How do you sign your name to the end of a wasted day?
“St Patrick’s Day” is the nineteenth episode of season six of “The Office.” By this point, a new CEO has come in (played by Kathy Bates, of course) and she is causing some stress in the workplace. Everyone is ready to leave work, but Jo (either intentionally or unintentionally) makes it seem like they haven’t worked hard enough yet to call it a day.
Michael: Hey there… So, I think I’m done. Gonna head out, unless you want to chat, like we were doing earlier.
Jo: Well there’s chattin’ time and there’s workin’ time, and I’m still on workin’ time.
Michael: Hmm? Well, the clock says chattin’ time, so–
Jo: Well, if you feel like you’ve done a solid day’s work.
Michael: Right… What?
Jo: Well, I mean if you can put your name on this day, and be proud of the amount of work you’ve done, then by all means you should toodle on home.
Michael: …Mmmm… Oh, well…
Jo: Is there something else I can help you with?
Michael: No, no, no. That super clear-ish…
Michael immediately leaves the room, saying “Nope, nope, nope” to the crowd of employees that are ready to head over to the bar to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Dejectedly, they all drop their bags and wait for a clearer opportunity to leave… and they wait… and wait… and wait…
I feel like I’m always in waiting phase. In the episode, most of the employees do nothing, a couple of people find a couple tasks to work on, Michael tries to make himself look good, and Jo works and works and works. Like a boss.
At times, I am like Jo. I am up late and able to work hard on my projects, whether for school or church or work or just chores. There’s always something to do, I can be productive, I can get things done NOW– so I might as well do them!
Most of the time I feel like Michael. I don’t know if I can do what Jo says…
Or for me, just simply go to bed. But some days I just feel that I have wasted the day away. And so I try to stay up, try to work on a project or write something or clean something, try to do something so I can check it off a list (physical or imaginary) and feel like I have accomplished something– anything. But in the end, I’m just trying to look good. Even to myself.
Sometimes I find a couple tasks I can do, actually check something off, and head to bed or head home, knowing it’s one less thing I needed to do. That’s typically in the random season where I’m eating well, sleeping well, reading my Bible and living YOUR BEST LIFE NOW! I’m able to get things done because I’m just awesome like that… But those seasons are rarer than a purple giraffe.
So often I am just like most of the employees in the episode– I just sit and wait and wonder when I will get to leave this place and move on to the next. I could just make a choice to work or rest or move or do anything– but instead I do nothing. Actually, no, I choose to do nothing. Everything is a choice. And the days I wallow in self-pity, despair, guilt, shame, homesickness, fear, desire, or hope, I choose to wallow, whether or not I realize it.
At times I wish I had someone to tell me what to do. When I was a child, it was my mom or dad. When I worked at camp, it was my director. When I was in college, it was my professor.
But as you get older, I’ve learned, you have to be that person in your life. The person that tells you what to do, that reprimands you at times and encourages you at other times, the person that gives you a direction for your life and helps you get there. One of the weirdest relationships you’ll ever have– your intrapersonal relationship, i.e. your relationship with yourself.
Me, Myself, and I. One tries to tell the others what to do, one doesn’t trust the other two, and one runs around like a chicken with its head chopped off. It’s similar, in a way, to the communication between our individual body parts. I love this webcomic at theawkwardYeti.com.
But even worse, it’s not just different parts of your body at fault– it’s you! You are not a collection of body parts– you are one person. Have a pile of unwashed dishes? Can’t just blame Past Evan or save it for Future Evan to do– because it’s all you! You have to listen to yourself and teach yourself, set boundaries for yourself and follow yourself, supply and deny yourself, deprive and survive yourself.
You can put yourself in relationships where others speak into your life or give you direction and commands. Work, church, school, family, faith– these provide voices that can give you guidance– but ultimately, you still have to choose to listen to them and obey them. And making no choice is still a choice.
I bet Michael would have loved for Jo to come out and say, “Michael, you’ve worked hard today. Go have a great time at the bar!” Or even, “Michael, you need to do some more work today.” Either way would have been more clear than, “Well, if you feel like you’ve done a solid day’s work.”
But we have to make those distinctions ourselves. We could become lazy, set the lowest standards for our work and ultimately find ourselves out of a job. Or we could become workaholics, trying to save the world through emails and meetings. Or we could try to find some balance in between. We can have reviews and feedback, comments and criticisms, people that speak into our lives, but ultimately we have to ask ourselves the question: “Have I done a solid day’s work? Could I put my name on this day and be proud of the amount of work I’ve done?”
However, if the answer is no, the resulting response rarely should be, “Alright, I’m going to buckle down and REALLY get some work done now!” Unless you’re trying to call it a night at 1 pm, it probably is time to go home, go to the bar, go to bed and rest. God gave us the day to work and the night to rest. And he even gave us an extra day to rest. Of course, in our infinite wisdom, we think that we were created to work 24/7 and not 17/6 (and that’s assuming you only sleep about 7 hours a night.)
Usually when I am asking the question, I feel I have wasted the day away already, for whatever reason. Ultimately, I feel that I am a waste of space, so what do I do? I work. I try. I strive to do the best that I can do but that just proves that my best just isn’t good enough. No amount of work will dispel the unease in my soul. I must go to God. Confession. Repentance. Rededication. Rest. These are the steps I must take. When the day is over and I am left with guilt and shame, I must give it to God– and you know what He gives me? Another day.
As Jason Gray sings, “Nothing is wasted.” Not even a day that will disappear from my memory, a day where I did nothing or felt I did nothing worthwhile, a day that I could not put my name upon. Not even such a day is wasted. For its all a journey. Ever day is a step along the way. A lifelong journey that must constantly reorient itself towards God.
Let my lifesong sing to You
Let my lifesong sing to You
I want to sign Your name to the end of this day
Knowing that my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to You1
Even when my heart wasn’t true, even when the day remains unsigned,
Let my lifesong sing to You.
1“Lifesong” by Casting Crowns