Saturday, November 21, 2009

Productive Character

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” - Romans 5:3-4

Ten days ago, life took an unexpected turn when my husband started the day with a stomach ache and ended it in the ER having his appendix removed. Since then, caring for him has been my top priority.

In being a nurse for the past week and a half, I’m reminded of an overwhelming feeling I had when I first became a mom – unproductive. Sure I was busy when I had a new baby in my arms, but did twelve diaper changes, six feedings and four loads of laundry really count for much? It took me a while to see the immense, life-altering value in caring for my child.

These memories came back while caring for my husband. It is easy to get caught up in doing things that other people see and acknowledge. The truth is, however, that the work we do while hidden within the walls of home is often more meaningful and does more to shape our character than any other work ever could. For the past ten days, those in the outside world have seen my cancelled appointments and my declined invitations (and truthfully, even within my house, my husband and kids have noticed the little piles of “stuff” growing in the various corners of our home where the things I haven’t gotten to yet are building).

But God knows our hearts and our intentions. He understands that being a caregiver is not a natural role for me, and that it takes more thought and effort than it might for someone else. He knows that He did not gift me with any special abilities in the kitchen, so thinking up bland, soothing, post-surgery meals distracts me from some of my normal responsibilities. He acknowledges that sometimes He uses other people’s troubles to build our character.

I’ve noticed that the times in life when I’ve felt my character stretch and grow the most are the times when I have had nothing tangible to show for it. Perhaps we are not designed to produce worldly goods and divine goodness at the same time. The experiences that shape me with the most definitive edge are the ones that bring an internal change alone – no paycheck, no product, no recognition, no earthly value.

How do you know when you are being productive? Is a stronger character a valuable product?