When Work Doesn’t Feel Like Worship

Photo by Mark Spearman, via Creative Commons.

Photo by Mark Spearman, via Creative Commons.

Mom kept the gritty green soap by the sink for dad to scrub the grease out of the creases of his hands. Tractor grime and machine oil made a home in his fingernails.

As a child, I would watch his pocket knife scrape the black from underneath his nails. They never stayed clean for long. Roads needed grading, cattle were hungry, and fences never mended themselves.

Those dirty, work-worn hands held me and tucked me in at night.

While some men punched out blue collar jobs with disdain, my father arrested each day with joy.

I still glimpse that joy in him today. As he drives a bailer through wind-swept, Oklahoma fields, he brags about his view from the cabin, as if to say, can you believe I get to do this all day long?

Interrupt him and you’ll hear the same maxim, “We’re burning daylight.”

Although dad’s no armchair theologian, he understands as well as Adam the outcome of man’s fall: dusty earth and sweat on his brow. But dad has never seen work as a curse.

Dad’s habits teach a message of faithfulness in the way he wakes up every day to welcome work as a reward.

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Photo by David Brossard via Creative Commons

Photo by David Brossard via Creative Commons

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As a child, dad didn’t believe in church, and I wasn’t sure if he believed in God. If he prayed, it was while he chopped wood or sowed fields by the last light of day.

He hasn’t memorized much Scripture but can preach about how an open heart can find joy in the mundane, and how a sharp mind can find interest in almost anything. And he can talk for days about agriculture if you let him.

His life speaks about finding purpose in labor, how to toil well without trading peace for grumbling.

Isn’t there always room to gripe about our lot in life?

But dad’s learned the expense of complaining isn’t worth the return. A paycheck-to-paycheck life teaches thankfulness in a way that having more than you need never will.

I can’t recall a day his hands haven’t found something to do. Maybe that’s just life on a farm.

Or maybe it’s because he doesn’t see work as a burden. He chooses to see work as life-giving instead of soul-draining.

Today my father’s fingernails still attract dirt from every direction. He often jokes that he gets to play in the dirt with his favorite toy, a mini bulldozer. As he clears pastures and levels earth to make ponds and houses, you would never know he’s working.

He tells me he’s made his peace with the One who never stops working on our behalf.

I think work can lead us all to worship if we’ll let it.

 

This post is a part of The High Calling’s community link-up. Anyone can share stories. Check it out here.

 

Brossard Photo Credit

Spearman Photo Credit

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “When Work Doesn’t Feel Like Worship

  1. We had the gritty green soap too and my dad scrapped his finger nails with his pocket knife! This something I really never thought about until I read your words and could see it because I HAVE seen it with my own eyes. My dad was a mechanic and his hands were always dirty in the creases and his nails. Thank you so much for your words they stirred up really good memories of my dad and when I was a little girl. This was a beautiful post!

  2. It’s a very special thing I think to see your dad making a living with his own hands and as his own boss. My Dad taught me all I know about working hard. I love his maxim ‘we’re burning sunlight’, I’ve been thinking this week about needing to understand the dark and the true significance of light in order to better connect with the Advent story. It got me thinking about the days of old where night time meant dark, when there were no electric lights and you just had to wait for the dawn. This story of your Dad has reminded me that even in our modern age there are still spaces where the daylight governs the time we have available for work.

    • Constant and never ending improvement in your work ethics like your faith in god will give you contemtment and peace I love your message I love you dad

  3. Trisha, I’m so moved by your words, partly because of the inspiring message and partly because I live on a farm. I’m so grateful that you’ve submitted such a beautiful story with us at The High Calling, in our designed to work series. You’ve beautifully captured the essence of our theme.

    • Jennifer, what fun it was to link up with The High Calling! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to meet you and other writers. I appreciate the kind words. And farm life is a sweet life. Enjoy it. I miss the solitude and the trees. I would trade Dallas traffic for a farm any day. :)

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