After Sunday … everything is still like every other Monday.
I was on my way to the hospital with my son Estêvão for a check-up at the dentist. Little did I know that I would be learning one of the great lessons of my life that day. The appointment was at 9:00 am. It was just a routine check-up. As we all know, for most children, the hospital is not synonymous with Disney World. It isn’t a place for entertainment or family outings. And on this day, my son’s case was not going to be the exception … “Dad, is it going to hurt? What is the dentist going to do?” To lessen his anxiety and being honest with him I told him, “No Estêvão, it won’t hurt! You’ll get a little fluoride, a strawberry-flavored liquid to strengthen your teeth, then they will check to make sure everything is ok. You will see, it won’t be a big deal.”
As we left the hospital, in a hurry to get back to school, we passed by a table where a lady asked us for a donation for a charity for disadvantaged children. My immediate reaction, given our rush, was to justify the fact that I didn’t have time to stop and give anything. I thought, “we are running late to school” (which was true). I actually responded to her in a more direct way saying, “we are already helping a lot of people.” The lady very kindly and very politely told me, “Thank you very much, I understand.” My son, who had not left my side, witnessed in his father’s attitude a Monday without Sunday. Crossing the threshold of the door of the hospital as if it were the threshold of the door at church, the words of my son Estêvão completely change my perspective of the week.
Estêvão: “Dad, why don’t you help that lady?”
Me: “Because we are running late for school.”
Estêvão: “Dad, its just some spare change.”
Me: “I don’t have any change.”
I opened my wallet to show him and as he looked, he responded:
Estêvão: “Well give her what you do have, you are the director of the people.”
Wow! “You are the director of the people”. His reprimand truly disarmed all my arguments and revealed that spiritual leadership goes far beyond what I say or do in the different activities that are associated with my position in the organization that I direct or in the role that I hold in my own church. It has more to do with the character of a true leader.
In his book “Leadership as an Identity” pastor Crawford W. Loritts, Jr. says: We should not put more value on competency than we do on character. Many times we place someone in leadership because of what they can offer us: their abilities and experience, their eloquence, their drive and determination, their vision, their charisma, or their capacity for getting results. But what about their relationship with God? How is their family life? What makes up their character?
In the gospel of Mark 6:35-37, once again the character of the disciples before the master of their lives, Jesus, reveals to us what we are made of. We seek Jesus every Sunday, we tell him how much we love him, we sing praises to His name, we publicly confess our sins, we dare to say that we are nothing, we seek the best words to lift prayers up to heaven, prayers that we would never say to another person. All of this, up until we cross the threshold of the doors of our churches on our way home. Then what comes to light on Monday is that all that worship and ways of living for Jesus are restricted to Sunday.
In the lives of the disciples, just as it is in our own lives, Monday was never like Sunday. We can see this in the disciples’ responses, that after having served with significant popularity alongside of Christ and having faced a challenge that took them out of their comfort zones, their leadership would be marred by these types of actions: “‘Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’ But Jesus answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ And they said to him, ‘Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?’” Two hundred denarii, the amount equivalent to about two hundred days of work, since the denarius was commonly the daily wage of a worker (Matthew 20:2). The disciples objected saying that this was not possible. Instead of waiting for Christ to give them instructions, they became entangled in their own failed projects. Being in the things of Jesus can make us important people, but being in Jesus makes us people with character. Faced with the challenges of life during the week, Monday should be just another Sunday.
On my way back to the table with my son, back to that kind and giving woman who was there voluntarily to help others. I gathered courage and told her what happened with my son Estêvão. Immediately, tears began to flow down her cheeks. Overwhelmed by what I shared, she told me: “the faith of a child is always learned, today you have made my day, because I am a Christian and your son’s response has encouraged me to continue trusting in Jesus.” This story is also the story of the child’s faith with the loaves of bread and fishes. God never asks of us what we do not have. What is it that you hold in your hand? The miracle of what you do not have is always done by JESUS.
Here are some dangers that undermine our coherence due to our lack of character, which make us calculating and petty people when it comes to giving strong answers, capable of transforming every Monday into a Sunday.
- Insensitivity to what surrounds us: our neighbour. Too quickly we lose our objective and forget our responsibility of loving the one who is near.
- Impatience for what surrounds us, things. Routines, chores and petty emergencies make us distracted people.
- The inefficiency of our service to what surrounds us. Losing sight of what is important, we go about our week “unnoticed” as Christians in a world that, without giving us a truce, demands that we pronounce ourselves.