on slow work

I am currently an administrative assistant in a large nonprofit’s head office. I was hired to assist with marketing and communications and spend most days waiting for tasks, answering the occasional email, and working on social media projects I’ve started. Often I have hours (and hours) which I am free to fill independently. Though I am assured again and again by my boss that I am helpful as her assistant, I cannot see how my work matters at all.

This work feels different, and sometimes antithetical, than what “I feel called to.” My previous workplace helped me to feel important. I worked in a beautiful group home on the East side of the city where frenzy and friendships and crazy God stories abounded. There were high needs and I could do a lot of things; I was helpful, effective, and needed. That season came to a close (for good reasons) and now I find myself here.

Often listless, and uneasy.

Which brings me to scream at myself in frustration on the way home, having barely made it to 4:00pm, the last 15 minutes excruciating – why is it this way? What is the point of being here? Why don’t I quit? Is a paycheque really that important?

And then, when I settle to calm again, I tell myself these things: Is the best possible workplace … really what I need? I am conditioned to want to be fulfilled by a job, but it is possible that I was brought here for a very different purpose. What if doing dull, administrative tasks is meant to shape my character in a way that would have been impossible in any different circumstance?

And sometimes, when I am hopeful, I am aware that the slow work is hard (and can be beautifully good) work.

In a previous rumination, I compared my I compared my feelings to the disorienting experience of a seed who, content in their size and skin and reliant on their identity as such, is taken completely by the wayside when placed in the ground.

In memory, I was more engaged at the group home – that there was struggle and triumph and beauty and moments where God needed to show up. But, paradoxically, that does exist here. It’s enormously more difficult to see in the monotony of seven and a half hours of nothing to do whatsoever, but I think that God needs to and does show up here too.

People in the middle ages appear to have latched on to the beauty of slow work: During the later Middle Ages, prayerbooks (and in particular ‘Books of Hours’) were often produced with smaller dimensions. These books were often favoured by women, who would carry the lightwork miniatures in their pockets and pull them out throughout the workday for a prayer, a psalm-cry or a fleeting meditation. Like us, they had hours to redeem. Their hours were just as long, and today ours feel even longer with the speed of correspondence, the lack of manual things needing to be done.

When I think of these pocket-prayers and recognize that God is here, I can come up for air. Slow work is hard.

mini book of common prayer-thumb-400x300-20872

photo credit to Julie L. Melby

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4 thoughts on “on slow work

  1. As the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization, let me encourage you….your work does matter! Things like emails and social networking need to be done, and what a blessing that you are clearing another person’s mind of these important tasks! I am certain that as everyone becomes accustomed to your giftings, more opportunity will come your way…and when it does there just might be a day when you miss your slow times!

  2. I am always telling my children that when we do our best at ANYTHING we are bringing glory to God. But I often don’t believe that in my heart when it comes to my own work. I need little reminders that God does care about what I do, that He sees everything, and it all has eternal consequences that I cannot see right now. I’m saying a little prayer for you, my friend, that you will find God’s presence more fully in the moments of your day!

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