Thursday, January 8, 2009

Unfinished business

David Nelson has written a thought-provoking article called "Going Home at the End of the Day: A Theology of Leaving."

There's nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing a project come to completion. Whether it's turning in a major term paper, adding the last bit of finish to a hand-crafted piece of furniture, making the final stitches to a massive embroidery project, or watching your child graduate from high school, it's so rewarding to step back from your work and say, "By God's grace, I've done my best. And the results look good."

As a master craftsman, God Himself took great pleasure in the completed work of creation: "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31).

Nevertheless, most of our days amount to just making small dents in incomplete projects. Rarely do we get that profound sense of accomplishment. But David Nelson reminds us to enjoy the work God has given us, and to find rest in spite of the "unfinishedness" of our lives...
[H]uman labor is by its nature mostly unfinished business. It is one of the exigencies of temporality that many of the tasks we pursue are, for the largest part of their duration, unfinished. It is true that certain work is done over the short term while other work is a long term project. If, for example I set out to grill a cheese sandwich, I have good reason to believe I will complete that labor in the short term, lest I end up with a grilled cheese blackened beyond description or usefulness. Yet other tasks are longer term propositions. Building a new house is not a task quickly completed, and it requires a series of starts and stops, day by day, in which workers determine to finish certain things and leave other things to be completed in due order. Part of the process of work, therefore, is the messy “unfinishedness” of our labors that tend to keep us in the office “after hours.” Some of us will do well to learn to leave what is unfinished for another day, and to rest well in spite of our dissatisfaction with what is undone.

...[L]eaving the office at the end of the day, and the rest that we pursue subsequent to that departure, is a sign of trust in God. It is so in that we are willing to labor hard during the day, and then leave what is unfinished for the day following, trusting that God will sustain us to do so, or indicate that there is other work to be done or, ultimately, that our labors in this age have come to an end.

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