October 2, 2009

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Whatever we are called to do, we can do it for God

Patti LambI know a young man in college who is struggling to choose the right major.

I heard him say that one degree he is considering would probably be more fulfilling, but another might be more lucrative. He wants to make a difference, but he also wants to earn some money.

I commend him for his prudent planning. It is good—and necessary—to have a plan.

The most relevant counsel I can give—besides praying about it, of course—comes from the Rule of St. Benedict: “That in all things God may be glorified.” (In Latin, “Ut in omnibus glorificetor Deus.”)

If we were talking, he would politely acknowledge my two cents, remind me to “keep it real” (he is very hip) and proceed to ask how the Rule of St. Benedict applies to choosing a major.

I suppose another way to say it is, “No matter where you are, you can do God’s work.”

As much as we should be practical and make plans for the future, we still need to live in the present. The profession my nephew chooses isn’t as important as the attitude with which he approaches it. I think the right attitude is to be open to serving God. If you do whatever you are called to do with the intention of making God happy, then you can’t go wrong.

I’ve also learned that what we are called to do can change. Our roles in life evolve. No matter how determined we are to play a particular role, circumstances can lead to entirely different roles we never would have expected. Wherever we “work,” we can act as ambassadors for God. So technically, we’re all working for the same boss.

The difficult part is to remember that not all of God’s work here on Earth is glamorous. In fact, a lot of it can be quite dull. But my friend, Pat, reminds me of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (the Little Flower), who approached life’s tasks by God’s standards instead of the world’s standards.

St. Therese understood that the “little things” do matter. When I say “little things,” I mean those everyday, monotonous and mundane tasks that are part of life. She believed in doing the ordinary with extraordinary love.

It wasn’t until a time when I became sick and unable to perform ordinary tasks, the kind that keep a household and a family operating, that I realized how important the “little things” are.

At that time, family and friends came over to cook and clean. When one friend repeatedly delivered hot dinners for my family, I told her she was “cooking her way to heaven, one casserole at a time.”

Whatever we are called to do, we can do it for God. This includes mopping a floor, fixing a faucet, filing a paper, burping a baby or whatever else your agenda entails. It doesn’t matter if that is in a laundry room or a board room.

When I think of that young man selecting a major in college, I fondly recall the favorite slogan of a former English teacher. She said, “Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.”

“That’s not just a sentence full of pronouns, but a lesson in life,” she would say.

So I suppose we should offer up our work, however humble it is, to God, knowing that he is using us right where we are, if only we cooperate.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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