For nearly the whole congregation, or for all of them, and especially the men and the children, there was a disconnection between the little white clapboard church with its steeple and bell, it observances and forms of worship, and the world's daily life and work. It was as though the building itself, its emptiness between services, contained along with its smells of old paper and stale perfume a solemnity that the people entered into and departed from, quickening it for a few hours a week with the stirrings and smells of living flesh, but could neither inflect with the tone of their daily preoccupations nor transpose into their actual lives. This was a disconnection perhaps exactly coextensive with the disconnection they felt between Heaven and Sycamore, eternity and time. Laura recognized these disconnections in the people because she felt them, and labored over them, in herself.
- Wendell Berry, "A Desirable Woman"

The church of my youth wasn't built of white clapboards, but deep red bricks with rough edges. I cannot call it mine, but it's the closest thing I had back then. All these years later, on the rare occasions I enter that sanctuary, the distinct smell takes me back; I am a little girl grasping my grandmother's hand while her friends make a fuss about how much I've grown and wondering where the time has gone. Granddaddy would join us on the pew after he had passed out bulletins or taken up the offering. He was as soft-spoken as Grandma was not, and I loved both of them more than I ever knew until they were gone.

My grandfather was a farmer. Anyone who knew him knew it was his calling. The Lord fashioned him well for it. He approached people as he approached farming: with patience, care, and wisdom. He was the same inside the church and outside of it. He knew how to connect his faith to his daily living. How I wish I could say the same!

Most nights I crawl into bed wearied by the day, eager to find respite in the Word and sweet slumber. Trying with all my might not to think about how miserably I failed at representing Christ. Like Berry's fictitious Laura and the people of Sycamore, I wrestle with infusing my daily preoccupations with worship. Christine Hoover suggests that gospel illiteracy is to blame - knowing the gospel but not how to apply it, understanding what it means for salvation but not for every day. Yes, I think, that's true.

There's a sadness that comes with knowing my work will not be remembered. Yet acknowledging its futility helps me understand why I close each day feeling overwhelmed by what I didn't accomplish. Checking things off my list is for my own glory (the writer of Ecclesiastes aptly describes it as "vanity"). It is only the work I do "as enabled by and through Christ" that matters (source). Perhaps this is what Paul is referring to in his instruction to the Philippians to work out their salvation (Phil. 2:12). It is in daily work done faithfully and obediently that I acknowledge my helplessness and His sufficiency. It is in that work that I worship.

When I pull back the covers at the end of this day, may I not be tempted to judge it based on my works. May I be able to say that in my work, I worshiped well.


  1. You know what? Your words are beautiful and touch my heart and I am thankful to call you friend. Thank you for sharing your heart here and for encouraging mine in the process. XOXO

  2. Ah, so well put. I love the memory, the reminiscing of not things, but people, your people.

    Thank you for this place of reflection, this heartscape.


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