As a nanny, I spend the majority of my workdays tending to the needs of little ones. These can range from running through spelling words to brushing hair, but the most regular request I receive is for a drink. Be it milk, juice, hot chocolate, or water, the “I’m thirsty,” whine is familiar to me. (Or “tirsty as one of my chicklings adorably puts it.)
For those in the child care world – teacher, parent, babysitter, older sibling – you’re also used to tending to the small needs of small children. Maybe you love it, maybe you get tired of it, maybe you’ll snap if someone asks you for one more thing. It certainly depends on the day for me.
The most regular struggle waging war in my inner world these past years has been that of meaning. Am I doing anything worthwhile, anything impactful, anything Kingdom building? I didn’t go to college to become a nanny, and despite my valiant efforts to be a practically perfect like Mary Poppins, there is only so many times making macaroni and walking to the library can seem special. What am I doing in this small town, watching small children, doing small things like filling up sippy cups of water?
It seems to be a crisis most people face at some point in their life. Where is my meaning? Am I contributing to this world in a valuable way? Am I using this short life to do anything worthwhile? I hear it from everyone – not just the people watching children, but also the people ringing up purchases, or making coffee, or teaching music, or building houses, or writing books. The perceived magnitude of a job doesn’t seem to matter when these existential questions arise.
It is in these frantic soul-searching moments – the days I come to God with my hands in the air and the sense of meager value in my heart – that he gently cups my face in His loving hands. Look at me and know this. This scale of importance you have contrived in your head has no meaning the Kingdom of heaven. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives even a drink of water to one of these little ones becomes a valued worker in my fields.
So I grab the drink requests from the children. I fill up one with milk, the other with water. I deliver them to their spot at the table, along with a kiss on each head. How could I possibly think that this kind of work is meaningless? These are children of God, beloved by Jesus and created with His grand purposes in mind. It doesn’t matter if I’m just watching them while their parents are at work, it doesn’t matter if my job seems to be smaller than those around me. It doesn’t matter that my paycheck isn’t huge or my product at the end of a workday is visible. This is Kingdom work.
We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God’s power, and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him. One of the most amazing revelations of God comes when we learn that it is in the commonplace things that the Deity of Jesus Christ is realized. -Oswald Chambers
And to all those – care-givers or otherwise – who crave a larger career, a more substantial portfolio, a bigger name, or a notable set of achievements, I wonder if we could link arms and journey together on this small path? I wonder if you would want to join me in the work of this upside down Kingdom, in which filling a cup with water is considered a reward-worthy task? There will be days when I color Doc McStuffins pictures for the hundredth time that I need to be reminded that what I’m doing isn’t worthless because it is small, and there will be times that I will remind you that you don’t need to be doing more to be considered valuable. And together we will build up the Kingdom of God, one cup of water at a time.