Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24 NASB)
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men. (Colossians 3:23 NASB)
A trip to Israel makes the Bible come alive. Nowhere else does the sacred and the secular mix together so completely. During my husband’s and my trip to the Holy Land, I witnessed this mix on our walk down the Via Dolorosa. Our tour traced the fourteen Stations of the Cross from the Church of the Flagellation to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Our tour guide stopped at and explained each station. He told us to observe the sights, sounds, and smells during our walk. Aromas of spices mingled with the voices of vendors enticing us to buy. The shops displayed religious objects and tourist souvenirs: crucifixes, Jewish prayer shawls, Arab head scarves, handbags inscribed with “Jerusalem,” and of course, t-shirts.
As we walked through the narrow, crowded street, I could see above the sea of people’s heads, a man carrying a cross over his shoulders coming towards us. This was Tuesday, not Friday, the customary day for the processions of pilgrims carrying crosses to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Why was he carrying the cross? Was this a special observance? Soon, I could see him up close. Over his right shoulder was the cross and in his left hand was a Styrofoam cup of coffee. My first reaction was, “this was so Jerusalem—the sacred and the secular!” My second reaction, I wish I had been able to take a picture! I had missed a great photo op!
After returning from this trip, I have thought about the man with the cross and his cup of coffee. Not only did he represent the Holy Land’s combination of the sacred and the secular, but also he could be a picture of a Christian who embraces the sacred (the cross) but holds onto the world (the coffee cup).
Lately, I have considered him in a new light. Was he returning the cross to the place where they keep crosses for the processions, so that future pilgrims could reenact Christ’s route to Calvary? The cross would be available for their worship. Carrying the cross was his way to serve. Coffee gave him energy for his work.
A librarian’s role is like this man’s task. Our work combines the sacred with the secular. Librarians provide resources for patrons’ research, enrichment, and recreation. Academic librarians provide resources to enable students to prepare for a future career, whether it be vocational Christian service, a position in the business world, or academia. Yes, librarians engage in the mundane—planning budgets, scheduling student workers, helping patrons with unfamiliar technologies, and performing routine maintenance, but often our work is holy, helping a patron carry their cross a few steps.
As Christians, we are to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Christ. No matter what our work is, we are to do it heartily for the Lord. Our daily work performed for the Lord has eternal consequences. How will you react when you have to juggle a coffee cup on one side and take up your cross on the other side? There may be some coffee to help us along, but let us rely on the Holy Spirit who gives us the true energy to serve.
Libby retired from Clearwater Christian College in 2016. She has been an ACL member since 1976 and currently resides in Clearwater, FL.