From orientation, I've heard the phrase "ministry of being versus ministry of doing" repeated over and over. Initially, I was confused by what exactly it meant; did it merely entail me sitting around and smiling? Honestly, "being" sounded boring and useless. My pride even pushed it aside as something for others - but not me. As a pre-med students, allI know is the latter; all I know is "doing." I thrive in production, in working towards results, in achieving a tangible success.
The extent of how deeply I found my identity in my work was revealed to me when Janna, our director, proposed a powerful question to me: If I became paralyzed or lost my cognitive abilities, would I still believe God loved and valued me the same way, even though I couldn't do anything tangible for the kingdom, but "be." The idea was jarring and uncomfortable, yet convicting. And it pushed me to face another idol in my life: an idolatry of my deeds - my desire to do something valuable, my desire to have reached a notable result.
As Janna continued to teach me, if I don't fully believe that, I hit a huge hypocritical wall when I minister to individuals in slum communities who, according to the standards I put for myself, don't "do" anything. How can I look at them and promise them they are fully worthy of God's abundant love, if I myself fail to live in that truth? Furthermore, if I change my standards for them, I am completely stripping them of their dignity and making myself superior.
As I continued with my summer, I realized my desire to "do" also translated into my flawed conception of God. I've learned that I'm not much different than the Jews who were frustrated about Jesus being a Messiah that did not overthrow the oppressive governments. In the same way, I crave to see a Savior who will fix and redeem the horrible, entrenched systems of oppression in play today. I want a Savior who does something. My own addiction to production was informing the way I saw Jesus.
I praise God because He refuses to let His children, to let me, sit in my sin, but uses His people and His Word to draw me towards His true character - not my construction of Him. During a team time, we came across prophet Isaiah's challenging words: "Woe...to those who say 'Let God hurry, let Him hasten His work so that we may see it; let it approach, let the plan of the Holy One of Israel come, so that we may see it.'" - Isaiah 5:19
I crumbled - that is exactly my attitude. I entered this summer with entitlement burring through my fingers. I craved to do something worthwhile, to have a summer "worth" my fundraised $3800, to have a flashy mission-trip-story to tell everyone back home. On a larger scale, I yearn for God to come and restore all the cruel systems in place already. In reality, I spent most of my summer sitting with my grandma (grandmas really love to sit and stare). I simply did life with her, helping her with laundry, cleaning her house, cutting vegetables, massaging her sore feet, wheelchairing her to the park, and other ordinary tasks - trying not to be a burden in the process. I had many moments when I felt useless and even like this summer was a waste of my time. But I'm finally seeing how much I needed those moments. In the stillness, in the boredom, in the "being," Christ convicted me of my idol of "doing."
Even more so, God reminded me of who He is - a suffering, servant King. Although I Desire to see a Savior who can instantly dismantle the economic, political, and social systems of oppression - the God of the Bible actually did something more powerful. Our God entered the systems and let himself be oppressed. He pursued a ministry that was grounded in "being" - being with the tax collectors, the widows, the orphans, the prostitutes, the poor, the sick, the marginalized. God could have destroyed us or fixed everything; yet He chose to be broken, to suffer, and to be with us. Woe to me for wanting to see results, woe to me for seeking knowledge of His plan. And woe to me for worshipping my own hands instead of his.
As I leave Mami Noi's house, I'm amazed at the oceans I've learned by "being" with her. I have a newfound meaning of "Be still and know I am God" and I've learned the glorious comfort of having a God who chooses to suffer with us instead of solely solving problems for us. Christ is showing me life will be full of moments when I crumble in His correcting light; yet even in those moments I remain basking in His unfailing love and cascading grace.