J.R.R. Tolkien had a vision to write a kind of story that had never been told before.
He began working on what would eventually become the Lord of the Rings, but he got stuck. In order to complete this story, he had to study various ancient languages that had largely been lost, and thousands of years of various national histories. He felt despair wondering whether he would ever complete the work in his lifetime.
One morning he woke up with a short story in his mind and he wrote it down. It was called "Leaf by Niggle."
The story was about a painter named Niggle. As his name suggests, he niggled at painting, not getting much done. He would focus on getting the shade of a leaf just right. He also knew he had to take a dreaded, inevitable journey—the journey was a metaphor for death.
He didn’t make much progress in his painting, in part because he was distracted by his kind heart which led him to do many favors for his neighbors.
One night, one of Niggle`s neighbors insists that he go out into the cold and rainy evening to get a doctor for his sick wife. As a result, Niggle comes down with a chill and a fever. While working desperately on his unfinished picture the driver of the dreaded journey (the journey of death) comes to take Niggle—and Niggle bursts into tears. Niggle says, “Oh dear! And it’s not even finished. I have only completed a leaf.” (See Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf pp. 24-30).
Work is something that God created us to do. Work, in and of itself, is good. But because we human beings have turned away from God, the source of all that is good, true and beautiful, the source of Life itself, our work—like everything else in ...
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