I was picking weeds yesterday—knees in the dirt, earth under my fingernails. Grumbling to myself, I muttered something like, “Didn’t I just do this?”
Honestly, this isn’t an uncommon thought running wild through my brain. More like a broken record serenading my everyday life…
Didn’t I just scrub the dishes? Didn’t I just pay that bill? Didn’t I just correct my child? Didn’t I just meet a deadline? Didn’t I just workout? Didn’t I just return the forms/folders/emails/phone calls? Didn’t I just fill up with gas? Didn’t I just buy a fridge-worth of groceries? Didn’t I just charge my phone? Didn’t I just finish my to-do list? Didn’t I just meal-plan? Didn’t I just shave my legs? Didn’t I just pick up 4,000 Legos off the floor?
Didn’t I just…?
“Again” is the Daily Grind’s favorite song-on-repeat and, frankly, this annoys me. I don’t want to do it again. I want to do something ONE TIME and be good for all of eternity—or at least a solid week.
We the People love to create and to cultivate; make progress and make headlines.
It’s fun to start and fulfilling to finish. But maintenance? Checkups? Soul-keeping? Managing the unseen? Protecting what’s already there? Pulling weeds, cleaning out closets, digging through emotional/spiritual junk drawers that need to be dealt with and sorted into somewhat organized bins?
BLAH, BLAH, BLAH (plugs ears with index fingers). No thanks.
Let’s do something NEW and EXCITING and PRODUCTIVE and POSTWORTHY instead! Yes, let’s do that… and not the other thing.
Back in the day (the sixth to be exact), God gave Adam two commands about the garden that was his very world: (1) “Work it,” and (2) “Keep it.”
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15)
We often lump this phrase into one solitary instruction, which typically falls into the category of “do something awesome!” But there are actually TWO independent responsibilities laid out in this verse. God made a stark distinction between both verbs with one little conjunction: and. Work it and keep it. Create and maintain. Cultivate and protect. Working is not the same as keeping, nor the other way around.
The Hebrew word for work is Abad: to work, serve, till, cultivate, labour.
The Hebrew word for keep is Shamar: to keep, guard, preserve, maintain, care for.
Work it baby, but don’t forget to keep it too.
Let’s get real here… Maintenance isn’t sparkly or glamourous. It’s changing the oil in your car, unloading/reloading the dishwasher a thousand times, and updating your computer with the latest software. It’s making space for date night, reading another bedtime story, and having that hard conversation. It’s cracking open the timeless Word of God, realigning your heart with His, and continuously shifting your perspective and position toward the things above.
Maintenance can feel boring and unsexy, but it’s vital nonetheless.
The majority of our lives are spent on maintenance—on “keeping it.” However, most of us, if we’re honest, would rather skip the upkeep and hurry on to moving and shaking and leaving our mark on the world. God knew we’d get prideful and cocky though, arrogantly assuming we could do it all on our own. So He devised a plan…
God built maintenance into His purposely-engineered and perfectly-executed design.
We were created to need God over and over again. Our utter desperation for the basics—to eat again, drink again, sleep again, breathe again—reminds us that we are not self-sufficient. We are not the kings and queens of our own fairyland. We need something (or Someone) outside of ourselves in order to survive.
Cue the reminders…
Remember when Jesus prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread”? Key word: daily. Not weekly or monthly or yearly. DAILY. Because we constantly need refilled in order to sustain the hard and important work of pouring ourselves out again. (See Matthew 6)
Remember when the Israelites were wandering around in the desert and God gave them unexpected miracle food called manna? He did not bless them with gobs of excess to put in storage and use as needed. In fact, if they gathered more than a day’s worth it would rot and stink. (See Exodus 16)
Why did He do this? Why did He make them depend on His faithfulness every day? Why didn’t He just give them a giant supply so they’d stay out of His hair for a while? (I mean, come on, they were clearly an exhausting bunch.) Why in the world did He design our bodies to hunger and thirst for food and water every few hours of every day?
Maybe it was to remind us that:
(1) We are helpless on our own.
(2) He is our source, provider, sustainer, and the heartbeat of our very existence.
What if God designed us to find Him in the ordinary—in the “keeping it”? What if He intended for us to feel our way to Him through the mundane, repetitive tasks that makeup the pieces of our lives?
You don’t just plant a tree; you water it too. You don’t just get married; you nurture that relationship. You don’t just start a career; you make it happen every day. You don’t just birth a baby; you love it and take care of it. You don’t just believe in Jesus; you follow Him day by day and step by step.
Working and keeping—a compatible dance. Similar to the one where we work hard on our ordinary days and also keep the Sabbath.
“Keeping it” is essential for anything to flourish. “Keeping it” is the sacred act of guarding, protecting, and preserving the precious treasure that has been entrusted to our very souls. “Keeping it” is the utmost level of endurance, perseverance, and long-term faithfulness. Not because of what we’ve done, but because of who He is.
So, work it baby. Do your thing. Move as many mountains as He allows.
But don’t forget to keep it too.