The Importance of Unnoticed Work

This past Saturday, I spent all day, over twelve hours, working with two other guys on some much-needed projects at the church. We were busy hammering, sawing, painting, and cleaning. We fueled ourselves with Taco Bell and Starbucks Coffee—not a good combination—and worked late into the night.

The following morning when we joined the rest of the congregation for worship, not one person mentioned our contribution. No one said “Thank you,” or “We love what you’ve done with the place.” Nothing. How rude, right?

Not really. It’s not that we go to church with a bunch of self-absorbed jerks, though I’m sure there are a few in the fold. After all, what family doesn’t have issues? But, that wasn’t it.

No one recognized our efforts because they were hidden beneath the floor and tucked inside a breaker box. We spent the day fixing electrical issues and building wooden boxes for the cold air return vents.

Had we spent our time applying fresh coats of vibrant colored paint or remodeling our classrooms, someone would have taken notice. They would have commented on the work, even if only to express distaste for our color choices.

But what we did made no visual impact. It did nothing for the aesthetic quality of the space.

However, it doesn’t mean the work was unimportant. In fact, when the project is complete it will make a huge difference. The building will be far more comfortable in both the winter and summer, and the heating and cooling costs will be cut substantially.

Behind the scenes work is rarely glamorous, no one there to take pictures, no audience to cheer the process along. But this is usually when the most important, the most essential work is done.

Few people care how long the writer spent crafting each sentence, how she wrestled with the intricacies of each character, creating back story elements that never even made it into the manuscript. They do care, however, about the way the story makes them feel, the way they carry on the narrative even after the final page, imagining where the characters are headed next.

Most concert goers have a vague appreciation for the amount of practice that goes into making an incredible musician, but most have no idea the hours, the blisters and callouses and tireless commitment that go into making it look so easy.

The little baby resting safely in his mother’s arms can’t possibly comprehend the level of preparation and love that it takes to nurture a child. He doesn’t know how often she hovers over his crib watching his chest rise and fall, making sure he is sleeping in a healthy position.

But that isn’t why we write or play or nurture, to be noticed. At least it shouldn’t be. We do it out of love. We do it to make a difference.

This is why we pray for people who don’t even know our names. It’s why we plead to God in secret on behalf of others. This is why we fight to end poverty for the stranger down the street and for those across the globe who will never be able to thank us or tell our story.

John Piper says that, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”

If God is satisfied with behind the scenes work why should we be any different?

Perhaps you have been pouring yourself out for years, all the while feeling unseen and unappreciated. Ask yourself, “What is my motivation?” Work for recognition’s sake is hollow. Transformative work, God-honoring work is done in love regardless of who’s watching.

What do you think? Start a discussion in the comments section below.

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Photo Credit: scottroberts (Creative Commons)

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