Over the last two months, I’ve thought back on some of my favorite stories and touchstone moments. It’s amazing to me how the right example or illustration sticks with you long after the lesson ends. Though it has been retold many times with each teller adding or omitting details and though the original tale is lost to history, this is how I heard it many years ago…
A man was walking through a city in Europe and came across the construction site of a cathedral. Workers scurried around, busily focused upon differing tasks as the sounds of tools filled the air. Inside the half-finished shell of the sanctuary, the man neared a stonecutter – his arms covered in a layer of fine stone powder, hammer and chisel in hand – and asked, “What are you doing?”
The craftsman glanced up and said, “I’m shaping this stone to fit it into one of the columns there. He pointed across the room with his hammer and returned to his work as he mumbled, “It’s hard, but it’s a job.”
The man found a carpenter standing amid scattered wood shavings and asked him the same question: “What are you doing?”
With a furrowed brow and without looking up, the carpenter replied, “Carving a pew. This is how I feed my family.”
A short distance away, near the open space where a large window would be placed in the future, a man peered over a table full of pieces of multicolored glass. He measured, cut and fit the sections together, and he too was asked, “What are you doing?”
He said, “I work with glass. I make windows. That’s what they pay me to do.”
As the man was leaving the sanctuary, he came across another man sweeping up bits of stone, chips of wood and shards of glass and placing them into a worn, wooden bucket. “And what are you doing?” he asked.
The man faced his questioner and then looked up at the structure towering above them. He replied, “Me? Oh, I am building a cathedral for God.”
We often lose focus of the true importance of what we do on a daily basis. We are so wrapped up in the tasks at hand that our work becomes effectively reduced to nothing more than something to “get through.” We get up, go to work, take lunch, work some more, leave, go home exhausted, go to bed, get up the next day and do the entire process over again.
Then we must consider the season we are navigating now. Many people are not working in the places or with the hours they did a couple of months ago. If our identities are wrapped up in “what we do” instead of “who we are,” it is easy to begin wonder if anything we are doing now matters. Whereas before COVID-19, there were documents to review, projects to tackle and meetings to run, now you might be left asking yourself, “Am I essential or non-essential?”
Regardless of what labels other people attach to your job, if your focus is beyond the occupation and upon your loyalty to God, then what you do matters, no matter what. God uses every hammer-swinger, woodworker and glass-cutter that belongs to him. And he uses his floor-sweepers, debris-movers and bucket-carriers too.
We need more “cathedral-builders.” No matter how humble, insignificant, unseen or thankless the job may seem to be, this type of person will say, “The mission is bigger than the task. I’m working for God.”
Do you see everything that you do as a sacred duty or a dull drudgery? Maybe we all need to realign ourselves daily with the command from Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
We will do everything for the sake of Christ with an attitude of thankfulness. – Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
We would live in a way reflecting the reality that we belong completely to God. – Romans 14:8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
We will do God’s will from our hearts. – Ephesians 6:6 Not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.