Philip Yancey told a story in Christian Century recently that has helped me understand something about work and art. He wrote:
A friend of mine, a hand surgeon, was awakened from a deep sleep by a 3:00 a.m. telephone call and summoned to an emergency surgery. He specialized in microsurgery, reconnecting nerves and blood vessels finer than human hairs, performing meticulous 12-hour procedures with no breaks. As he tried to overcome his grogginess, he realized he needed a little extra motivation to endure this one marathon surgery. On impulse he called a close friend, also awakening him. “I have a very arduous surgery ahead of me, and I need something extra to concentrate on this time,” he said. “I’d like to dedicate this surgery to you. If I think about you while I’m performing it, that will help me get through.”
Stop and think a minute. How would it affect your day at the office or your diligence around the home if early Monday morning you called a good friend and said, “I need some added incentive for excellence today. I would like to dedicate this day to you.” What would that mean? I think it would mean that you would think of that person repeatedly through the day. If you started to get weary you would strengthen yourself by saying: “Perk up—this is for Tom.” If your task was hard and discouraging, you would rekindle your zest by saying: “Be of good courage—this is for Ruth.” You would not be content with shoddy work because that would be like saying to your friend: “Your friendship is not very significant to me since I don’t mind dedicating shoddy work to you.” The quality of your love for your friend will be the standard of zeal and excellence in the tasks which you dedicate to him.
Or take art, for another example. Suppose a soloist (say, Cindy Calvin) says to her husband, “My recital next Sunday (April 18, 4 p.m. at Bethlehem!) is dedicated to you.” Wouldn’t that mean for Cindy that her love for Steve would be a measure of her aspiration toward excellence? And wouldn’t every beautiful intonation be a statement to Steve of her devotion?
There is something wonderfully powerful in an act of dedication. It can infuse the most ordinary tasks with new and rich meaning. The tying of surgical sutures can be transformed into an act of deep friendship. Almost any impersonal act can be brought to life and made precious and personal by an act of dedicating it to someone.
Why don’t we try this at Bethlehem? Call someone on the phone and say, “I’ve got a tough meeting this afternoon, would you mind if I dedicate my efforts there to you? I’ll give it my best then, and let you know how it went.” What a great sense of love and accountability and unity that would build into our life together! Is there any higher compliment you could pay to someone than to dedicate something to them?
I don’t think this would have to conflict with our allegiance to Christ. On the contrary, I think that if we experienced the heart-uniting power of dedicatory acts among ourselves, we would discover afresh what Paul meant when he said, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).