The clock will soon strike “lunchtime” on the final work day of the week. I’m racing to complete as much as I can before the natural tides of distraction come and sweep me away, causing me to shift gears to a newly mandated task. My headphones and fantastically flowing Disney playlist can delay the inevitable but cannot delete it. “Hey Eni,” the call comes, “do you have 10 minutes?” Yes… yes, indeed I do. I find a stopping point and relocate to join the interim director and my fellow youth office Fellow amongst the cardstock, copier and creative thoughts strewn across the whiteboards in the back.
Unaware of what conversation is to come, I prepare myself for another in-depth check-in; it seems I’m not too far off, considering his opening statements. The question is raised on how we feel about our positions having been nearly four weeks in the office. I look to my peer. She looks to me and we stare each other down to see who will break the silence and answer first. I win this round. She looks to him and opens on what her experience has been, highlighting the mountains and quickly, yet fully, trekking through the valleys. Neatly, she wraps her words without missing a beat and finishes without forgetting to put the bow on top. Beautifully done, friend. I listen to his response and follow up questions to gauge what level of honesty he is truly seeking, so I will know the level of honesty with which to respond. My turn has come but I’m in no hurry to make a point.
Five minutes beyond the 10 minute marker, I find myself entrenched in a discussion on my gifts and passions. All of this was in response to his questioning what we would like to be able to say we gained upon completing 9 months in the office. I share not only the areas where I would like to invest but the areas within myself that I believe are desperate for investment. Yet, some part of me felt silly for saying, “I’m gifted in this area” or “I’m really strong in that area” as if I was concerned that understanding myself would be confused for narcissism. He looks at me, almost reading my thoughts, and says, “well, the good thing is you know yourself’.
Reading Exodus 35 almost excites me and calms me all at once. The first, most satisfying theme that rings within this passage is the truth that we are not made by accident or created on a whim. Repeatedly, the passage states that God “has filled them” with certain gifts. Not only did he fill them with those gifts but he also gave them the ability to execute or utilize those gifts in a certain way. For example, some were given the ability to teach their gifts to others. For so long, considering a vocation seemed almost daunting because there were so many things I loved to do and I didn’t know how to choose. I wrote some off as childish hobbies and cherished those abilities that were more celebrated in society or certain social groups. This passage absolutely obliterates any such belief! I have been given a love for the work I love purposefully.
Also, I find it interesting that those who gave to the tabernacle were not just those who had the ability but also those who felt a stirring within their heart. I first read that as work being the product of God moving one’s heart. Then, I saw it as the women mentioned in verse 26 simply responding to God’s love for them. That definition is exactly what I’ve learned worship to be. It is so very easy to feel worn out by Sunday at 4 pm right when youth group is about to begin. The day began at 8 am with Sunday school and with no break between service and setup and “go-time”, it just seems overwhelming. Yet, I was challenged in this verse to seek the Holy Spirit to stir within my heart and exist within this space of worship. The reality is, I don’t know what that looks like.
My current struggle is to understand how to express fatigue and find support without falling into complaining or self-pity. At times, I feel like it is healthy to have a sister or brother within a work space that I can share my heart with and be challenged or prayed for, etc. Yet, sharing is often met with “well, you know that’s just how things go,” or “well, it’s all good. Thank God anyhow.” You almost feel dirty having a moment of fatigue because you are barraged with questions surrounding your low energy. Rather than allowing me to setup in silence while taking that time to prepare my mind through reflection, I’m almost always met with cries to “get exciteddddddd!” … Man can’t live off of fake energy alone. Sometimes, I need to step away and reconnect with the Lord, allowing that stirring to take over the work that I do.
Finally, in Exodus 36:1 it states that the workers were called to do the work “according to all that the Lord had commanded”. It goes on to say that there was so much work being done that they actually had to ask the people to stop bringing things for the tabernacle. That spoke to me about the heart of the people bringing gifts and the heart of the workers who were stewarding the gifts.
On one side, there is an overwhelming movement by the people to satisfy the Lord through the abilities He has gifted to them. On the other side, there seems to be a desire to do the work just as the Lord had commanded – a sense of obedience. Through that obedience came resourcefulness, humility, selflessness, etc. They operated within the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit was produced. I’m coming to realize that God called me to be faithful to the work not successful at the work. Through my faithfulness, God will be able to refine me through the Spirit that will flow through me and into his people. I just have to stay faithful, aim to satisfy the Lord with my abilities, and remain obedient to the Spirit.
Eni Coker works in youth ministry at The Falls Church Anglican in Falls Church, VA and is a member of the 2016-2017 class of The Falls Church Fellows.