As I’ve mentioned several times, I’m in the middle of a busy season at work, which means lots of fruitfulness, but also lots of stress. In fact, I turned Labor Day’s normal 3-day weekend into a 5-day weekend just so I can take a deep breath before diving back in head-first.
This is not the first busy season, of course. And in some ways, this one is nicer than some others, because this season feels like it’s moving us forward as a company (though I do hope that part of that forward movement means increasing our staffing, and soon).
Today’s sonnet comes from another stressful period at work, one that did not noticeably contribute to our corporate bottom line. (To any curious colleagues, all I’ll say is that it took place in April 2016, and people still threaten resurrecting it when they want to see me react.) It was a very rough season for a lot of reasons. But in the end, the project was successful, and it was fruitful. Not in an economic way, but quite a few people were significantly impacted and strengthened in the fight against pornography.
But it was still rough.
Apparently, towards the end of the project, I had to stay late to complete something. I honestly don’t recall what it was, but I was not happy or relaxed about it. From it came this poem. And I think I need this poem as much now as I did when I wrote it. In Culture Making, Andy Crouch reminds us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed: it starts out very small, but grows from tiny shoots and tiny roots over the course of a single summer to a tree large enough for birds to rest in. Crouch directly ties this to the spread of the gospel from something very small (120 in an upper room over Pentecost) to something that by the end of the book of Acts, a mere 20 years after the crucifixion of Christ, already had communities in many of the large cities of the Roman Empire, with the point that culture change in general follows a similar pattern. My work in general is nowhere near as earth-shaking as the Gospel, but especially at Covenant Eyes we have daily impacts on peoples’ recovery, and any projects I’m assigned to complete should be treated as such. Really, anyone in their work has the potential to change lives and culture. But we first have to till the field.
Polishing the Dirt
Originally written March 23, 2016
This grudging work—that I stayed late to do—
May change more than a thousand hearts and lives;
May now—for years and years—multiply fruit;
May grow, in many, covenantal eyes.
How often does a farmer curse the soil,
Or hate the harvest and all it entails?
Bemoan the rain that gives life to his toils?
Despise the mud beneath his fingernails?
Where no cow lives, it’s true, the stable’s clean,
But where would we be without steak or cheese?
I polish dirt so others see the sheen;
I’m tasked with making beauty what they see.
I must trust that my labor’s not in vain—
Stop exercising my right to complain.