What have you got in front of you?

At one point in my wanderings in life, I worked for UPS. Nothing quite as glamorous as being a driver with cute brown shorts and my own truck, though. I was a hub guy. To give you some background, every package that comes through UPS (or those *other* companies) gets handled multiple times within the hub system. An order for school books may be loaded in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and then travel to a hub in Lenexa, Kansas where the truck will be unloaded. Then the load will be sorted and redistributed to trucks going to the next hub. The process is repeated until the package reaches its final destination.

The sorting process works like this: every package passes in front of the same set of eyes. In some places, it’s a digital eye, but in most places, it’s a human being. They quickly read it and direct it down a conveyor that’s going to the right destination. A well-trained sorter can handle hundreds of packages an hour, thousands in a shift. (The computers are faster — 25K per hour during peak season.) It’s a beautiful chaotic process, and your package goes through it repeatedly. As a result of what I learned as a hub guy for UPS, I now print the labels bigger when I ship stuff! Beyond that, is there any other useful lesson? Or was that time a “pay the bills, move on as soon as you can” moment in my life?

As Christians always should, let’s go to the Word of God for some thoughts. In Exodus 4 as Moses stands before God at the burning bush, the Lord asks him a question. It’s a simple question, really, which we would expect the Almighty to know: “What is that in your hand?” Moses tells the Lord it’s a “staff” (מַטֶּה), which, again, was a pretty obvious answer since Moses was shepherding at the time.

Now, we’re all fairly convinced that God already knew what Moses had, which means He’s not asking for His own information. The Lord is trying to make a point to Moses. The first point is that the properties of matter are less fixed than Moses thinks: the staff becomes a snake, and then back to a staff. We’ll do snakes later…

For now, let us consider the question raised by the Lord: “What do you have in your hand?” and then apply it to us. What do we have in our hands? That’s a question I ask myself as a husband, father, pastor, and student. What do I have? It may be a question you ask yourself, and it’s a good question to ask in our churches. What do we have?

You may think your hands have very little in them. I can easily picture Moses answering the Lord with “It’s just a staff, Lord, where I cut down this tree that You planted…” It’s just a little something, but the Lord has a use for it. Those skills you acquired in that job you hated? They may have some value.

Now we come back to the UPS story from the beginning. I didn’t always like my job at UPS, and after those three years I was blessed to be in a full-time ministry role. One thing our church had was a food pantry, and it received all of the local school system’s holiday canned goods. In any given year, that resulted in enough canned goods to last us for at least six months. It was also a dreaded time of year for some of the volunteers. The church calendar had four days set aside for folks to come help sort out the cans into “Green Beans,” “Corn,” “What in the world is that?,” and various other sections. Four days! I took the UPS experience and applied it to the food drive. We sorted it all—every last can—in four hours.

What did I have in my hand? A simple concept of sorting, from a job I didn’t like, that I never thought would be useful. But it allowed an annual chore at church to become joyful again, because it didn’t take forever to get the little things done. What have you got in your hand? Can you use it?

Published: Mar 7, 2018


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