Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
The sun is hot on my skin but I can’t help but stay. My toes trace the outline of patio brick laid in not-so-straight lines. Soft, green moss and bits of sand harbor in crevices where the bricks stack like family. I sit on one of two short cement steps outside my bedroom doors, the writing studio where I seldom write, an invitation to come in, sit down, believe.
I sit outside, looking in, an impostor looking for confidence to return.
It is quiet there in the studio, with no phone and no music--just light streaming through skylight and the coolness of quiet, wood floor. My desk sits across from Justin’s, old reclaimed planks pressed together, back to back. Steel pipes stretch low across, a rest for feet when a writer is perched in one of the tall black rotating desk chairs from the 60’s, a pair we found in my father-in-law's garage and that the kids love to roll in smooth glides across the floor.
Above are lines of light bulbs decorating the ceiling like clear glass jewels. Justin flips the switch to keep them on, even when the light streams in bright through the smudged window panes. It is a haven designed for inspiration, creation. He writes with me more often now, his book for men on identity--but for women, too, as I'm convinced you will love it--almost finished. On some days when we sit out here, his laptop open facing mine, he leans in over the desk, stacks of books on all sides, expectant and excited. Oh, when the words come. And then there are the hard days, too, when writing is like sludge we slog through; we hunt for words to find the clear path out.
It is easy to doubt that the work we do produces good, particularly when the greater outcome is something we can't yet see. In our particular work of writing, we search for words and pray they are the right ones. We wrestle them out, listening and experimenting and working to communicate something true, something beautiful. But no matter what kind of work each of us is called to do, it is bold work to go forward and strive to do it.
It is bold work, when you pursue, the best you can, to do what you believe is for you to do.
The hard part is that boldness never comes easily. Being yourself is the last thing, sometimes, that you feel is okay for you to do. Is this enough? Am I doing enough, God? Are you happy with me? Am I spending this day in the way you want me to spend it? Am I doing the work you've made for me to do?
No matter what are work is, we must do it. We have to do it, don't we? If we do the work God whispers to our heart to do, we will wake up to Him even more. Even if doing that work is scary, or risky, or hard.
Perhaps the first big hurdle to get over is this: taking the risk to find out what the work for us to do is. And the even harder part, I think, is choosing to do it.
And then actually doing it.
I wonder if that is how we experience God. I wonder if that is how we figure out a little more of how God sees us. I wonder if there is awakening of self in this partnership with God--in the work we get to do with Him--the partnership we are made to live out and breathe.
This is the Spirit made flesh: we work with our hand clasped with our God; we work, in gratitude and in worship; we work to offer back to the Creator a heart outstretched, "Here, here I am. All just for you. All just for you."
It can be hard to see work that way, as an offering, as something sacred. And maybe this is largely because of the way we think of work--how it is something we do to achieve something that is only right in front of us. Instead, what if our work is really this: how we labor with God for the joy of creating something we yet may never see?
What if the work we are made to do is the act of laboring, side by side, with the One who loves us most?
I like how Dan Allender talks about work, in his book, Sabbath, particularly in how he turns the concept of work on its head and notes the difference between work and labor:
Work is painting a wall; labor is starting a painting business so that one can choose how a a job will be finished with integrity. Work is taking a literature class; labor is writing a poem to address the death of one's parent. Working allows us to control the outcome and therefore achieve our manageable dreams. Labor calls us to risk our dreams without much control to create something that goes beyond what we can imagine. It is labor, not work, that we hate. We prefer to kill the hope of what labor may bring forth rather than to risk so much for possibly so little [emphasis added].
To come alive to joy and freedom in Christ we must labor, we must give over ourselves to doing something beautiful with God, the thing we calls us to do with him. That is the work--the labor--that means more than we can readily imagine, on our own.
Do we do this? Do we know what our work is with God? How do we go forward when we doubt our work--our labor--matters, or when we rest uncertain that we even know what we are supposed to do?
Perhaps, one step forward is a start.
And then another.
So I stand. I leave the safety of the steps, the sanctuary outside my bedroom windows. I rise, and I grab my laptop, and I approach the writing studio door.
Three barefoot steps forward and I'm at my desk, the surface smooth and soft, the wood marked with holes and scars. I see beauty. I see sacred. The two by fours a bit slanted where together, they meet. I am learning to see the beauty of scars, the music of sounds, the hope in a face turned toward light, amidst the tripping we do in shadow.
Shall we lean in and expect nothing but what is true--that there is work for us to do, and we have what it takes to do it--voice that will not be quieted, a song that will rise and resound?
Earlier this morning, I ask God why it is that I struggle to believe this work with Him is mine to claim. And He reminds me of the almond tree and the light that falls through branches, even in the darkest of night. How white flowers open wide and petals drift down and green leaves unfurl again and again.
There was a tree on which a King was nailed and here--here--is a place where I will lay myself down.
Palms flat against this desk, wood pressed against the soft flesh of my cheek.
There is a King who laid it down.
And I will pick it up.
What else can we do, sisters and brothers? What else can we do but wield the sword He gives us: a voice that speaks His whisper, a heart that knows and rejects the other path, of shame?
What is your work with God? What is your first step? How do you get to labor with Him, today?
Published originally at jenniferjcamp.com