Even on Unproductive Days

Photo credits: Eduard Militaru

I woke up in pain this morning.

This did not come as a surprise me, since I’ve been feeling this pain (thankfully at tolerable levels) in my lower back for two weeks now.

I would go to bed with this pain, and wake up with it. I have been acquainted with this pain. But today, it was much worse. This pain originated in my lower back, and moved toward my legs and upper back. Getting up from bed was difficult to do.

I slept some more, thinking it would go away. It didn’t. Finally, after seeing that it was not something that would die down anytime soon, I decided to message my supervisor to say that I’ll drop by the hospital before going to work.

The lines at the hospital were unusually long. It took me more than two hours before I got to see the doctor. I started getting impatient. I should’ve been back at the office by now. I should’ve done some work by now. I should’ve just gone here in the afternoon, or another day. All the while, the nagging (but by this time, more tolerable) pain persisted.

When I finally got to see the attending doctor, she suspected it to be muscle pain, but also recommended for me to have an X-ray to rule out bone-related causes. This happened by lunch time, so I figured that I should just file for a sick leave (as my supervisor also recommended).

One meal, one X-ray, and a doctor’s interpretation later, I was lining up (once more) at the HMO office. By the time I got to see an orthopedic surgeon and book a ride home, it was already 5:30 pm. There went my whole Monday. 

I found myself down because I felt so unproductive today. I wasn’t able to check off anything from my to-do list at work. I spent most of my day waiting in lines at the hospital. And in the end, the diagnosis wasn’t all that significant (the doctor just prescribed me emergency pain killers for days when the pain is intolerable).

As I waited in the hospital lobby, contemplating on how much of the day I wasted, something inside hit the brakes of my wandering mind.

Why was I feeling this way? Shouldn’t I have been more grateful than disappointed that my results weren’t anything serious?

I am a person who lives on lists—to do lists, milestones lists, prayer lists, and so on. I live on results and output. While that’s good on some professional level, a lot of times I apply my list to almost every area of my life, even when it’s unnecessary.

So to not have anything from my list ticked off today frustrated me big time.

It’s easy for me to blame the fast-paced world, or the ever-dynamic nature of my work that influences me to behave this way. It’s convenient for me to pin it on my friend’s, family, and even ministry for taking up so much of my time. But to do these would be very cowardly and untrue of me.

Because I actually like living on lists. It makes me feel productive. It makes me feel useful. It makes me feel needed and sought out for. And as twisted as it sounds, it even makes me feel loved.

But this is where my story today gets both funny and ironic. I first noticed how fast my “pace” was becoming the day I first felt this pain, two weeks ago. The pain forced me to filter my schedule and reduce the noise that was in it—Netflix and social media, among others. For these past two weeks, it seemed like I was going where God, and even I, wanted to go because of this slower pace. And then this happens.

Pain has a way of making you stop what you’re doing, and realize that something’s not right. Pain, for people like me, is God’s big, green signal to slow down and assess what’s really going on—not just in your body, but in your heart. In this light, it’s God’s way of showing mercy before we get even more damaged, and grace for when we need to repent.

In my case, the pain I carried was not only physical, but also emotional and mental from my own unproductivity. But as I waited for my car, moping about how my day turned out, a thought came to mind, and it was this:

That God loved me, even on what I call “unproductive” days.

Simple, right?

God loved me today even if I was not myself. God loved me today even if I didn’t report to the office. Even if I spent most of today in line, getting a hold of doctors, reading a book on my phone. Even if I was moping and frustrated and tired and in pain. God still loved me.

Some of Hillsong’s lyrics come to mind as I write this:

He’s not moved by perfection

Or how well we play the part

But He’s wild about the hidden stuff

Like He’s wild about the heart

God wasn’t after what I could produce or achieve today. He wasn’t attracted to how much or how little I worked. He wasn’t impressed by anything I did or didn’t do today. And I’m sure this is the same with you.

While my heart was pulled into several places today, God’s heart remained there for me.

While I was obsessing over the list in my head that I never got to accomplish, He succeeded in doing the only thing He could do for me.

It is finished. God loves me.

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