Yes, I know it’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been WORKING. A lot.

And contemplating.

From Thomas Merton’s Seeds of Contemplation:

The requirements of a work to be done can be understood as the will of God. If I am supposed to hoe a garden or make a table, then I will be obeying God if I am true to the task I am performing. To do the work carefully and well, with love and respect for the nature of my task and with due attention to its purpose, is to unite myself to God’s will in my work. In this way I become His instrument. He works through me. When I act as His instrument, my labour cannot become an obstacle to contemplation, even though it may temporarily so occupy my mind that I cannot engage in it while I am actually doing my job. Yet my work itself will purify and pacify my mind and dispose me for contemplation.

Unnatural, frantic, anxious work, work done under pressure of greed or fear or any other inordinate passion, cannot properly speaking be dedicated to God, because God never wills such work directly. He may permit that through no fault of our own we may have to work madly and distractedly, due to our sins, and to the sins of the society in which we live. In that case we must tolerate it and make the best of what we cannot avoid. But let us not be blind to the distinction betwen sound, healthy work and unnatural toil.


I struck the board, and cry’d, No more ;
I will abroad.
What ? shall I ever sigh and pine ?
My lines and life are free ; free as the road,
Loose as the winde, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit ?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore
What I have lost with cordiall fruit ?
Sure there was wine,
Before my sighs did dry it : there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
Is the yeare only lost to me ?
Have I no bays to crown it ?
No flowers, no garlands gay ? all blasted ?
All wasted ?
Not so, my heart : but there is fruit,
And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures : leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
Away ; take heed :
I will abroad.
Call in thy death’s head there : tie up thy fears.
He that forbears
To suit and serve his need,
Deserves his load.
But as I rav’d and grew more fierce and wild,
At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, Child :
And I reply’d, My Lord.

George Herbert, The Collar

Showing 5 comments
  • Trish

    Oh wow, what appropriate timing for me. I so needed to read this post today. I am at the “end of the line, full stop, period” with work, freelancing, writing, studying, preparation for the holidays, you name it. I read this, took a deep breath, and then went back to my to-do list determined to do it for the right reason.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours, Susan. And may I say thank you for your writing, your vision, this blog, and your example. You’ve inspired me this past year more than I can articulate. I’m back to school, writing more than ever, and reaching for a quiet life that accomplishes the things dearest to my heart. My husband has noticed and remarked at how much I love doing what I do. Thank you!

  • mary kathryn

    I love Herbert. I have my students memorize some of his poetry.

  • Jenny

    Thank you for sharing this! I’m glad I took the time in my frantic day to stop and read this blog posting! It gave new meaning and perspective to thie things I have left to do!

  • Lori

    I’ve always blindly accepted the fact that, since God wishes us to work, that work is Godly, but I never thought of the contemplative nature of work and how its contemplation is also Godly.
    Very cool.
    Happy holidays and a prosperous and healthy new year to all Bauers!

  • Sahamamama

    Sahamamama — Translated, that means I am the mother of SArah, HAnnah, and MAry, our three little blessings. Sarah is not quite 3 years old, while twins Hannah and Mary will be one year old tomorrow. The past year has been challenging in some ways… I keep thinking that the “routine” will change, become easier, more interesting, or something, anything to break up the monotony of my days… but the work of caring for my family and managing the home is my daily drill.

    Thank you, Susan, for writing this post. I will be contemplating “the requirements of [my] work” as coming from the will of God. If I am supposed to change a loaded diaper or read a book (The Story About Ping, again!) or sing a song (Deep and Wide), then I will be obeying God if I am true to the task I am performing.

    I want to do this work carefully and well, with love and respect for the nature of my task — the work of being a mother. I want to lay a deep foundation of love and faith and learning in my daughters’ hearts, which means I have to be emotionally and spiritually available to them. For some reason, in the past few days I’ve found it hard to wrap my heart around loving three lovable little girls who seem to need more “Mama” than there is. Why isn’t there more of me? Why do I resist sharing my “mental space” with them lately? I don’t know why.

    But as I read Merton’s words, I’m reminded that this work IS God’s work for me right now, with all the ups and downs and so-called interruptions of my precious and currently non-existent thought-life. Can I let go of the need to be alone with a thought, and be in the moment with this beautiful child? SHE IS THE THOUGHT I MUST THINK. Can I do that? Yes, I can, by the grace God gives… and for a price. I can “become his instrument.” Thank you, Susan.

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