I just walked a mile around he lake in our nearby forest preserve. That might not sound like much. It isn’t compared to a mere six months ago. Six months ago on vacation, I routinely walked 8 miles a day. Every day. For two weeks.
When you stack up today next to six months ago, today appears to fall pretty far short.
But that wouldn’t be telling the whole story.
Almost four months ago, I injured my back. In ways known only to witch doctors somewhere in deepest darkest Africa, I managed to get a herniated disc just getting into the car. Pray you never experience this. The level of pain is off the charts, and recovery has been ponderous.
I don’t like slow. I yell at slow drivers, give side eyes to dawdlers in the grocery store, and have zero patience with organizers of anything who aren’t properly organized. It’s the curse of the high-strategy person. (Fortunately, Jesus holds his hand over my mouth and puts my heart in the place it needs to be. This, in itself, is enough reason to believe he’s real.)
So extremely slow physical recovery isn’t my best game. I want to be able to get back to 6-8 miles within weeks, not a year. I dreamed of a sixteen-mile hike in the Channel Islands this summer. That dream just isn’t going to happen. It’s going to be slow, careful, one mile by one mile.
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. (Colossians 3.23)
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10.31)
I’ve heard these verses a lot. They’re good words. I think, though, I’ve let these well-known verses bully me, in a way neither God nor Paul ever intended. It all depends on where we put the emphasis. (It also, always, depends on context.)
I’m used to looking at these verses and seeing the words “heartily,” “”work,” and “all” first. Like, we have to do everything. A few things won’t do. And how we do that everything? With all we’ve got. All the effort. All the perfection. As all coaches’ favorite woefully unmathematical motivational platitude goes—give it 110%.
Go big or go home.
But sometimes, big is more than we have. It leaves us feeling like we should be making those 8-mile hikes every single day, signing hymns all the way, and if we’re not, we’re just not enough.
I think maybe I’ve been seeing the wrong words first.
That’s not the way Brother Lawrence read the verse when he chose to have a joyful life working in the kitchen slicing carrots and stirring stew.
“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
As long as he did it with gratitude, he considered washing dishes glorifying to God. It wasn’t everything. It wasn’t perfect. It was enough.
Why do we hear these verses and think that one lousy mile for God isn’t enough? Small things aren’t sufficient. We ought to be doing grand things, big things, amazing things, if we’re really doing our best for God.
Shouldn’t we be going 6-8 miles, or 16 miles, like others? Or even like ourselves, six months ago?
I know all about the illls of comparing myself to others. But I hadn’t thought too much of the illls of comparing myself to . . . myself. So what if I could do more this time last year? Does that negate the mile today? Is it any less significant an accomplishment because a previous me could do better? Why is the me of today less than the me of yesterday because of some arbitrary mile marker I use to determine my worth?
Our yesterdays don’t determine what we are today. Or tomorrow. Today, it’s enough to do whatever I can do to God’s glory. To take the focus off the “all” and the “heartily” and put it on the “whatever.” It’s the first word, after all. Whatever we are able to do. It doesn’t matter at all if that’s different than it once was or from what it will be someday. “Whatever” is the word I want to concentrate on.
It’s a mile. A good mile. One enjoyed on a warm April day, a rarity this year. To have enjoyed it, to have been grateful for it, to have raised a fist in victory after it—those are the things that bring God joy and glory. They do so no less than to have run a marathon and bested the field.
Whatever you do.
*By the end of this month, I hope to be at two miles. I’ve signed up for the Human Race again, raising money for World Relief and refugee resettlement. With God’s help, I’m going to get there! If you’d like to donate to my walk, please follow the link. I and the amazing refugee population I know and love would appreciate it greatly!