It’s a Labor of Love

imagesWhen I was in junior high, I started mowing the grass for my dad at his nursing home, which he owned. I took seven hours to mow those many acres. Ah, but I got it down to four. I’d put in my Sony Walkman and crank up my Bruce Hornsby tapes, and I’d stick that mower in fourth gear and never ever go any slower. So I missed a few spots? I only stopped to get my 15-minute soda break every hour, and then back at it. Working like a dog. Sticking it to the man, the man who was my dad.

When I was in college, I worked at a swimming pool store one summer. I did a few other odds and ends jobs, but my main task was to fill 10-gallon chlorine buckets from the towering vat and the spigot in the basement. I’d carry them up to the front door and load them into the customers. I was Gollum down there, rafting over to the spigot, speaking in third person, hawking up loogies, singing to myself, breathing all that noxious gas.

When I was in Lincoln that one brief year, I was allowed to work for UPS during the Christmas rush from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I was in town to work with college students, but they were almost finished, so I could make a few hundred bucks by doing this. I’d get on the truck at 6am in the freezing cold, and we’d run packages to doorsteps all day long. When the truck was empty, we were finished. My driver Todd and I talked about life, and I felt a super satisfaction when it was all finished each day. I could substantiate my work, and Todd told me I did a great job.

I still labor. I’m not mowing. I don’t touch chlorine and I don’t work for UPS. I’ve had other jobs besides those and some have been great and others have been terrible.

Now I get to study the Bible, write sermons and preach each week. This is a 15-page research paper that is delivered every week.

I sit and talk with people in counseling. I hear about their doubts and worries, their critiques of me and our church, and their confessions as they tell me about the days and weeks and lives of sin and shame. I get to tell them that Jesus loves them and there is grace.

I plan. I plan and try to recruit people to that plan or to make a new plan and help me with that. We organize and scheme. We rework and retool. We’re putting together CityGroups, worship services, parties and events. We’re trying to build a place where people can tell their stories of rescue and purpose.

It’s exhausting! Put me on a mower! Maybe I’d rather be the packhorse for the chlorine or the UPS boxes.

No. It’s an amazing privilege to get to be a pastor, and one that I feel very blessed to do. I was the closest person to Ben and Megan when they gave their vows together, and I was there for a front row seat along the way in their relationship as well. When Mary Rachel told her story of rescue in church last night, I had walked with her through the story, and was glad to be a part of her and Andrew and now Piper’s lives. My friend Wade played the prelude last night. He and Courtney were my first wedding. Wade played music for me for six years at RUF and OU and I consider him a best friend, and we’ve had hours of deep conversation about the deep things of life. I get to do this! With you! God is good. May I find my rest in him for his labor is enough so I can be set free. He proves himself faithful even when I’m a slacker. He is good, and great and filled with grace.

Headshot 2 Nicole Hager