Sunday 20 May 2012

fireplace: a call to be faithful. Nothing more, nothing less.

On one of my blog/pinterest surfing sprees some time back, I read this story: Pushing Against the Rock. It wasn't a really new story - I think I've read or heard it in some form or incarnation before, but this time something just struck, especially this bit:
"Lord" he said, "I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock a half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?"

To this the Lord responded compassionately, "My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven't moved the rock. BUT YOUR CALLING WAS TO BE OBEDIENT, TO PUSH AND TO EXERCISE YOUR FAITH AND TRUST IN MY WISDOM, this you have done. I, my friend, I will now move the rock."
It comes back to that whole bugbear I have with that word expectations. Because the results we expect from our work never seem to be commensurate with the effort we put in - well, in my case anyway. Because sometimes, I seem to expect the world. (Also, I confuse myself because I also assume the worst. At the same time.)

The fact remains is, results, as we see them are irrelevant. True, consistent fails may indicate that something is lacking, something is wrong. And yet, if you look at it again, what were you called to do? You were really called to be faithful, not to achieve. Achievement isn't everything. Yes, it's a useful marker. But as my mother told me a long time ago, losing makes winning worthwhile.

The problem is that we humans need some form of measurement to be proud about. We need to show the world that by doing x and x, I produced xxx amount of money, or "saved" xxx amount of people. Talking in these terms, it seems that only huge rallies produce the results that we think God will be pleased with. It doesn't work that way. Remember, he went for the one missing sheep and the one coin. He didn't say it's the 99 other sheep in the fold that count, or the other 9 coins in my hand that make it alright. It's the one that's lost. And even if it's only one, it's still worth it. 

And that is the most difficult to remember in this results-oriented world.


  1. Or as another philosopher said, "We are not required to finish. But we are required to begin!" Perseverance. Small steps forward. Thanks for posting this more positive reflection/twist on the classic tale of Sisyphus.

  2. so true--our results society is certainly at odds with the gospel message of peace and unconditional love and forgiveness--wonderful post