FOR ALL THE joy of being able to go to work in your underwear, the freelance life has its ups and downs, and I reached this particular Friday afternoon in a bit of a slump. Things were tight financially. I had finished all my current projects, pitched everything I could think of, cleared out all my old emails, and even rearranged my pen jar again. With nothing left to do, I just sat there for a while, feeling like a failure.
Knowing that Marcia was out working hard and busy meeting clients made me feel even more inadequate. So, I decided I could at least do something while she was gone: clean the house. When I reached our rear bedroom on my rounds, I was distracted by noise from outside.
Across the way, a bunch of guys were scrambling around the roof of some townhouses under construction. They wore hard hats and big steel-toed work boots, with leather tool belts slung low around their waists. They looked like the cast of The Magnificent Seven, with power tools replacing pistols.
I glanced at myself in our bedroom mirror: standing there in a pair of shorts and holding a feather duster. It was a typically warm Florida afternoon, but let’s just say I might as well have just stepped under a cold shower. There was some shrinkage—metaphysical and otherwise.
Finishing my housework duties, I decided to take Woodley for his daily walk. On our tour of the neighborhood we passed another workman, stripped to the waist with a giant piece of lumber balanced on one shoulder. I was holding a leash in one hand and a plastic bag for scooping up poop in the other. I avoided his glance.
As I further marinated in my You’re-Not-a-Real-Man Failure Stew, I felt God whisper to me something along the lines of, Hey, Andy, don’t get all bent out of shape about what you’re not doing. At least you are doing what you can. Sometimes that’s all a man can do.
I felt better for a moment. Then my inner cynic chipped in, That’s right, try to spiritualize it all away, wuss. That’s not God speaking. That’s you trying to cover your inadequacy.
I made my way home with round shoulders. As I sloped along, I sensed God asking me something. He wanted to know: If a friend came to me, dejected because of similar circumstances, wouldn’t I look for a way to encourage him? Might I not say, Don’t get all bent out of shape about what you’re not doing. At least you are doing what you can. Sometimes that’s all a man can do. Would I not speak kindly to my friend?
I had to admit that, yes, I probably would speak kindly to my friend.
So, God said, why don’t you think I want to speak kindly to you?
You could have knocked me down with a feather duster. And I didn’t care if the guys on the roof saw my tears.
Photo credit: srsphoto via Foter.com/CC BY-NC