Just Do It

Our Sunday school lesson last week ended with, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4: 17 (ESV). I’d like to find a better translation that doesn’t kill the flesh quite like that. I looked at that verse in ten different translations, and what do you know? They all say it is sin to refuse to do what you know you’re supposed to do. The Message calls it “evil” but we can agree that’s still sin. I couldn’t find a loophole for saying no, I don’t want to. No, it’s somebody else’s turn. No, they don’t deserve it. No, I’m too tired for that drama. Not one place where it suggested that it’s more important to conserve my own resources than to freely spend them for another.

I know. This is not the American gospel. I have read the books and listened to the arguments and experienced the pinched sadness that comes from selfishness. It’s very easy to be a cocoon of carefulness in our world, and nobody calls us on it because it’s normal. Self-care is the holy Grail and there are 479 ways to do it without one person daring to say, “Wait, that looks a little selfish.”

It’s August, a great time to see how God built spending and being spent into the creation. Every single plant in my garden is doing its best to make seeds so that someone can eat next year. Even the measly kale that I rescued from the under-watered parking lot seller is struggling to grow quickly before winter. The garden is tired, purple coneflower petals dropping, potatoes sending their last energy down their stems as the tops die, stringy beans blooming to make another round just in case the first one wasn’t enough. The plants aren’t looking prime, and it doesn’t seem to be high priority. Being fruitful is where it’s at.

Presumably we Christians want to save our best efforts for spiritual work. The important things. But what if the thing right in front of me, the good that I know I should do, is my spiritual work? (My children would appreciate some breakfast, but I’m a little busy with the concordance here, kids. )

What really is my spiritual work? Surely not the dishes in the sink? Surely not finding another way to feed my family zucchini? Surely not mending a zipper? Surely not canning tomatoes? Surely not listening to my garrulous neighbor talking about groundhogs? Surely not putting gas in my husband’s car so he doesn’t have to leave early for work? Surely not the thing that inconveniences me???

I’ve given up making excuses for being lazy. I know over commitment is a thing and burn out is a thing. I know the world takes advantage of willing people. But I also know in my own heart when I am simply excusing myself from giving freely and living with an open hand.

I would just like to say, we’re not supposed to get to the end of the day and feel fresh as a daisy. We’re supposed to have been doing good work and getting tired. That’s the whole point. That’s what investing ourselves in the kingdom feels like. If we spend our days curating our efforts so that we’re not wasting ourselves on people who don’t deserve us, we’re sinning. This is not what we’re made for.

I’m not sure how it happened, or where you’re finding my blog, but I keep getting notifications of new followers since I started dropping the middle-aged word. I have no idea who you are, but it appears that there is a vast population of people who resonate with being tired and busy. You are welcome here in this place where we talk about duty and work. And gardening. 😊 I would love if you’d drop me a comment and tell me a little about yourself. It’s easier for me to write when I know my readers a bit. I know. Bloggers who ask for comments are annoying, but shouldn’t you do your duty? Feel free to be anonymous if you want. 😅

Here’s the burning question: How important is doing one’s duty? What if one does the duty without feeling any love for it? Does that even count?

I saw this tree, tenaciously hanging in there, about 30 feet up on a bluff above Erie. Making seeds for another year.

34 thoughts on “Just Do It

  1. Some days I’m just a tired grandma. Thank you for exercising your gift of writing and giving us something good to chew on 😊 I turned 60 this year and a friend of your dear mother.

  2. I’m a tired, just-becoming-middle aged mom of five. I like your calm acceptance of your stage of life—I’m still rebelling about it a bit for myself, even though I have a fifteen-year-old. I love to garden as well, and I felt great waves of camaraderie in one of your recent posts where you talked about not following all the rules in your garden. This post also puts into words the way I feel about the selfish culture we live in. Thanks for sharing with us.

    1. Hey, I remember that “basic middle-aged person” comment. It made me laugh. And yes, our culture pushes “it’s all about you, have it your way” so blatantly it’s embarrassing.

  3. Nurse over here who findings her little garden and canning a source of stress relief on the days after work when there is a bit of energy left. Enjoy your perspective!

  4. Thank you for addressing that verse. We as Christians need to be willing to look at these things and see where we should change, do different, etc. It does cause my flesh to fear tho. 😩 May the Lord give us wisdom.

    1. Oh my, I cringe often when the Spirit customizes His words to me and my own situation personally! It is His love speaks life into the places where we need to die.

  5. ▪︎Mother of 10
    ▪︎Oldest died at 17 of glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer (she’d be turning 28 in October)
    ▪︎Youngest is 13
    ▪︎We live in the country with cows, chickens, turkeys, guinea hens, cats, flies . . . many flies.
    ▪︎Barefoot children are the norm.
    ▪︎Gardening is a big thing for us, although I personally do very little with it. The kids basically do it all – planting, watering, weeding, harvesting, canning, freezing. Gone are the days when I made everything happen and had my little helpers all lined up in the kitchen or outside at a table.
    ▪︎We homeschool, and we love books.
    ▪︎Learning self-reliance skills has been a goal and a joy.
    ▪︎If my children have learned to THINK then one of my biggest desires will have been met.
    ▪︎But my very biggest desire is for every one of us to be saved, loving the Lord, growing in grace, understanding what God says in His Word, following Him wholeheartedly.

  6. I have so many thoughts about this subject… or I think it’s this subject. Maybe I’m confusing the two. Put simply, I’ve just come through a season of deep guilt and shame for what I thought was me maybe not obeying that verse. Sometimes it’s extremely hard to know what is selfishness and what is possibly a “right thing” not being MY right thing. If that doesn’t make sense, it’s because it is a hard situation to make sense of!

    Not a new reader here, but a fellow middle-aged one….

    1. I hear what you’re saying, and I remember your story. For me it has been helpful to remember that God’s call is not the same on every life, and I cannot pick up every cause and pour myself into it. But I can do what is literally right in front of me and what He puts on my heart for this day, this minute.

  7. I appreciate your words on this topic. A part of this has been on my mind for the last few months. I feel myself wanting to say no to things for the sole reason that I need a break. In other words, I need me-time. Several women in my life have shown me the beauty of saying yes to opportunities to serve. I was in danger of seeing the world’s version of self-care as something I was entitled to.
    Plus, when I need rest, Jesus offers much purer rest than me-time. In Mark 6:30 when Jesus tells his disciples to come apart and rest awhile, “rest” literally means “refreshment”. I find that a challenge to rest in a refreshing way.
    I’m not middle-aged, but I love following along!

  8. Thanks for helping us to see selfishness and sin as it really is… Ouch. Why do we so easily cuddle the “cute little sins” instead of giving them the kick in the pants they really deserve?

    I am 29, wife to Ben, mom of 2 little girls, school teacher at heart. I enjoy my garden and flowers, but can get overwhelmed at the dailiness required to keep plants alive and fruitful… and then preserving all that fruit. Here’s me, still learning (hopefully) and growing (hopefully).

    Thank you for writing. I need wise words.

  9. Yes,definitely middle age here and that’s ok! 3 teen age daughters and a 22 year old son all living at home yet.
    Your post about what to do with all this stuff is what grabbed my attention. I loved the thought that we keep many of the things we have so that we can bless others with them. I love getting rid of stuff but this thought gave me a bit of a blessing in having “things” for now. And some day I will get rid of more things but I am in a stage of life right now that gives many opportunities for serving. I appreciate your perspective on this. Serving requires laying down ourselves for others and sometimes that is shockingly difficult.

  10. I’m one of your silent readers. Never commenting, but today, I will say thanks for writing. I realized I had never subscribed to your blog, just always skipped over to your blog from another blog , I read. So today I subscribed. I’m 51 & an empty nester, live near Harrisburg, Pa & have a few tomato plants in a weed patch. I have enjoyed seeing your garden & reading your thoughts on life. “ If one does the duty without any love for it? does it even count?” That’s a mind boggling question I have often asked myself & God. So far he has been silent. He just keeps sending me the next thing to do.

  11. Anonymous because I’m a little shy about putting things out there for the while wide world to see! As a mom of four littles 5 and under, tired and busy is almost my identity. I’m so very blessed yet I often feel overwhelmed by this stage of life. Trying to learn to thrive, not just survive. I really enjoy your writing.

    1. “Four littles 5 and under”, that was me over 10 years ago. Just want to encourage you to hang in there. I remember very little about those days…just busy-ness. Thinking back I used to worry that my children don’t/won’t have good childhood memories because I was so busy and tired and feared I had let that rule my life!! But photos let me know we had fun (it was I who forgot that, because of being tired and busy) and now, as they grew older they always had playmates! Now I have big helpers! 5 of them, my four under 5 was followed by one more, three years later.
      Thanks Dorcas, for writing! I always enjoy! I think my children are just a year or so behind you and yours. Gardening is not my thing but I love seeing the fruit of others’ labours! But I very much enjoy planting my dahlia bulb that I received from you after one February some years ago!

  12. I’m just your old childhood neighbor and friend and I’m here because you’re a rare voice of reason in a crazy world, but even more because I just like you. 😍
    Your questions are thought provoking, and I would probably start with, well- let’s define duty! Social media is constantly telling me it’s my “duty” to take up causes and shout my opinion and care about injustice a thousand miles away. That is what makes me tired! But loving and enjoying and caring about the people in my real life is a different story, and I’m pretty sure that’s what you’re talking about. I find great freedom in simply tuning my heart to hear God speak -whether through the written word or His spoken word in my spirit- and act on it. He is consistently more kind and gentle than any other voices, even when He calls me to die (which He regularly does)!

  13. Thank-you for this post and this much-needed message. Even Christ came not to serve Himself. These days, when I read anything over the top about self care, I hear Rebekah Merkle and Rachel Jankovic cackling in my head, and poking a little fun at it. That’s what happens when you listen to certain podcasts enough to know the hosts’ pet topics. 🙂
    I may have told you this before, but when you write in this genre, your writing reminds me of Elisabeth Elliot’s. I drink it up with great thirst because there’s so little of it in today’s world. Thank-you for sharing with courage and candor.
    Jesus came to the end of His earthly life and proclaimed, “I have finished everything the Father gave me to do.” I often find practical guidance in asking, “What did the Father give me to do- today?” Then I can know what to say yes to, and what to say no to. Today.

    1. Ha! I hear them cackling too. My girls call them the Laughy Ladies. I feel humbled by the E.E. comparison. She has been such a wonderful mentor for me and I look forward to meeting her in heaven!
      I love that last paragraph!

  14. Another mom here who is definitely middle-aged… 46 years, 10 children (the 2 oldest–23 and 21, away from home–one a chief at camp and the other teaching school), one with a day job, 6 in school, and a month-old baby. So yes, I certainly identify with the middle-aged tired and busy perspective. I enjoy reading your blog because your stage of life is relatable, you have a lot of common sense and wisdom and great humor, and I am pointed to Jesus by your words. (And I need very many nudges in that direction.) My family loves books, and my favorite way to relax is working in my garden and flowerbeds. One of my greatest sources of encouragement is seeing older women who have been quietly faithful in the mundane details of raising and loving their families and seeing the peaceful contentment on their faces that comes from walking with the Lord all these years. They may have never gone to the far-flung corners, but they did what was given to them to do. Thank you for your encouraging words here!

  15. Wow! So I don’t know that I ever applied that verse to me being too selfish when called to a need. I don’t even know how to handle that one. Here I thought it applied to if the Bible says to do something, maybe like “do not lie” or forgive your neighbor and I don’t do it, it is sin. But….to apply it to……making a baby meal…….I’ll let someone else do it. I’m just tired of doing that. After all…..I’m 61 yrs old. I’ve done my share of those. (sigh) Now I’m guilty of sin. Cause yep, I’ve been selfish and if I ignore it long enough someone else will do it.
    Thanks, Dorcas, for challenging me on where to apply that verse to. Not sure my flesh is happy with the exposure, but I’m still longing to grow and be more like Jesus.
    Oft to sign up for that “baby meal”. 🙂

  16. Just learned of your blog yesterday… my husband and I are not quite middle aged maybe, (- 32 & 36 ) parents of 2 little people aged 3 and 1. We know your parents being on the board with them for Haiti Christian Union. We have come to love and appreciate them so much! I’m excited to read your musings and insights, so far the couple posts I’ve read definitely added spice to my day! 😉 I enjoy reading, writing, all things cozy, and especially enjoy when older women speak into my life and let me know that mom life in 2022 is possible, even if it’s not all easy. Sometimes we need to take in hand and do what duty is set before us, and simply die to self!! I was processing your question ‘doing our duty w/o love, does that even count’ …. I’ve noticed responses of people who don’t do things b/c they don’t ‘feel’ like it, or their heart isn’t ‘into it.’ Does ‘exercising’ Love, even when feelings aren’t there mean we’re a hypocrite? Or can feelings sometimes follow actions? (I’m not indicating we have to take on every responsibility that knocks at our door) but rather in the context of the verse you shared. So much good food for thought!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s