What Penguins Can Teach Us About Service

I recently spoke with a group of women about “work as worship.” As it turns out, the majority of the Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible we translate as “worship” originally meant things like “to serve, to minister to” or “worship, work, and serve” as one simultaneous concept. While we tend to separate worship from work, the original concept was much more closely tied together.

So, if worship and work are meant to be tied together, what does that mean in terms of practical application? Of course, we can be more intentional with our vocational work. We can invite Jesus with us into the boardroom, classroom, office, or hospital. And, we can be more intentional about asking Him how He would use us in unpaid service. But, paid or unpaid, what exactly are we supposed to do? What jobs are “ours?”

One of the ways to evaluate these questions is to consider our individual designs. We are not replicated robots. We are uniquely designed in terms of our personalities, gifts, talents, temperaments, and more. If “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do” (Eph. 2:10) then it stands to reason that our individual “workmanship” might have something to do with our work.

One illustration I’ll provide is a personal, ridiculous story. Years ago, when my children were much younger, our church asked for VBS volunteers. Out of guilt (which is where a lot of not fantastic decisions come from), I signed up. A week later, I found myself with elementary school teachers and sweet grandmothers, blood pressure rising steadily because a bunch of little kids tends to stress me out. I remember the coordinator’s joy as she announced, “I needed 60 volunteers and God provided abundantly. We have 61!” I knew at that moment at least one of us was not called to be there. Yes, I served that week, and I’ve served in other VBS too, but I’ve realized it’s not in the center of my design.

Of course, there are certainly times when God calls His people to work in hard, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable spaces. And, there are times when we are simply needed and we serve for that reason. But, this type of work is not more holy than the times when He calls us to something that fits within our design, gifts, and desire to serve people or a project that truly touches our hearts. Sometimes the work just “fits.” This difference is something I love to illustrate with penguins.

Anne Rulo What Penguins Can Teach Us About Service

When a penguin is on land, it is not any less of a penguin. It does important stuff on land. But, it’s also awkward. They waddle and toddle and sometimes even fall over because their design is not most suited for land. It’s suited for water. Penguins in the water are exceptional. They are fast, efficient, agile, and productive. It is in the water where you can see how a penguin’s design really thrives, a less awkward version of how it works on land.

As you consider what God may have for you in terms of “work as worship”, maybe it is an awkward, uncomfortable, “on land” kind of assignment. But, I bet there is also some stuff He has for you that is smack dab in the center of how He has uniquely designed you. Something(s) where you think, “Yes, I love serving people in this way and I’m good at it!”

“Work as worship” is one of the most satisfying things we can do in faith. Sometimes, it’s in ways that feel awkward. But, sometimes it is in ways that feel so sweet to our “workmanship.” It is this very type of evaluation that has brought me to write these past four years. And, while writing is not always easy, I really love it and I hope it has blessed you. Likewise, I hope you are drawn to your own incredible journey in your “work as worship” as well.

Photo by Joshua Ryder on Unsplash, used with permission

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