as he rode away.
I was simply stunned. Actually, I was laughing out loud as he said that- I just couldn’t believe it. Here, in my supposedly educated and progressive corner of the US, my family and I were getting our first dose of racist hate.
Now I know racism is still a reality in our country, even in the world of Christianity- some recent blogs and articles have discussed this (make sure you read them- they’re pretty sad). And I know all of us are racist somehow (hopefully we’re getting it out of us as Jesus followers, surely but slowly). I guess I just haven’t been a recipient in a while.
My thoughts, however, turned to the fact that it was Good Friday as I struggled with how to respond and feel. What would Jesus do? My wife was ready to give the biker a stick in the spokes and watch him flip. Obviously, that wasn’t the right answer. But not doing anything?
Then it hit me. Jesus didn’t walk away from those that accused him before his death; he didn’t “not do anything.” He faced them… but with silence.
I began to picture myself back at the parking lot with the biker there, still yelling at us. And I pictured myself walking up to him, and just looking at him, looking deep in his eyes, not saying a word. Perhaps he’d be yelling still, or perhaps he’d start threatening me. But I would just look, hopefully with Jesus’ eyes- full of compassion, yet full of strength.
And I pray the message would be communicated- you cannot demean me or my people. And you are in need of grace.
Ah Good Friday… Thank you Jesus for your grace.
(by the way, I’m not Japanese. I’m Chinese. Just in case you were wondering.)