What do you do in your life that is incredibly important to you but deeply challenging to your spirit? Waking up in the night to feed a newborn? Flying across the country to sit with your 88-year-old mom during surgery? Teaching kindergarten? Defending the wrongly accused?  Mentoring a friend with a lifelong addiction?

When the late Mary Oliver described the most important work of her life, she said that it was work that was “as improbable as carrying water in a sieve”. This image of carrying water in a sieve captured my feelings so clearly. Some days I pour every ounce of energy into my work and then wonder if any progress has been made. Water spills everywhere! On Sunday we proclaim in sermon and song that we are to love one another but on Monday we read of another school shooting. We teach our children that they are loved unconditionally but they sink into depression and feelings of self-doubt. We carry water in a sieve!

How do we keep going? How do we stay inspired enough to focus on the most important aspect of our lives? As a poet, Mary Oliver knew the importance of creative inspiration – sitting in nature, immersing oneself in solitude and beauty. She also knew the power of literary technique and the artistic craft of written words. But Oliver insisted that there was something far more essential and primary. Simply the discipline of showing up. She writes:

“If Romeo and Juliet had made appointments to meet, in the moonlight-swept orchard, in all the perils and sweetness of conspiracy, and then more often than not failed to meet— one or the other lagging, or afraid or busy elsewhere— there would have been no romance, no passion, none of the drama for which we remember and celebrate them”.

There is power in simply showing up! Repeatedly showing up. On time. Discipline may not feel romantic, but it is the discipline of showing up every day for what matters most that leads to the goal we deeply desire. Faith. Life. Family. Health. Love. Music. They require the discipline of showing up. The poet Flaubert said, “Talent is long patience”.