“Drudgery is the touchstone of character” – Oswald Chambers
We teach what we most deeply need to learn.
I believe this wholeheartedly. It is true for me. I began writing about ideals because I was not living mine. Every time I ran across the Albert Schweitzer quote “Grow into your ideals so that life will not rob you of them”, I got chills.
Two years ago, I began studying ideals while homeschooling my daughter. Not having any grandparents around locally, I wanted to ground her in some character-building values. As I wrote a comprehensive list of values from my internet research, I realized I need to spend some time studying these ideals for myself.
Why am I writing about character today? One word – DRUDGERY.
Drudgery – “Hard, menial, dull, uninspiring work. Boring, difficult, unpleasant labor.” (Wiki, M-W Dictionary)
I have struggled with finishing personal projects. I have a hard time with minutiae and tedium. I struggle with consistently doing the little things without immediate results. Give me a difficult degree and I will pay the price, work hard and finish. But if I have my own music project, camera photos to upload or papers to edit, I have a harder time.
I recently took a week off blogging. I found myself tempted to extend the break. The distractions were ruthless. I could see my old habits rearing up their heads, beckoning for ” another slumber, another folding of hands” (Proverbs).
So, why bother showing up?
This work matters to me.
I am committed to living my ideals. I am committed to this blog. I know it will evolve and there will be more projects. But I love writing. The ideas come easily to me but I do have to find time to sit and write. And as I stated in earlier posts, my posts are usually written after a long, active (fun but exhausting) day with energetic kids and demanding work. I write after putting the kids to bed.
Consistency is an ideal I am committed to cultivating in my life. I want to show up. Day by day, moment by moment.
In the past, I would do everything I could to avoid the drudgery, the mundane, the routine… I was conflicted. I wanted to be spontaneous, to be able take off at a moment’s thought. And the idea of being predictable felt like a lead balloon over my head. What a bummer!
I did not want to work on my character. It never occurred to me. I thought that being a Christian, being moral and believing the scriptures would be enough. At 13 I thought I was set. I believed in Jesus and sat for the next 2 decades waiting to be changed. Then I became really frustrated when the changes I awaited would not come.
Oswald Chambers was right. “Drudgery is the touchstone of character”. Here is the longer quote.
“You have inherited the Divine nature, says Peter (v.4), now screw your attention down and form habits, give diligence, concentrate. “Add” means all that character means. No man is born either naturally or supernaturally with character, he has to make character. Nor are we born with habits; we have to form habits on the basis of the new life God has put into us. We are not meant to be illuminated versions, but the common stuff of ordinary life exhibiting the marvel of the grace of God. Drudgery is the touchstone of character. The great hindrance in spiritual life is that we will look for big things to do. “Jesus took a towel . . . and began to wash the disciples’ feet.” ”
My mentor calls me a visionary. It sounds more glamorous that it is. I dream big dreams. It is very easy for me to get lost in the future, in the world of possibilities, the “what ifs” of life…
I am learning to appreciate the beauty of routine and the power of drudgery. I am practicing gratitude for the mundane. My old ways pop up now and then. I am tempted to compromise in the dark. But I am learning that I can cultivate consistency in the darkest drudgery and I will be rewarded with a harvest of trust, connection, discipline, integrity and excellence to name a few.
How about you?
Drudgery is challenging and unglamorous. The dishes, bills, packing boxes, editing, laundry, taxes, pushups, obligatory phone calls can be overwhelming. Take a deep breath, express gratitude, break your monstrous action items into tinier bits and keep working.
Sometimes you need a break. Take it.
And then, it is time to wash some feet.
That is the true meaning of Character.
1. What does Character mean to you?
2. What are your character strengths?
3. What old habits beckon to you? Who can hold you accountable to stay on track?
4. In what ways do you need to cultivate the Character you desire?
5. Do you struggle with drudgery? In what ways?
6. Spend some time thinking about the beauty of drudgery and routine in your life. Are there some mundane things you can be thankful for?
7. Spend some time with Oswald Chamber quote. …”The great hindrance in spiritual life is that we will look for big things to do.” What big things are you using to distract yourself? What small things can you do right now?
Being faithful in the little things is difficult. Showing up, day in day out, moment by moment is no easy feat. But you are not alone. You are surrounded by others, like us, who are committed to building character. Reach out. Cultivating Character does not always produce immediate rewards but the long-term impact is undeniable. Stay the course. And may the Force be with you!
Yvonne Whitelaw writes for Yvonnewhitelaw.com where she blogs about her quest to grow into her ideals in her “Live Your Ideals Project”. By sharing her lessons along the way (every Monday and Thursday), she hopes to serve and inspire a tribe of wholehearted warriors like you, to “live your ideals, live your calling and change the world.”