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Background: Luke 12:16-21

 

And he said, “This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, though hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”  But God said unto him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?  Luke 12:18-20

If you have not seen the movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, you’ve missed a moving story – and one with quite a punch. I felt it – and it stung.

In the story, Mr. Holland has big dream, a vision for his own life’s accomplishment. As a conductor and budding composer, his vision is to create a musical masterpiece – an opus – that will validate his career, affirm his creative genius and secure, I suppose, his worth and value.

But this vision doesn’t buy bread, so he is compelled to take a job at the local high school teaching band. It’s not very glorious at all – working with the musically challenged, the marginally competent.  It is frustrating, often unsatisfying labor – certainly not what drives him – indeed it interferes with his dream of greatness.  And to make matters worse, there is not much appreciation in some school administrators for his tireless, if frustrated, energies in helping students.

The movie moves through various subplots, but in the end there is a grand gathering of all his former students who come to thank him for shaping their lives, for giving them the gift of music and himself. He finally discovers that his real Opus – his really great work – was not that piece of music he hoped to write and which eluded him.  No, his great work, his stunning achievement was the lives of those whom he touched, affirmed, encouraged, struggled with and enabled.

For all us Type A, driven, achievement oriented, task oriented lawyers – this is a word we need hear. Our visions may be of some great legal career, establishing stunning precedents, winning a big case in the Supreme Court, a nomination to a high court, or a political career.  This is where, for far too many lawyers, life has its validation – that is our OPUS.

One searches in vain in Scripture for any support for the notion that our great life-affirming signs are to be found in this sort of human achievement. Yes, we do all our work to the glory of God;  yes, we engage in our work “as unto the Lord”; but meaning and purpose are ultimately not found here.  Indeed, the Scriptures in the passage noted, suggest that such straining for success in worldly achievement is often a sign of a very distorted life – and that man’s earthly achievements are not very significant after all.  We all know that is true of the “stuff” which we spend so much of life collecting – but it is also true of those psychological boosters we seem to invest in.

Many have noted that when one comes to the end of their life, few have been heard to suggest they wished they had spent more time at the office. To the contrary, they often note the tragedy they didn’t really spend time with their children or grandchildren, or that they had neglected their spouse.

Your opus is not likely found in the records at the county court house, or your billable hour time sheets – it is the way you shaped lives of your children, worked with kids in the Sunday School class you taught, brightened the life of some shut-ins, or sustained the strength of those seized with some incurable disease.

You see, all this time you thought you were called to be a lawyer. No!  You were called to love God and those God has put in your life.  It is found in your ministry to your secretary, partner, the photocopier repair technician, the lady who constantly calls you, the waitress at your lunch spot.

All those things you thought were interruptions in your way to the “big dance” – all the inconvenient disturbances, detours. They were your ministry – your great, lasting, moving OPUS.

I actually learned it all in Sunday School years ago when we sang, “Brighten the corner where you are.” And in a poster from the 80s: “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”

Lynn R. Buzzard

 

– This article comes from AI’s devotional for lawyers titled, “What Does the Lord Require of You?”

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