Well, I guess I should say that I run about as well as I garden. I can call myself a runner because I try the same way that I can call myself a gardener because of the number of hours I've spent pulling out weeds. Neither titles are related to a quality end product, just from the actual grind that occurs day to day.
I say that I run. I put on running clothes, tie up my running shoes and head out the door. I start running and in the back of my head I wonder if anyone is drinking their morning coffee, looking out the window and upon seeing me wonder if there's something wrong with me. Kind of like that bird that has a funny wing at the park pond, that's me running.
The question that I have is why are labels so important. I've clearly shown with my exercise and my yard that a person label does not necessarily get you an end product that you desire. Even though I'm a runner, I don't like how slow I run. And even though I'm a gardener, I can't stand my garden beds.
I recently read an article about crafting your skills, it's lost in the bowels of the internet at this point, but the idea was that you have good taste and that's why you know that right now, while you're learning how to do something that what you're doing sucks.
That's right, my work right now is not anything worthy of flaunting or displaying or showing off in anyway. In a lot of ways it should be done in the dark, away from human consumption. I don't have that luxury, and I doubt that you have that luxury, too. We have to make our way in the light. We have to work out what we're striving for in the light of day in the presence of others. Sometimes lots of others. Sometimes, we sneak by with just a few random strangers witnessing our feeble attempts.
Our salvation is a lot like my running and gardening. We know that we aren't living the life that shows perfection. We might have moments to be proud of, but overall, when we look at the big picture we can see that as far as we've come, there's still a lot of room for improvement. And we don't get to do that improving in a dark alley somewhere, in most cases, we are center stage (and we should be center stage in our own life but that's another thought for another day). All of our stumbles, missteps, babbled lines are being witnessed. Sometimes it's by those that care for us and encourage us to keep going; other times not so much.
I have the title of Christian. And if I'm brutally honest with myself, it doesn't mean much in the daily grind, because I'm not spending my every day living out the Christian ideal. Or at least not the one created by humanity. You know the one I'm talking about. The one that sounds an awful lot like a Mother Theresa biography, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, housing the orphan and widow. I just don't have access to that population on a daily basis. I could change my life, give up everything that I have an go find it. That's not what God has asked me to do though and like I said, that life is created by humanity as being the penultimate Christian. So what does it mean for me to wear that label. It's in my opinion a much more difficult road to walk. I have to love and care for people that feel secure and safe in their lives.
I have been placed in a location where families have been providing for themselves and caring for themselves for several generation. Poverty and physical need are not a recent part of their family history. They still need though. It's more difficult to recognize that need and even more so to admit that need openly out in the public square. So the majority of my ministry as Christian doesn't look so fancy as that human ideal. I don't get to the end of the day and say "I got to feed 100 people and gave clothes to 42 and tonight 5 people are not on the street because of my work today." I get to the end of the day and I have information. Prayer fodder really. I spend my ministry praying. Praying for all those silent quiet needs that we don't share with one another in public. The moments together one on one, even if they're occurring in the midst of large crowds. So that work that I do doesn't look fancy, it doesn't always have a tangible "saved" count at the end of the day, but it's how I'm working out my label with Christ.
When you go about your day today and you start to think about all your labels, especially the ones that you haven't perfected, just remember that sometimes work doesn't always resemble results.