I once spent a week in Mexicali, Mexico, with my friend Doug and a bunch of his high school friends. Doug was a youth pastor who had a long history of friendships in Mexicali, and once every summer, he’d escort a couple hundred students from the youth group he led to partner with his friends there. My primary role was to play music, leading Doug’s high school friends in song during morning and evening sessions. Between those sessions, I got to work alongside those same students as they repaired roofs, dug irrigation trenches, and did whatever was asked of them by the elders and leaders in that community. I also sat in on meetings and conversations.
On the drive to the Mexico border from the East San Francisco Bay, a member of Doug’s team asked if I was planning to join “Team Sleepless” that week. I told him I was up for whatever they had in mind, and he responded by barking aloud to the rest of the fifteen-passenger van, “We got another one!”
Apparently, Doug went without much sleep on these trips. After the evening session, he would walk through the camp, ensuring kids had actually gone to sleep, and then he’d gather with whoever was still up to pray through the night. I’d stayed up for days on end for lesser reasons. So I knew I could do it.
And for five days, I did.
- I. Had. So. Much. Fun.
I loved every minute.
It’s possible you’ve heard the St. Irenaeus expression: “The glory of God is a man fully alive.” That week was the closest I’d felt to anything resembling St. Irenaeus’s expression, and it was the work I was doing that got me there. I was deeply and regularly connected to God and those around me.
I had never experienced the kind of connectedness to God and others the way I did on that Mexicali trip, leading songs and talking to kids and learning Spanish and slinging a hammer alongside Doug and his friends. That work connected me to God, myself, and those around me in a new way. I wanted more of it.
In his Gospel, Luke told a story in which Jesus was touched by a woman in a crowd. He stopped to ask,
Who touched Me?
Peter responded, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you” (Luke 8:45). He seemed surprised and even a bit confused that Jesus would have noticed one person’s touch in particular. But for Jesus, there was clearly something different about the connection He felt with that person. Not only did He notice that “power has gone out from Me” (Luke 8:46), but He also stopped to pay attention to someone who would have gone unnoticed otherwise.
I’ve heard a number of speculations about what went on in Jesus’ mind in this moment. I think there’s room for a number of possibilities, and several can be true at the same time, so I’ll add mine: I think Jesus may have been uniquely moved by the depth and amount of power that went out from Him because of the depth of that woman’s need.
This woman who touched Jesus had lived for twelve years with the same physical condition, and she had spent all of her money on treatments that didn’t work, including (I’d be willing to bet) a number of scams and swindlers. That’s a heavy load to carry. I wonder if Jesus had a gratifying reaction to being part of her Story — a Story He stopped long enough to listen to and become acquainted with, despite having somewhere else to be. I think, in shorthand that might come off as cheap, Jesus liked being there and doing that work.
In Mexicali, I did the kind of work in which I was fully alive and in tune with the Love of God. And not just the Love of God for me. Also the Love of God for my world and for my co-laborers. Was I useful on that trip? Sure. But what God offered sounded less like You’ll be good with these tasks and something more like Come join Me here. I want you to feel what I feel when you work with Me.
Doug’s invitation to join him on that trip was an act of love, an extension of the Love of God in him. This Love welcomed me to do the kind of work that would draw me deeper into relationship with God, with my world, and with my own soul.
The kind of work that deepens my love for the world.
The kind of work that inspires care and awe for my co-laborers.
And the kind of work I’m happy to give my best energies to.
Good work has provided me the sense of “aliveness” in ways that contemplation (in prayer or silence or just about any form of devotion) simply does not. It’s not a superior or even deeper connection, per se; it’s just vastly different, and my soul longs for it.
After several nights without sleep, I didn’t start to feel tired until the I got on the plane to return home. My body and mind were in full agreement that it was time to say goodbye to all other aspects of corporeal reality for a while. I fell asleep in my seat almost immediately.
- I. Was. So. Tired.
The thing is, I was happy to be so tired. I knew where my energy had gone, and I felt really good about it.
Being fully alive isn’t just about being well rested. Sometimes it’s about being well spent. More than that, you are Beloved fully and completely in and through the work you do with your own hands. You are called into that work so that you can know and live in that love.
Adapted with permission from Sacred Strides by Justin McRoberts, copyright Justin McRoberts.
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Think of a time you felt satisfying exhaustion after a job well done. What was the nature of the work that gave you such satisfaction? How was that work an expression of God’s love for and through others? What steps can you take to express God’s love in similar work or opportunities? Come share with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily