Meaningful endeavors often require a fair amount of time; they’re worth the extra energy expenditure.
Looking out our home office window, I can see something I’ve never seen before. A mountain of sod. The weekend began with the four-hour rental of a sod cutter and the intention to increase the size of the vegetable garden. It’s 24 hours later and, judging by the hill of grass I’m gazing upon, we perhaps got a little carried away with our rental equipment.
“Is this what it feels like to give your younger sibling a haircut as a little kid?” Justin asked as he looked at our yard with its many freshly de-sodded areas. “Perhaps so,” I replied, suddenly recalling the time I gave my own little brother a haircut when I was 5 and he was 2. I also snipped my own bangs that day. I vividly remember looking in the mirror and immediately sensing that I had gone too far.
Looking at the yard in its present state of in-between doesn’t feel like the regret of giving myself extra short, uneven bangs back in preschool. Instead, I’m feeling mostly excited about all the improvements that are ahead for our backyard. But there’s also some overwhelm that comes with the awareness that there will be considerable time involved in seeing these projects through to completion.
I tend to prefer short-term projects both personally and professionally — tasks with a clear beginning and end. There’s immediate gratification with work that doesn't take very long. My motivation stays high, and it’s rewarding to experience a sense of accomplishment when jobs are completed.
Yet my sod pile and unfinished yard are now a visual reminder that not every project can be finished in an hour, a day, or even a week. Some work takes months, years or decades. Some work is so big that the individual involved never even gets to see its completion.
As a country, there are valuable long-term efforts before us, and they aren’t the kind of initiatives that we can “get done” in a day, month or year. The care of the Earth. Racial justice. Accessible, affordable health care. The work to which we are invited requires ongoing engagement and a willingness to stay committed even when it's tedious and thankless.
God doesn’t call us into lives of instant gratification and fully completed checklists. Instead, God calls us to dig into the shared lifetime responsibility of constructing an equitable world. In the Old Testament book of Micah, we are reminded of God’s requirements of us: “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
This sounds less like three quick tasks to complete with ease, and more like a perpetual project with which we will never be finished.
Eventually, the sod pile outside will become compost. The new garden beds will someday be brimming with squash and other produce. One day, we will plant a tree, and that tree will end up surrounded by a bed of flowers. This will all necessitate the investment of time. Hopefully I can remember that good, important work often takes a while.
May God grant us the clarity we need to live each day with a deep awareness of the most essential work to which we are called, and may we have the energy to dig in for as long as it takes.
"Holy Everything" is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor. Visit her website emilyannecarson.com.