There’s a great poem called the ‘To Do List’ by Simon Armitage which combines an anxiety about the pace of contemporary life, with Simon’s obsession with the late Donald Campbell and his attempt to break speed records. The line ‘Polyfilla all surface cracking to Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah’ particularly makes me grin from ear to ear.
At times I wonder if many of us with significant levels of responsibility all think we’re indestructible in the face of mountains of things ‘to do’. So we offer a grit and determination of mind and find ourselves uttering lines like, “Well it’s just got to get done!” But then we read something like the above line of the poem, it reminds us how utterly ridiculous our false expectation of ourselves is.
The rhythm of discipleship Jesus invites us into, does hold demanding challenge but it also holds life in all its fullness. Does it seem that we in the Western world particularly, have a difficulty in accepting and practicing the latter?
The recent conversations held by the TUC advocated a four-day week that speculated a better productive workforce. I found myself grumbling at the TV and stating an eight-day week would be better. I might stand a chance to reduce the ‘to-do’ list in a more sensible manner than working all the hours available.
So I find myself asking: does my theology of work too often supersede my theology of true discipleship. Am I deluded to think if I work as hard as possible, the Kingdom will grow? If all the challenging problems are faced, delegated, mapped and managed, the world will be a better place…won’t it?
One senior figure in a learning institution, shared their revelation that this intensity of work was just ‘how it is’ for anyone in a responsible role. We need to accept that this is the nature of such work; long hours (70-100hpw) ever-increasing problems, with less and less resources. We should just suck it up and get on with it. After all what else can we do? Moaning about it won’t change things, it only makes one more embittered about it.
Any institution in the face of great change is bound to require high occupancy of concentration and attention while it transforms; is that acceptable? How many more people are shamed with labels such as ‘well they just couldn’t cut it’, rather than realising the job was more than three people’s work once-upon-a-time?
These may be generalised thoughts around the world of work, whether paid or voluntary, but at the heart of our discipleship in following Jesus, I know I am invited to depend upon God. No matter what the challenge, big or small, realistic or seemingly impossible, I find myself seeking God’s help in prayer.
This may not alleviate the problem or the impossibility of which of the priorities must be decided upon first but it does bring me a greater sense of peace in the challenges before me. This may not change the questions we ought to put to the economical facets of greed, oppression or inequality but into today’s to-do list, Christ walks with me. My delusions are exposed; my realistic goals find clarity and life gains perspective, thankfulness and even joy!