I am a worker in the vineyard of the Lord in a bona fide way; I work at the Catholic Church. That certainly does not imply that only those who work in churches are in the vineyard, no, the world is the vineyard and there is lots to do in every corner of it. What I mean specifically is that often times the sheep come to this part of the vineyard when they are actively seeking the Master. In other words, I am occasionally a bridge along the pathway of the road that leads to the Shepherd.
Youth ministry was my initial passageway into church work, but these days I have graduated and now work with adults who are preparing for a marriage or convalidating one. At first I assumed I would have to learn a whole new catechetical lingo to speak effectively with adults after eleven years of working with teens. Not so. Many adults are sadly still adolescents in their faith education, and it is important to meet them where they are at.
The other thing that I have noticed is that there are just as many hurting souls in need of a listening ear and a clarifying tongue. In an article I wrote a few years back called “A Receptive Instrument,” I shared a few examples of this kind of ministry from a youth minister’s perspective. Listening is still a big part of what I do, especially as a marriage minister and as an individual willing to take time to hear the various narratives that are a part of our human journey.
I have always been about production as a means of measuring my worth and how I filled the hours of my days. As parents we ask our kids, “What did you do today?” We ask our spouses the same thing when they return home from work and I imagine most of the conversations around Happy Hours contain these same elements. We are more akin at times, to be human doings rather than human beings.
What I learned a few years back after reading Katrina Zeno’s book, Every Woman’s Journey, has been instrumental in the way I define my time. In fact, it gives me a whole new outlook on a different kind of productivity that cannot be measured; fruitfulness. Let me explain. When I take time from being productive to listen to someone who needs advice, encouragement, or loving support, I am being fruitful. Willingly entering into another’s deepest pain is sharing the raw reality of the human experience. It is a place where trust in God, empathy and love are the tools that help navigate the darkness bringing light and hope that dissipates despair.
This week has been very fruitful. You can’t manufacture, construct, or fabricate this kind of labor. It is not something you seek out. There is nothing to tabulate, ship, or shelve. Its effects may never be known, the results of your efforts may not bear fruit for decades.
Ah, but God knows, God sees, and God magnifies the little work we do in this arena to produce efficacious results.
The really amazing aspect I finally discovered is that all those aspects of life that make us crazy or make us ask why, and all the presumably needless suffering we encounter are just more resources we can use in this kind of work. I cannot tell you the amount of experiences that, at the time, I begged God to take away or to lessen, which turned out to be the very salve necessary to help mend another. It is a miraculous gift to behold. I don’t have to buy it, make it, or search the world for it. “It” is God’s pure and free gift to us, and for us, to share with our brothers and sisters.
Wow, what a generous and perfect present. So personal, so real it is almost tangible. Yet, you cannot wrap it up and sell it or clone it. Our pain is their gain, but not just theirs, all of ours as children of the Father and heirs to heaven.
So when you are in the midst of confusion, doubt, despair, and hopelessness, do not recede into yourself; reach out. We are here for one another and we have the balm that soothes until that time in which we meet the Great Physician who can make us permanently whole again.