It all started with that darn Thoreau quote. I was searching for God-knows-what on the Internet one day in 1999. Without any warning, the words of Henry David Thoreau popped up out of nowhere and plastered themselves across my computer screen:
Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go the grave with the song still in them.
In the blink of an eye, those tragic words inked themselves upon my soul. I was stuck in a job that sucked my confidence and robbed me of my joy—Thoreau’s words nailed me! All the jobs I’d ever worked had labeled me Not Good Enough, Not Smart Enough, Not Educated Enough, and on and on. Those Not Enoughs took their toll on my sense of well-being and my confidence, and dejection moved in like a houseguest overstaying its welcome.
Dang that Thoreau! His words sent me spiraling into a tailspin of despair.
In the weeks and months that followed my crash collision with Henry David Thoreau, all I could think about were pet hamsters on their wheels, always running but never going anywhere. How in the world had I become like one of those stupid little rodents? I would get up, go to work, come home, pay the bills, pet the dog, kiss the kids, go to bed, and rise to do it all again, and to what end? It seemed there was nothing I could do to get off the wheel. Would I, too, go to the grave with the song still in me? Would I die unfulfilled with the ache of shattered dreams?
What was I supposed to do? I wasn’t born with silver spoon in my mouth.
My grandpa worked till the day he died—he dropped dead with his toothbrush still in his hand. At eighty-four, my sweet daddy was still a workingman the day he died. I just figured I’d follow their path, but I hadn’t reckoned on the discontent. I hadn’t reckoned on the deep depression. And I certainly hadn’t reckoned on stumbling upon the words of Henry David Thoreau!
…And That’s When I Decided to Take a Deep Dive
There was no turning back the hands of time. I had read his words, and I couldn’t erase them from my mind. I knew that something had to give, or I’d never be joyful and whole again. So, I dove into the Scriptures and the writings of godly people who’d grappled with the subject of work. I was not disappointed! I hit the mother lode and discovered the redemptive intent of
“Divine Discontent.”FOOTNOTE: Footnote
Along with searching the Scriptures, I uncovered the writings of G.K. Chesterton and many other biblical scholars who had wrestled with the necessity of work and the discontentment that can go with it. Through this time of seeking and study, I realized that discontentment is a gift from God. Yep, you read that right!
I discovered that discontentment is often a stirring-up by God
…spurring us onward to what is yet to be instead of settling for what is. Chesterton called this a “Divine Discontent,” which is God-orchestrated for specific times in our lives to remind us that this is not our home. Brief as our time may be, it is for a very specific purpose, and that purpose can be fulfilled through the work of our hands! That was my profound aha moment, and I understood for the first time that work was never meant to be a curse; it was meant to be a blessing. Work was meant to be our greatest platform for doing good.
Now that I knew the purpose for Divine Discontent, God’s Holy Spirit planted a deep, abiding joy for my work within me. And, just like that, my perception of work began to change. The words of the old missionary C.T. Studd popped into my mind and plastered themselves right over Thoreau’s words. This tattoo was bigger, bolder, and truer than true because it reflected God’s
call upon my life:
Some people want to live within the sound of a chapel bell, but I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.
How fitting that God should tattoo these words upon my mind, completely covering the lies of the enemy and proclaiming His truth! I don’t know what lies have been inked upon your soul. But this I do know: your life is precious, and you are deeply loved by God. Like me, you might just need a new tattoo. If you do, I hope you will grab a cup of coffee, sit a spell, and let me tell you a story . . . a story that just might change the rest of your life. – From Sacred Work in Secular Places by Joan L. Turley — available on Amazon.