It’s all spiritual. Sure, some things seem more spiritual than others. Speaking in a church service seems much more spiritual than cleaning up after a church service. Going to Haiti seems more spiritual than going across the street to your neighbors. Leading a bible study may seem more spiritual than simply listening closely to the struggles of a co-worker. But in the end, it is all spiritual.
What I mean is God has called us to live our lives with spiritual eyes. We are called to recognize that not all of us are meant to be preachers, some are meant to clean the church. But does that give one greater value over the other? Some of us may never do missions in a Third World nation, but does that make ministry to your neighbor less important? Listening with empathy and compassion is one of the lost ministry tools in our culture today. We want to fix and move on. Sometimes god calls us to slow down and listen.
While I was in Haiti this spring, we had a dental hygienist who came in for two weeks to clean teeth. Now I am not crazy about dentist or dental work, but Carla loves it. Every day, usually for 8-10 hours, she was scraping gunk of teeth of people who, more often than not, had never visited a dentist. They would come, lie on the table and she would begin the grueling task of removing plaque and stuff from people’s mouths.
As you can imagine, people who have never seen a dentist have a ton of stuff on their teeth. And it requires muscle and patience to get it off. And typically there was blood. Lots of blood! I mean blood for days!! I know because to get to my room I had to walk past Carla and her patients; typically as one was spitting in a cup. By the end of the week I wanted to wear a HAZMAT suit.
But Carla just kept working and smiling. She was sweating, getting cramps in her back, and occasionally getting to meals after everyone had eaten. But she just kept cleaning teeth and smiling.
I had several conversations with Carla over her time at the mission. I asked her why she came all the way from Ohio at her own expense to clean teeth. Her reply was so humbling. “This is how I can serve.”
It is easy for me to have a “spiritual attitude” about my job. I am the Mission Pastor. I work with Haitian pastors, deal with sick people, keep our staff moving forward spiritually and help churches in America have the privilege of serving in Haiti. And I am easily brought to a place of being a ministry snob. My job is only as valuable as God decides it will be. I can’t change anyone’s eternity. I can’t fix broken lives and bodies. Only God can accomplish what needs to be accomplished.
I have this feeling that Carla feels more accomplished in her role of cleaning teeth in Haiti than I will ever imagine. She got to love on people, pray with people, and provide practical help for people. And she did it with a joy that could only come from God.
My question for us is simple, “How can we serve?” In the end that is the only requirement God calls us to as we share his love with others. And it is all spiritual.