Not long ago I found myself feeling more than a little overwhelmed about a number of things. Starting seminary later in life, adjusting to rigorous memorization, financial concerns, and being far from home were among the many reasons for my new-found angst. I felt like a stranger in a strange land, much like the Israelites wandering in the desert. I felt lost, alone and afraid and the kind “it will all be okay” remarks, while encouraging, were not helping.
I decided to reveal my frustrations to someone I barely knew, but whose wise spiritual counsel I sensed I could trust. He listened, shared his advice and experiences, and prayed with me. That is where the transformation happened. As we joined hands in prayer, God’s presence was revealed. At the end of the prayer we sat in silence, still holding hands because the prayer was not finished. It was God’s turn to talk. As the pastor’s clasp grew increasing tighter in mine, it felt as if they were no longer his hands, but God’s hands. The tighter the grip became, the more I could hear God saying “Hold onto me as tight as you have to; I won’t ever leave you. Don’t be afraid. I’m right here.” Every time I feel afraid, I picture and feel God’s hands in mine and I am filled with peace and confidence – not my own abilities, but in God’s. God worked through that pastor that day to speak to me.
God works through each of us in the same way. Our actions don’t have to be big and we may not even realize that God is using us at a particular moment, but that may very well be the case. A friend recently knew I needed chairs for my apartment, so he continued to look out for stray chairs for me, often taking the time to fix them so they would be usable. He didn’t have to take the time to do that, but in doing so, he was carrying out God’s work and showing me not only that he cared for my needs, but that more importantly God cared.
The tag line for the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is God’s Work, Our Hands. What this means is that God’s work is carried out by us. We are the means by which God’s message is revealed. Jesus walked this earth over 2000 years ago, preaching, teaching, and healing, but his mission continues through us today. Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) He was referring to clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned…caring for one another. Whenever we care for someone else, we care for Christ and He in turn is revealed through us. As Christians we are called to carry out the work of Christ each and every day.
Mother Theresa said that we show Christ “not in big things, but in small things done with great love.” The small things we do may, in fact, be big things to someone else and the collective small things add up to form something big. What each of us does has a ripple effect that goes far beyond what we can see. A drop of water in a glass does not fill it, but a multitude of drops fills it to overflowing. The small acts of compassion we show to one are the very substance of what fills someone’s cup to overflowing.
When you sit and really listen to someone rather than just brushing them off, when you stop in the hallway to talk to your neighbor rather than quickly walking into your apartment, when you send someone a quick email just to say you are thinking of them and praying for them, or share a meal with someone, you are doing God’s work. You are spreading the Gospel in a personal way and bringing God’s message of love and grace to that person. Your seemingly small actions may be the very way that God speaks to someone. That handshake, that touch of compassion may very well be a direct lifeline straight to God. Make a space for grace and let God’s work be done -through your hands today.