WHAT’S THE POINT?
Yesterday, to the best of my knowledge, there was a wedding reception in the barn on my parents’ property. No one from the family, just a couple that wanted to celebrate in that setting. The plan for this reception had been set in place for months, and the work of preparation took place in earnest once the warmer weather of Spring appeared. I learn a lot about myself when I learn about my parents, and this experience of barn preparation was one of those moments of insight. At one point I was talking to my mother on the phone and I had asked about the barn. She started to tell me, “You know those windows over the barn doors?” “Yes,” I responded. “Well Dad is up on the ladder…” “cleaning off the bird poop,” I said as I finished her sentence. I know my father a little too well in that regard.
What’s the point? The reception would take place inside the barn, and the odds of a guest looking up to say “What nice, clean windows” are a million to one. But the thanks is not the point. It never is with my father or my mother. They do the work well because they believe in doing the work well. That is something they learned from their parents, and that is something they have passed on to their own children. There is an expression of love in doing the work well. Scraping off bird poop is an expression of love? Absolutely. This is what I believe about my father and my mother: if they recognize something that could be done in service to someone and they do not do it, they would feel selfish. And they recognize a lot of needs. I believe that about my parents because I experience it myself. If I see something that can be done and I do not do it, I feel restless. This is not to say that I always do everything that I see, because I don’t. But then I live with the restlessness.
Doing the work that God has called you to do can sometimes be thankless. In fact, it very often is. And if you were hoping to be called to a “glorious” ministry position and you want to wait until that opportunity arrives, you might miss the point altogether. On our second day in Honduras, I had the opportunity to return to the San Jose Orphanage in La Paz. Sister Edith again greeted us with a smile, toddler in her arms, surrounded by 14 others, in front of a courtyard full of washed and drying laundry. Edith had stepped out of a “glorious” ministry position of teaching children in a privileged area because she believed God wanted more from her. She returned to her parents’ home. She prayed. She waited. One day a woman dropped off two children at Edith’s door, asking Edith to care for them. She did. More than 10 years later, she cares for 15 children – in an abandoned high school building. I don’t know whether or not Edith ever asked herself the question, “What’s the point?” Whether she did or did not is between her and God. All I know is that Edith has been faithful in her obedience and God has been faithful to her.
Among the tasks we were called to do while we were there was to chip away and remove cement from a drain for the laundry and shower. Tall grasses were chopped down with machetes. Piles of stones and dirt were moved from one open “room” to the surface of the playground. And I’ll admit, when I got my first taste of flying drainage water and cement in my mouth and eyes, I wondered, “What’s the point?” When I started sweating buckets to move stone and dirt via wheelbarrow, I wondered, “What’s the point?” Then I remembered the verses I read in the morning, Romans 12:1-2. I noticed the familiar command to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, but then I noticed that this was called a “spiritual act of worship” (emphasis added). Offering our bodies is a spiritual act? Why is it not a physical act of worship?
There is no longer a requirement of a physical sacrifice. Jesus completed that requirement – once and for all. So our physical bodies have become the vessels through which God’s Spirit can operate – our spiritual act of worship. My conversation with God on the bus ride back was still a selfish one, trying to find the “point.” I heard this explanation for this thankless, no-one-will-know-about-it work: “Because we loved you first.” My too-quick response was, “Oh, so I owe it to you? Is that it? I have to pay it back?” I regretted that response coming from me, but I was met with love and patience. “No, you are given opportunities to express love all the time. You have the chance to love others.”
Edith embodies that extremely well. She recognized that the love God has for her was immeasurable. She knew that God had called her to do more than to love those who were already receiving love. She did not even know what it was that God had in store for her, but God knew. God knew exactly what Edith could do and what could be done through her. She began to care for and love on children with no regular income. She wiped noses, cooked meals, hugged, sang songs of love, and remained faithful. Because God had loved her first, she felt compelled to love others in the manner that God had called her. Edith was given an opportunity to live out the love she had been given. Can you imagine not being able to express the love that has been given to you?
That is the point. In scraping bird poop off windows, in cutting down grasses that will grow again, in moving a small portion of the large pile of sand and stones, we are given an opportunity to express love. Our bodies perform spiritual acts of worship. When Edith washes a child’s messy face, folds the laundry for the 50th time, or sleeps with a sick child – she worships. We have to change our view of what is “glorious” work. We have to shift the perspective of who receives the glory. And once we realize that it is not us, we can offer our bodies in spiritual acts of worship so that God, correctly, receives the glory.