Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holding the Ladder

In the summer of 2002, my then 12-year-old son Cameron and I signed up to participate in a missions project called Family Transformers.  On a Sunday afternoon, with much excitement on his part and much fear on my part, we headed about 2 hours west to spend 3 nights, working around the area during the day, and sleeping in a college dorm at night.  My older son, Aaron, about to start college, was completing a summer of missions work known as Impact VA, and his team would be leading worship for Transformers, so I thought it would be fun for Cameron to see what his brother had been doing.

There were several churches participating, but Cameron and I were the only ones from our church, so we had to find a group to partner with.   Aaron knew the sites where the work was being done, and he suggested we get with the group working on “Mrs. Grubbs’ house”.  So off we went, not knowing anyone, and not knowing what we would be doing.

The previous week, IMPACT had added a room onto a very small house, because Mrs. Grubbs was on the verge of being confined to a wheelchair, and space and access were a problem.  Part of our group started roofing the addition, part started putting up vinyl siding,   But a dad who was there alone with his two daughters, along with Cameron and I, were assigned the task of putting up sheetrock----on the ceiling, part of which was flat, part was slanted, I don’t think any of it was square, and there was a light fixture in the middle of the room to work around!  So there were two adults, one of whom was only so-so with a hammer, an 11-year-old, a 12-year-old, and a 13-year-old.  Oh, and I should mention that our ‘equipment’ consisted of one ladder and one 5-gallon-bucket to stand on to get the sheetrock in place----on the CEILING, remember?  But hey, we did it.  We built a “T” to hold the 4x8 sheets, the kids learned to measure and cut sheetrock (‘score it and snap it’), and by the time we left there Wednesday it was taped and mudded (thank you very much) and ready for another crew to paint.  It was a great experience, and the adults did a wonderful job of engaging the kids----Cameron and I left with a lot of pride and good memories.  The rest of the summer we walked around high-fiving each other and saying, “Sheetrock!”

So in 2003, we were ready to go again, this time to Norfolk.  That year my husband, Brian was able to take off work and go along.  Cameron decided we should work with our same friends from the year before, Mr. Bill, and Miss Jean, and Mr. Mike. 

This house needed to have a dropped ceiling installed, which really required the expertise of two of the men, and not so much help from the women and children (although we did spend about an hour moving the lady’s collection of salt and pepper shakers-----no kidding, she must have had 1000 of them.)  Cameron and the younger daughter from the previous summer were the only youth in our group, and I have to give them credit, at one point they asked the homeowner if she had any gardening tools, and took it upon themselves to start pruning her extremely overgrown shrubs.

Outside, a window was in need of serious repair.  Mr. Bill was the only one with the knowledge to do that, which left several of us as spectators.  Mr. Bill wasn’t a young man, and he was standing on a stepladder, pushing and pulling and leaning to work on that stubborn window problem.  Since I was standing nearby, and didn’t have anything else to do, I started holding the ladder just to keep the dear man from falling. 

After quite a few hours of just standing there steadying the ladder, I was feeling quite frustrated---I wanted to be working!!  I had gone from the glamorous job the previous summer of installing sheetrock to just holding a ladder!  How was I going to show my face when I got back home and people asked what I had done this time?  How would that look?  I hadn’t accomplished anything. 

Once again, Aaron was there as part of IMPACT, and the team stopped by our site mid-day to see how things were going.   When he asked me, I said, “ALL I’ve done all day is hold the ladder!”  Being much wiser than his mother, he immediately replied, “Somebody has to hold the ladder.”  That really hit me---Mr. Bill couldn’t make the repairs if someone wasn’t helping to keep him safe.  I returned to my assignment knowing I was contributing.  My task, though it had seemed menial to me, was essential.  I was part of the team, and I was needed.

Maybe you’re on top of the ladder.  Or maybe you feel like you’re ‘just’ holding the ladder.  Realize that if you don’t, the ladder will topple, the person will fall, the ministry will collapse.  Holding the ladder is essential----it’s not glamorous and it won’t make you famous.  But it has to be done.

I’ve run across a couple of everyday examples of this lately (it was "lately" when I originally wrote this!):

In the RTD, on March 11, 2010, when UR’s basketball team had beaten Charlotte in OT to solidify their tie for first place in the A-10, there was an article about Kevin Smith, a ‘bench’ player:

RTD 3/11/10 Depth Pays Off for UR
(after beating Charlotte in OT on 3/6/10, when Kevin Smith played only 20 minutes of the 45)

Smith could be a bitter bit-player.  He started 35 of Richmond’s 36 games last season.  The reserve role he has embraced includes very few shots (28 baskets in 31 games), and a heavy load of dirty work: energetic defense, rebounding, screening, passing and cutting.
“You have to take a step back and understand, ‘This is not about myself.  This is about a greater picture,’” said Smith, who’s from Murfreesboro, Tenn.  “You have to humble yourself sometimes.  You take that [approach], and you’ll be given something back.”

About that same time, Ben, a junior (at that time) Oldham Scholar at UR who wrote a blog for “Spider Diaries,” a real-life account of his experiences as a UR student, posted this anonymous quote from a coach::

“My responsibility is getting all my players playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back” - Anonymous

Are you holding the ladder for the name on the front of your jersey? 
Ephesians 4:11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
 14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I love this hymn, God of grace and God of glory, and especially this less-frequently-sung 3rd verse:

Cure Thy children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to Thy control.
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal.

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