Everyone’s a Niggle

By Dave Henning / March 24, 2020

At the conclusion of his Introduction to Every Good Endeavor, Pastor Timothy Keller relates an overlooked story by J.R. R. Tolkien entitled “Leaf by Niggle”.  Niggle had one particular picture he was trying to paint- it was to start with a leaf, then a whole tree, followed by an entire forest with snow-tipped mountains in the background.  Trouble was, he never got much beyond painting that single leaf.  He constantly tried to perfect the leaf and often was distracted by neighbor’s requests for help.

After Niggle’s death, the townspeople took the only intact part of his huge canvas, “one beautiful leaf”, and displayed it in the Town Museum, where few people saw it.  But when Niggle got to heaven, he saw the finished painting that never had been realized in his lifetime.

In reality, the author points out, everyone is a Niggle.  We all want to be successful and make a difference in life.  Yet, for Christians, Pastor Keller states that “every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.”  That is so important to realize, especially in our desert, transition time.  Whether unemployed, underemployed, or job searching, there is purpose in our work.  Pastor Keller offers these words of encouragement:

“Whatever your work, you need to know this.  There really is a tree. . . .  Your work will be on partially successful, even on your best days, in bringing that (future-healed) world about.  But inevitably, the whole tree that you seek  . . . will come to fruition.”

Tomorrow’s blog: “God at work”


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Dave Henning

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