When I was a university professor, I used to collect witty and wise sayings and cartoons to put on my office door to inspire my students and, frankly, to inspire myself. I had this one favorite cartoon from The New Yorker that I kept for years. I have no idea where I came by it, but I put it up on bulletin boards or office doors through several moves and teaching positions. The setting was a desert at night with a large pack of wolves howling at a bright, full moon. At the back of the pack one wolf turns to the other and says, “My question is, are we making an impact?”
Part of the reason I love this cartoon is that I understand the feeling. When I was working as an educator, if someone asked me, “How did teaching go today?” I always said the same thing, “I beat ‘em back to a tie, today!” That was my reply because it was hard to know how effective I was in the classroom. I would work hard planning lessons, leading classes, and directing choirs, but it is hard to see or measure the real work, the transformative work you hope for your students as a teacher.
This is not unlike worship. You plan, work, and practice worship music, but it is difficult to measure the impact for the people you love and for whom you serve. It is hard to see the results, the transformative, life changing work, that you hope is happening in the hearts and lives of those you serve.
I believe the only way we can hope to make a difference is to focus on our desire for the Holy Spirit to bless and magnify our humble efforts.
It brings up an important idea from Psalm 127: 1-2
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest
This beautiful scripture reminds me that I must lean on the Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit in my worship work and life.
I am not unique. I see many folks struggling to do all of the things required each day. You are mothers, fathers, breadwinners, teachers, comforters and so much more. I know this is a daily struggle. And through phone calls, zoom meetings, or your postings on social media, I can hear your insecurities and doubts. “Am I doing the right thing?” “Is there more I can do?” “Is this the best of which I am capable?” “Why can’t I be more productive?”
Know that God is with you! God is with us! Lean on the Holy Spirit and know that God is there in all your work and all your living and yes, in all your struggles and in the messy business of living day by day.
Also, as much as you are able, grant yourself and those who are close to you a measure of grace. You are doing your best and even though it doesn’t always feel true, know that you are making an impact.
Grace & Peace,
- Ray Wheeler Ph.D.