Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A parable from real life

Photo by liensal of sxc.huLast week, a young community-brother and I repaved the patio at the back of our house. (Those who know me may exclaim ‘What! James shovelling sand and mixing mortar? James lifting heavy slabs? James soiling his manicured writer’s hands?’ But it’s true. We even have photos to prove it.)

I was the labourer, my young brother the skilled tradesman. In the course of our work, I had to shovel several barrow loads of hardcore gravel into the wheelbarrow and round the side of the house to the worksite. At one point, my five-year-old son, desperate to be a ‘builder’, arrived at my side to help. He brought his plastic toy spade. And he started to shovel.

For each large shovel-load of hardcore I piled into that wheelbarrow, he contributed a few grains. He was proud of his achievement; and I was really happy to have him working at my side – because he’s my son and I love him.

Later, thinking about this, it dawned on me how very much this is like God and us. We may talk grandiloquently about ‘building the church’ or our ‘ministry’, but do we really think we’re helping God? In one sense, we’re not ‘helping’ him in the slightest. He is building his church. Our contribution is like a few gravel grains in a plastic spade next to his almighty shovel.

And yet... I believe God is happy to have us working at his side. We’re his children, you see, and he loves us. We really can help him. The work certainly doesn’t depend on our contribution (thank God), however much we may feel it does. Stressed-out strivers (like me) do well to remember it.

Yet God loves to call us his fellow-labourers. He loves to have us by his side, in the heat of the day, doing our bit. He loves us to feel satisfied with our achievements. In fact – he just loves us.

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