“God’s work. Our hands.”
I’ve always loved this saying, the good ‘ole Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s motto.
These four words are plastered on the front of my church’s red T-shirts, which you can usually find on, at least two, people at any of our church outreach projects. These four words always echo through my thoughts when I’m on our annual mission trips while I’m either pounding a nail into a wall, handing food to those who are hungry, moving donations to their designated spots, and so on.
The thing is that’s where this quote stops being applied for me- only in stereotypical situations of “doing God’s work”.
At least it used to be…until I had some time to think the other day, while staring out a window in the library with nothing else to do but collect my thoughts.
*insert a PSA about how “not having anything to do” can be a good thing…*
I was mulling over how I’d been feeling a little useless lately because I can’t lead entire religious lessons because I don’t know enough Hungarian. I was thinking about how I feel like I’m not doing much in Sunday School or in the church’s youth club because I just participate in the program with the other children/young adults. I was a little bummed that I can’t independently help middle schoolers with their English homework because I don’t have the Hungarian words to make sure they understand what the English words mean. (Don’t get me wrong. I know I’m making a difference, but sometimes it’s hard to see when you’re used to doing “a lot more” and when you’re in a cross-cultural setting not doing what you’re used to.)
Then, I was reminded, mid-thought, that “God’s work” isn’t just the physical labor that I listed above or something you just clock in and out of.
“God’s work” is “to love”. Two words with a lot of importance and meanings.
I realized I’m doing God’s work with my hands when I:
-wash the dishes so my második mámá doesn’t have to do them later
-hold a child’s hand as we walk into our religious lesson together
-frantically point to the things I don’t know the Hungarian word for because I want the child to know that a language barrier doesn’t always have to be overcome with another person who knows both languages
-wave to the woman across the way that is yelling “Hey! Hey!” and the people I’m with are just staring at her
-type back responses to my students who message me because they want to practice their English
-pull the covers over me at night because I know I need to go to bed early (because we are called to love ourselves, too)
Now, I know the following Bible verses are well-known, making it easy to overlook the importance behind each of the words. But, friends, this is the love we are called to take part in:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” -1 Corinthians 13:4-7
While I struggle recognizing and explaining to people “what I’m doing here”, my reflection on the ELCA’s motto is being remolded everyday. To that, I am thankful.