Happy Monday to you all! First off, I want to thank you guys for all the wonderful feedback received since publishing the blog last week. It’s been a huge encouragement to hear how some of you have already been impacted by this little offering, so thank you for your kind words and even just for reading! It means a whole lot while I’m just starting out on this journey. Now, onto the next…
Alongside my job as a worship leader, I’ve been working at a cafe here in Miami for almost 2 years. I started out as a server (how we refer to our wait staff), and then was trained as a barista about a year into working. Let me start by saying how much I’ve enjoyed this! First off, coffee is one of my unbeatable vices, in the best way possible. Truly an addiction. I’m not sorry. Secondly, I could probably write a whole separate post on my experience learning about coffee, and what the process has taught me about creating something delicious by manipulating the dosage, time, temperature, etc. all in order to bring out the best the coffee has to offer on any given day…but I’ll save that for another time.
Today I want to talk about something a little more mundane: cleaning. I know, how exciting is that? But just hang with me…I promise we’re going somewhere with this.
The cafe I work for has two locations, one a little further south and therefore a little bit closer and easier to get to in the mornings; the other, just out of the way enough to take twice as long to drive to and from where I live. And if you’ve ever driven in Miami during rush hour, you know that can be the difference between a 20-30 minute drive and an hour-long commute. I’m usually scheduled at the south location, so needless to say, when I found out I’d be working at the other location for awhile, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to that daily daunting drive.
Another thing I should note: when there are no coffees to make or customers to attend to, I’m usually cleaning and organizing. (Quick confession, because I can hear my boss laughing as I write this: Nowadays I’m usually cleaning. If we’re being honest, some of us used to have iPhone attachment issues that our bosses had to nip in the bud. Not naming names. It was me.) Having spent most of my time at our south location, I’d put in a fair amount of hours developing a system I liked, keeping things organized, deep cleaning areas of the barista station little by little over time. I grew pretty proud of that station. It’s sort of become my baby.
When I walked into our other location this past week, the barista station looked functional, but gradually I started finding cleaning projects here and there behind the barista bar to work on during the down time. And as I was dusting shelves, polishing surfaces and scrubbing down equipment, something funny began to happen. The place I hadn’t been looking forward to spending my whole week—further away from home and away from my established systems—was beginning to become another one of my babies, so to speak. I found myself taking pride in what little I was able to accomplish in just one shift, even looking forward to continuing when I returned later in the week. I think this is why I grew to love my other station, or even how I grow to love my own home over time. As I’ve put work and care into these places, the more I want to continue tending to them and making them functional, hospitable places to work and live and invite people into.
This got me thinking: the more we tend to and care for something, the more we grow to love it. The more we love something, the more we’re driven to tend to and care for it.
Think about a mom and her new baby. I always hear new moms talk about how they couldn’t have imagined the amount of love they immediately felt upon welcoming their new little one into their lives. Not only that, but she is immediately tasked with constant care for a tiny human who can’t take care of him or herself. For most moms under normal circumstances, this task is met without question, because hey, she made that little baby, and endured a LOT to bring them into the world! And as she feeds and bathes and clothes her little one, that immediate love born on day one only grows stronger, and so does her drive to care for and protect him or her. A labor (no pun intended, I think) that begins in love also increases love, and is fueled by it.
I think the supreme example of this labor of love is found in Jesus. If you want to talk about the heart of a servant, who’s labor begins and ends with and perpetuates love, I have found that His heart is it. One of the sweetest images to me is when I think about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet the night he was betrayed, a mere day before he would complete the ultimate labor of love on the cross. John 13 starts off the telling of this story by saying that Jesus already knew what was coming next. Yet even still:
“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
And then we see Jesus get up from the table and begin washing the feet of the disciples. They’re all kind of like “Are you for real Jesus? You’re Jesus. Why are you stooping down to wash our nasty feet?” And Jesus responds recognizing that they still, even having followed him all this time, don’t understand what he’s doing–not just in that moment, I think, but the whole heart behind what he was to complete the following day on the cross. I can almost hear the desperation when Jesus asks the disciples, “Do you understand what I have done?” (John 13:12). He desperately wants them to know that what is to happen over the next twenty-four hours is a labor of love for them and the whole world. So he washes their feet—even the feet of the disciple who would betray him—to provide an image of servanthood to compare to His final work on the cross, and to call them into the same ministry of servanthood towards each other, in imitation of himself (John 13:14-15).
Why? Jesus says, “I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he” (John 13:19). He wants the disciples to see through himself the truth of who God is and how much He loves and cares for them through his acts of service to them. He physically walked with them and taught them, he washed their feet, he would soon die on a cross and rise again to complete this ultimate work of sacrificial love…all so that they (we) can be in relationship with Him.
How CRAZY is that?? What Jesus did here on earth was to cleanse us, inside and out, so that we could draw near to the Father. He tends to and cares for us continually, cleansing us and shaping us into the people he made us to be, not because he needs us, not because we’re amazing people, not because we’ve earned anything…but because he truly and deeply loves us, and desires to be near us.
What’s even crazier is, He continually invites us to participate in His redemptive work. This can happen in big ways and little ways. I think even in the most mundane of tasks, we can be glorifying Him, if our hearts are in tune with what He has already done.
So the next time you’re doing the dishes after your family dinner, bathing your little baby, scrubbing down your station at work or picking up after your kids, pay attention. Pay attention to what happens in your heart as you continually tend to these things. I know firsthand how easy it is for these things to grow burdensome, how easily we become resentful or feel under-appreciated…for some of us this is a constant battle, and I don’t want to minimize the realities of that. But I think through the power of prayer, if we allow ourselves to view these things as a way to display God’s love and affection, fueled by his Spirit, you’ll start to see how that love begins to grow in you.
So let our service to one another be an echo of how much greater the Father’s love for us must be. The lengths he has already gone to are evidence enough of this. It is out of his servant’s heart for us that we can turn around and pour out a labor of love on others.
There’s a framed quote hanging up in one of the cafes where I work. It comes from Galatians 6: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) Amen.
I pray you find encouragement in this today. As always, feel free to leave a comment below or reach out here, and make sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss a single post! You can also follow me and share this post and others on Facebook and Twitter. I’d truly love to hear how you are finding beauty and creativity in the chaos of your lives, your stories, and what God is showing you in the midst of it all.
For God’s glory,