Sometimes I can do nothing. These last few days at Harvester Island, where everyone is working out on the ocean and on buildings, when so much of my own work calls me, I lie here languishing. It is just ordinary sick, and soon I will be able to eat and work again, but who wants to wait? I am falling behind in all that must be done. And here, in this place, wants to hear about sick-in-bed? Who wants photos of a pasty face on the ugly end of Ordinary? (Well, at least you only have to see one.)
So let me divert and show-and-tell you all I got done first. It was half of a busy week, half full of these labors:
Will you give me a prize for this? I confess to you: I have been obsessed with productivity for as long as I can remember. I am always trying to find ways to do things better and faster. I feel best when I’m multi-tasking, and I set the timer to beat-the-clock when doing chores that bore me. When I end a day full of fruit and fish and sore muscles, I am happy. See how worth-my-keep I am?
I’d like to blame our work-focused culture for some of my excess where we are awarded much respect for our over-busyness. In the church, I’d like to blame Ms. Proverbs 31 who never sleeps, who is lauded for her round-the-clock domestic craftiness and her marketplace accomplishments and acumen. Of course—we’re women! We’re zealous women who must do it all!
And when we can do nothing, who are we? We are so caught in working, producing, earning our worth and food and righteousness-----and when we are not able, we languish, worthless, toothless. We expect to be lead out to the ice floe and set adrift . . .
But even here, in my own helplessness this week, something came to me. This morning, after everyone left for fishing, I was able to climb out of bed (slowly), find my camera (finally); and walk (very slowly) down to the water’s edge to sit, just resting in the grass. I was waiting for my sons to come and put out the net. I could not work, but I could watch. Perhaps that would be enough? Sitting there quietly, a flock of sparrows came, golden-crowned sparrows. They lit on pushki and stood just 6 feet away singing, staying with me the whole hour. I had never watched and seen sparrows neither so close nor so long before.
I saw Calvin and Maddie, just hatchlings 8 weeks ago, now nearly ready to fly. I won’t see them much longer.
Then I saw my son and his crewmen come in their skiff. I watched them for more than thirty minutes, saw the beauty of the work, how it bends them together, binds them together, how they lean from the island of their boat into the sea, all hands on a single line, all arms on the same net, bent to the same purpose. Have I seen this before?
When I get back, I go to bed again. What am I worth? What can I do? Later, a friend messages me that her father’s cancer has come back. I pray for her and for him. And I sit and write these words. . .
And I think about Abraham who became the “father of many nations” because he hoped. : “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed” I don’t know how many fish he could pick in a day, or how many businesses he could run. I don’t know how strong he was but he was strong enough to hope.
I think about Paul in prison, immovable, chained to the wall. But he could sing.
I think of Sue in the nursing home, who could hardly walk, but she befriended my father before he died and told him about Jesus.
And I think of all those who are in such straits of disease and dearth they can do nothing but lift their chest for the next breath.
What are you able to do? Maybe not much. But you can still take that next breath. Maybe you can take it---in hope. Maybe you can still pray or sing a quiet song. Maybe you can go sit under a tree and watch the sparrows and warblers . . .
I did not expect this today, this sweetness. A day of sickness and rest. Of sparrows and sons. Of cancer and prayers.
This is my work for this day. Nothing from my hands. Just praying. Just seeing.
It is enough.
Maybe this is your work today too. To watch. To witness.
It will be more than enough.