Humility is the word that has dominated my thoughts for the past few weeks.
The story of my Fellows year thus far is one of having rash preconceptions replaced by careful observations that more often than not result in deep breaths and a dose of humility. Rinse. Repeat. In almost every area of my life as it is today I can think of examples of when I have taken for granted a skill or made a quick assumption that has had to be reformulated at a later time. The most poignant example would perhaps be with my job serving as the Volunteer and Student Coordinator at Faith Family Medical Center (FFMC). FFMC exists to help those who are uninsured or underinsured access healthcare in the greater Nashville community. It operates much like any other doctor’s office, yet we never require insurance and our patients pay on a sliding scale of $20-$55 to see a provider with lab work included. As someone who has seen her fair share of doctors, the fact that people who need healthcare and cannot afford it can get help here is comforting and intriguing. I am all too familiar with the fear that is attached to managing the effects of a chronic disease and navigating the often-overwhelming maze of doctors, specialists, appointments, insurance, and medications. My specific job, though, at the beginning set me back on my heels. I had not expected to be working behind the computer as much as I was, and often I felt as though whole days were passing without doing anything of obvious or tangible significance. This feeling is akin to hell for me in a way, and doing tedious tasks without human interaction makes me antsy and irritable. Time passed, though, and I began to see the bigger picture behind Faith Family and the day-to-day workings of a clinic. My perspective slowly shifted and I understood that any contribution I made during the workday ultimately added to the success of their mission. I had the privilege to care for the people who are the backbone of our society—the Uber drivers, the construction workers, the small business owners. Was I excited about looking up 500 patients phone numbers and appointment dates in our patient database by hand? No. But that contribution meant that 500 more patients would know about Chronic Disease Days, where they could get over $1,000 worth of medical care for free.
With that change in perspective work shifted from meaningless to meaningful. Reorienting myself with the greater mission inspired a new sense of drive and purpose. In many of the same ways God calls us to reorient our worldview to inspire that sense of drive and purpose in everything we do. The Book of Ecclesiastes documents this juxtaposition referring to meaningless, earthly work as “under the sun” emphasizing the sweat, toil, and tears. In my opinion one of the most beautiful portrayals of what it means to live and work as a Christian , Ecclesiastes says:
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 1:2-3
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
A life that is lived under the sun is empty, exhausting, and toilsome. The only glimmer of hope to Solomon, the author, is the prospect of a sovereign God. The promise of heavenly reward and working for a purpose changes every facet of the daily grind. It adds a deeper meaning that saturates each action of the worker. Through Christ we are made for stewardship, for creation, and for good works.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it…the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.” Genesis 2:15-20
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10
The Gospel makes each and every job relevant if it is done to the glory of God. What we, as humans, deem significant and prestigious is often antithetical to what God deems significant and prestigious. They expected a king on the throne but got a baby in a manger. The reality of my work this year, contributing to the kingdom of God, is something that I need to be told over and over again because too often I forget. Scott Sauls, pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church here in Nashville, reminded us at the beginning of the year, “In the Kingdom of God, a small thing is no small thing.”
This year has humbled me in a way that I was truly not expecting. At Faith Family I have seen the beauty of a well-ordered spreadsheet and the value in a single task done well. As a Fellow, I've learned to cherish the little moments we have together as a group. Dinner with my host family has become a favorite time of my week. I believe that as I learn more about God’s character and who he created me to be, my ability to see the beauty and value in the invaluable increases.