This spring I am reading through Tim Keller's Every Good Endeavor with a few other people. I haven't finished the book yet, but I highly recommend it even with a few more chapters to go. Especially helpful and thought provoking to me was chapter four on work as service. In it Keller writes, "But the gospel frees us from the relentless pressure of having to prove ourselves and secure our identity through work, for we are already proven and secure. ... All work now becomes a way to love the God who saved us freely, and by extension, a way to love our neighbor.”
I don't entirely grasp this yet beyond head knowledge. Being freed from the relentless pressure of having to prove myself -not actually 100% there yet. Yes, I know in Jesus I am proven and secure, but in the day to day things of life I find myself battling the desire to prove myself, especially in my line of work. I have to "prove myself" because if I don't, what proof will there be that my work matters?
Proving myself in this stage of life looks different than it did a decade or so ago. There is no paycheck. There is no ladder to climb. There aren't scholarly journals about motherhood. (Are there?) There is just me often wanting the less sophisticated labor I do to be noticed, forgetting that for much of Jesus' time on earth He went about without anyone noticing, just being a carpenter. How can doing laundry be a way to love God? How can driving to OT appointments be a way to love God? I'm still trying to figure it out. I find myself cranky on a Sunday evening for things not going the way I wanted them to go in my week, in my day. I feel the need to attempt to prove myself more often than I find myself remembering I am secure in Christ.
I don't remember feeling this struggle as much when I was a classroom teacher. Sure, I felt unappreciated by certain parents or students, or even sometimes certain co-workers. Maybe some of those feelings were balanced out by tangible evidence of what my job did and did not include. Maybe it is different these last almost nine years because before there was an actual going to work and a time at the end of the day I would come home, even if I brought work home with me to grade.
Now someone depends on me, well two someones, but one depends on me for almost all of his care. I have spent the last year filling out the paperwork, answering therapist and doctor questions, rehashing how far my son has come and how far he still has to go. Our Arizona providers have not seen the six years of work we have put in with other doctors and therapists. Every one of these new visits feel like a time where I have to prove myself - as his mother, as his teacher, as his caretaker. Not once have I been affirmed by a professional here during one of these very hard appointments this year that what I do every day has made a difference. I do hear it from friends and loved ones, but still inside there is this battle of wanting to prove I am enough. Am I enough for my sons? Am I enough for my family? Am I enough for myself? Am I enough for God? And honestly, I am not enough and never can be, and that is a hard thing to say because if I am not enough, then who or what will be?
And the Sunday school answer of course is Jesus. And the good news is that Jesus is more than the parroted back Sunday school answer. I suck at remembering that. I took communion today - just about thirteen hours ago - a tactile reminder that Jesus is enough - but here I am just a short time later wanting it all to be about me. Trying to prove myself through my work, through my parenting, through anything at all will only lead to frustration and grief because in trying to prove myself I often intentionally or unintentionally demand that others appreciate me, which sets up a vicious cycle of sadness and disappointment.
I don't have a checklist for how to face my Monday better than I faced my Sunday afternoon. It's not as simple as that because I am a flawed human living in a house and a community of other flawed humans. But I am going to come back to this truth - help me come back to this truth, Jesus - that You have freed me from the need to prove myself, and the work I do, both seen and unseen, can be done out of love for You and out of that love for You, done in love for my neighbor, my husband, my kids, as well.