A few weeks ago we read I Thessalonians 1.3 at midweek meeting. It mentions the phrase “labor of love,” and someone mentioned that the root word for “labor” is “travail” in the original language. This made sense to me in that my high-school French tells me that the French verb “to work,” is “travailler.” Also, when I was working like crazy at my first job the nice Spanish-speaking lady who would come empty my trash can every night would peer into my cubicle, see me looking pathetic, and offer a sympathetic, Mucho trabajo. (Thanks for the Spanish help, F. After a decade, I finally know what that lady was saying to me.)
In English the word “travail” connotes a woman giving birth (at least to my mind). So we circle back to the I Thessalonians 1.3 and the phrase, “labor of love.” It got me thinking about how life is hard work. Yes, there are wonderfully happy parts, but the bulk of it involves servicing the infrastructure for those moments of unfettered enjoyment – e.g. you work most of the year so you can take a holiday for a week or two in December.
Or maybe your work doesn’t stop no matter what time of year it is – there is always a pile of laundry, a sink full of dishes, hungry mouths to feed, etc. Whatever the situation, pretty much everything we do (when others-oriented) can be construed as a labor of love. Everything I try to do in RecoveryLand is certainly this – I have the opportunity to regain skills to serve my family. I am very interested in doing this since it’s what I’m used to, and I am invested in returning to the activities I can return to, and also because my family dropped everything to serve me when I got sick, and as we settled into the long-haul my parents re-arranged their Empty Nest to fit me back in and make sure I’m taken care of (and believe me on this – I am very needy).
In general, though, we might have moments when we admit that the logistics of life are hard but overall we strive to maintain a lifestyle that seems effortless. That’s the effect we’re going for most of the time – a tasteful home, well-manicured lawn, impeccably groomed children, nutritious and eye-pleasing meals, and time to spare because you’ve got this whole routine down to a science. It’s a well-oiled machine and you, a gainfully employed member of society, are simply enjoying the fruits of your labors.
What? Your life isn’t exactly like that? Mine’s not, either. To be clear – I’m not knocking that lifestyle. If you’re there already, I wish I were there with you. But I’m mostly talking to the rest of us who are busy slogging away, trying to get the Christmas lights untangled so we can decorate our Charlie Brown Tree. The point is that I like the idea of effortlessness. But in the “ideal state” I’m aiming at for my Recovery I want that effortlessness to be genuine – the kind where I’m abiding in The Vine (John 15) to the point that I am not hindered by the depletion of my own resources – I’m an expert at simply drawing from The Source. (Caution: this is a work zone.)
FYI, Christ didn’t say He came so we could be better equipped to work harder and do better. He came to heal the broken-hearted and set captives free (Luke 4.18). He also said, “Take my yoke upon you…for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11.30).
So while there is a lot of work to do in RecoveryLand, I’m not supposed to do all this heavy-lifting in my own strength. This is something I’m constantly struggling to remember and act on. Things like the Prayer Detox help. There was a moment after I found out that part of my brain had been removed that I finally received the grace I needed to be okay with this fact. “I’m not fighting on the inside anymore,” I told Mommy. I hope we’re done with the introduction of new information because I am just getting comfortable with this peace and don’t fancy another shift in my landscape. But we’ll deal with whatever’s next – yes, the nitty gritty is tiring but “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures | He leadeth me beside the still waters…” (Psalm 23).