I distinctly remember peeling dozens of carrots one day and feeling a deep, purpose-conscious satisfaction.
It was in August 2012 and I had just started working at an afterschool programme for children who were either infected with or affected by HIV, and I knew that these carrots might well be the only healthy food the 30 kids would eat that day.
Of course, this wasn´t only about peeling carrots. The joy, motivation and commitment I felt went beyond feeding children vitamins. Yes, it even went beyond the feeling that I was doing something useful, helpful, selfless – “good”.
Good deeds alone neither satisfy nor save us.
It wasn´t what I was doing that gave me this ridiculous joy about preparing vegetables – it wasn´t who I was, but was what I was part of.
I had been born again into the Kingdom of God through labours of repentance, had gasped for my first breaths of faith, had been bathed in waters of baptism, had been fed and filled with Holy Spirit and had taken my first shaky steps of obedience that had taken me to a carrot-laden kitchen counter in a South African township.
I was – and am – saying with Paul that I am a servant of Christ Jesus. God chose me to be sent by other believers to a place away from my home, and he appointed me to preach the good news that he promised long ago by what his prophets said in the Holy Scriptures. This good news is about his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! As a human, he was from the family of David. But the Holy Spirit proved that Jesus is the powerful Son of God, because he was raised from death. Jesus was kind to me and chose me to be sent with the specific task to show and tell unbelievers what His kingdom and character looks like, so that people of all nations would obey and have faith (see Rom 1:1-5).
That´s why I felt what I felt cutting carrots! I had joy (because isn´t it thrilling, satisfying, purpose-giving to be the servant of the King of the universe?), humility (because I knew I was part of something bigger than myself), and deep gratitude (because I knew that my contentment had nothing to do with anything I could do or achieve myself).
I had those same feelings coming home from a dinner with friends last weekend.
We had sat around a fire, our conversations repeatedly interrupted by a tired silence, the week weighing heavily on the tongues and shoulders of most of us.
We spoke about past holidays and upcoming decisions concerning babies, houses and jobs. Later we touched on politics and social justice. After dinner we spoke about wine and childhood memories. Nothing extraordinary, really.
What was extraordinary, however, were the words that our friend prayed before we had our food:
“May Your Kingdom come through us.”
God´s Kingdom. Where we find our purpose and position in the presence of God´s rule in our lives and the promise of His coming universal government. Where the experience of His goodness enables us to do good and where the participation in His power makes us humble world-changers, whatever our job description.
My friend Sarah is flying to India this month to be a dance instructor for Jesus-seekers. My friend Carmen works hard at her desk every day this week to finish her assignments which are part of her studies to become a teacher. My friend Helga mothers her five children and is day nanny to five more. My brother quit his studies because he doesn´t want to have a job that does his wallet good but destroys his soul. Hanno´s sister paints. Last week she sat on our couch and explained: “That´s worship to me.” His other sister is part of the team that leads a Missions- and Discipleship Training in Pretoria. Among uncounted other jobs she gives cooking instructions and makes sure everyone in her team has access to the internet.
That´s the kind of things you do in the Kingdom of God.
In the Kingdom of God you peel carrots and it makes sense and satisfies.
In the Kingdom of God you don´t have to worry about tomorrow´s paycheck and yesterday´s deadline (which doesn´t necessarily mean that there aren´t any paychecks or deadlines, but they are neither motivation nor threat).
In the Kingdom of God you can rest in the presence of your King while you toil for a manifestation of His characteristics in the broken world around you.
How exciting. What a privilege. May we never forget that as we speak and think about past holidays and upcoming decisions concerning babies, houses and jobs, politics and social justice and even as we chat about wine and childhood memories.
May His Kingdom come through us.