NORRIS —This past Saturday was one of our church’s work days for Habitat for Humanity. I love these days for many reasons, but allow me to list a few.
First, every Habitat Work Day, I have the opportunity to be in a different role with my parishioners than I do on Sundays. Rather than standing up in front of them preaching or teaching, I have the privilege of working beside them and learning from them.
I also love these days because people in our congregation, who may sit a couple of rows apart from each other week after week in worship, but never have the opportunity to get to know each other are often teamed up to work together on a Habitat Day. This happened this past Saturday where two people whose worlds might have never intersected otherwise became teammates who built the front porch for this Habitat House — a porch so beautiful and perfect that they renamed it “the dance floor.” They dared any of us with muddy feet to mess up the perfection of what they had created together.
As a minister, there are not many days when I come to the end of a day and can look back at something concrete that our church has accomplished together. On Saturday it was a healing balm for my soul to drive away from that house and see the front with siding that was not there the day before and a porch so perfect it had been renamed “the dance floor.”
On this particular day, I learned something that I am sure site supervisors say all the time, but for whatever reasons it never sank in like it did on Saturday. Our supervisor had been so patient in teaching me not only how to get a nail to go in straight rather than at an angle into that siding as well as how to use my entire arm and the hammer itself as a lever to provide me with enough strength to get the nail into the wooden stud behind the siding and Sheetrock. About the tenth time I either bent my nail or had it bounce back out onto the ground, I was so frustrated with myself that I was ready to quit and just go pick up trash or sweep floors which is the job I usually choose at Habitat.
Our supervisor came over and rather than criticizing me when I confessed that I had messed up again, he said something that I will never forget. “When you’re working on a Habitat House,” he said, “no one person ever makes a mistake. Because we work as teams, if a mistake is made, the team makes the mistake and not the individual. You didn’t make a mistake. We as a team made a mistake by not staying with you until you had mastered the skill of hammering. Never forget ,” he said, “at Habitat, neither failure nor success are ever about an individual. The quality of the work is always about the team.”
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and those in the New Testament, especially the letters of Paul, we are reminded over and over again, that success or failure is never about the gifts or talents or capacities of any one person. Rather it is about the whole body working together to build itself up in love with each person using their particular talents and gifts.
In a culture and society such as ours, where we are taught from such a young age that not only life, but success and failure, are all about me and mine, what an incredible lesson for this preacher to learn not just with my mind but with my heart and soul.
Would that we as faith communities and as a nation and world could remember this lesson. Success or failure is not dependent upon any one individual. Rather it is about learning to work together as a team utilizing the strengths and talents of each person.
Whether we like it or not, whether we agree with it or not, whether we accept or believe it or not, the truth is that more than ever before in the history of our planet, whether we survive and thrive is no longer about “me and mine”. Rather it is about our team as human beings who have been entrusted with sacred work on this site we call planet earth.
The Rev. Susie Smith is pastor of Peace Congregational Church in Clemson. She can be reached by email, email@example.com