Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The best job



This post originally ran as a column at MWR this month.

As part of its “Thank you, Mom” campaign leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games, Procter & Gamble released a two-minute ad directed by the award-winning Mexican film director Alejandro González Iñárritu. Titled Best Job, it was shot on four continents. It opens with a series of images featuring dark streets and homes, mothers gently waking their children, making breakfast, walking them to buses, trains or driving them to school, washing clothes, and waiting during swimming and gymnastics lessons, races and games. As the children grow, the images cycle through the mothers’ unremitting love. When their children compete in the Olympics, the camera lingers on the faces of these mothers as they watch — intent, hopeful, brushed with tears. Best Job ends with the words: “The hardest job in the world is the best job in the world. Thank you, Mom.”

If you haven’t seen Best Job, you should. As a mother, I found it deeply moving, especially the way simple yet profound images of care and service weave into a larger vision of the power of love. These mothers choose, in the small and often mundane moments of each day, to put the best interests of their children above their own. Their consistent and sacrificial acts nurture and grow the gifts of their children, enabling them to become the people they are able to be.

I find it is easy to lose sight of this larger vision in the piles of laundry, stacks of dishes and struggles to make all the ends meet. But Best Job reminds me of the power of persistent, sacrificial love in transforming and freeing my children to be who they were created to be.

Best Job also reminds me of God’s kingdom. When Jesus calls us to follow him, he invites us into a family characterized by sacrificial love.

Integral to Jesus’ kingdom movement, says Joseph Hellerman in When the Church Was a Family, was creating an alternative and surrogate family — one characterized by family-like relationships and bonds in which we’d be consistently and persistently loved, our physical needs met, our gifts nurtured (see Mark 3:31-35, 10:28-30).

The early church lived this vision, and it changed the world.

“People did not convert to Christianity solely because of what the early Christians believed,” Hellerman says. “They converted because of the way in which the early Christians behaved … The ancient Christians were known for their love for one another.” And because they lived out church as God intended, “the whole Roman Empire ultimately bowed its knees to the King of kings and the Lord of lords.”

As God’s people today, we talk about being a family, but the reality too often falls way short of the early church experience. Yet we are called and enabled to live like this, too. 

This has been part of God’s plan from the beginning, says Hellerman: “Biblical salvation is a community-creating event. We are saved not simply to enjoy a personal relationship with God; we are saved to community.”

It is easy to lose this vision in our individualistic culture. But this kind of living together as a family must shape our behavior because it is how we will be known — by our love (John 13:35).

Like Best Job, the early church’s story reminds us of the power of small, consistent acts of familial love. It reminds us of who we are called and enabled to be — and the power of love to transform the world.

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