How To Discover the True Value of You and Your Work
I hadn’t intended to witness this.
On a Tuesday snow falls and I look up from my work at the desk and watch air fill with crystals, flecks of heaven.
I can see them stacking soundless on the outer sill, one wind whispered thread woven flake at a time.
Hexagonal prisms, crystallized water droplets with six feathery branches of filigree. Right there on the outer sill beside me. There’s only a pane of glass separating my arm and patterns of ethereal ice. What path through the clouds did each gossamer blow before landing here so softly, so perfectly intact? Each one, never before formed, never before seen. Each one holy wonder.
I lean close, forehead against winter window.
I have front row seats to miracle and I hardly breathe because this is the dainty work of God and I am hushed awe and why had I never really seen this before? I am careful not to inhale, exhale, that warmth of the breath won’t steam the window, won’t exterminate gauzy grace. And right there they are stacking like iridescent white stars, temperature of heavens tatting exquisite symmetry out of vapor.
Beauty out of nothing.
Worship out of thin air.
I push away from my desk, kneel down on knees by the sill. How can I blithely keep working when wonder is happening and right there on the windowsill? Who will give witness? Who will whisper glory, Glory?
Heavens fall white.
That God creates this finely wrought beauty and no one continuously applauds. That in the womb of winter, He weaves water into clear crystal, glass.
That every single one of these millions of snowflakes births out of vapor, vapor of ocean waves, of jungle plants, of river current. Vapor of my every breath, now falls snow, breath of God. Vapor with no genetic code to follow, that assembles out of air into rarefied design, ornaments of The Invisible Hands.
And I rarely notice and I rarely give praise and whether His work is regarded is entirely irrelevant because God is fixed on beauty, and the pure joy of the creating, and the secret delight simply in the working. I can’t get over it – every flake masterpiece and there are no accolades and what do I know of hidden work simply for His glory’s sake?
Water droplets pool on the ledge.
The pile of stacked powder on the sill – is it waning? Has the temperature shifted even just a degree? They’re melting. Exquisiteness evaporating, the stellar dendrites, carved glass arms, one at a time, right before my eyes, vanishing. Beauty vanishing into thin air. All His magnificence…. Gone. I can’t believe how I mourn in that moment.
I am vapor too, grieving my kin and in each flake fading I see the way of my going.
And yet to God, there is hallowed worth simply in the being, that the coming and the being is the important, not the accomplishing or the acknowledgments. That the masterpiece of each person is all to His glory no matter the noticing and that all work need be beauty, even if unsung vapor.
God revels in the unrecognized.
Snow falls… and melts on the sill.
I turn in reverence, back to my work.
Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.
As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.
—Thomas Merton, in a letter to Jim Forest dated February 21, 1966