I am blessed to have three children ages 11, 9, and 5. Ever since they were old enough to hold a crayon and scribble on paper they have loved to present their works of art to me saying, “Look what I made for you daddy!” Like fathers everywhere I would respond with an overly enthusiastic, “Wow!! It’s amazing! I love it!” followed by a big hug. I would then hang this new masterpiece in a place of prominence on the refrigerator or display it proudly on my desk. From my perspective as their loving father these were indeed incredible masterpieces, however to the casual passer by they were simply scribbles on a piece of paper.
Some of my favorite mornings are Saturday mornings, when I awake before the rest of my family has gotten out of bed. I enjoy sitting on the porch or on the couch sipping a cup of coffee, reading the newspaper, or simply pondering what the day will bring. Then inevitably I hear the pitter-patter of feet as one of my children comes wandering out of their room wiping the sleep out of their eyes. As they crawl up on my lap, we sit. We may talk about the day, how their week at school was, what they dreamed about, or whatever is on their mind. But mostly, we sit. We simply are together in the quiet of the morning before the day’s activities sweep us away. As much as I love to receive the works of art my children lovingly create for me I would much rather simply be with them as we sit and ponder the day.
Our staff theme this year in Costa Rica is “Being must precede doing.” You see, we are in the midst of a year where there is much to do. There are ministry sites to run, new programs to launch, funds to raise, and semester programs and outreaches to facilitate. As happens in cross-cultural missions we have staff members who have completed their commitments and are planning the next phase of their lives. We have others who are excitedly preparing to come and begin their time serving with us. Yet, in the meantime, we have a gap between when one leaves and the next one arrives in which there are additional tasks and responsibilities that must be covered. There is much to do.
Our North American culture thrives on doing and getting things done. We often find our value in what we do as opposed to who we are. One of the first questions we ask each other in social gatherings is, “What do you do?” Yet as I look at Jesus’ life and his interaction with the disciples he called them first to be with him and then to do. Mark 3:13-15 reads, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” Jesus prioritized spending time with the disciples and being with them and then he sent them out to do.
So often in my life and ministry I get it backwards. I am busy scribbling on a piece of paper to present my “masterpiece” to God, when he is longing for me to climb up on his lap to be with him. He longs to form and shape me into the person he desires me to become. He desires to share his heart with me and to place it within me, so that my heart may beat like his and may be broken by the things that break his heart. He longs to form my being so that we can then go and do together. Then as we move through the day and take on the various tasks that face us an amazing thing happens. He works through us and transforms our scribbles on paper into a masterpiece.