If I had to guess, I would say the tradition probably started in 1983 – a dozen Christmases before we came to STL. It has continued through all 25 Christmases since our arrival. Once again, the work began anew, for the 37th time, this week. What am I talking about? Our tradition of Monica baking, and me delivering, a loaf of pumpkin bread to the homebound members of our church family.

Every year there is a certain part of the tradition that makes me laugh – though I must admit it is more an embarrassed grin than anything else. All the thanks … all the glory … all the good wishes that this tradition returns … is given to me. Yet, all I am is the delivery boy. All of the sweat and back-breaking labor comes from the extra-miler laboring behind the scenes … my precious wife, Monica.

Upon her return home on Tuesday evening after a +10-hour day caring for our two-year-old granddaughter, she immediately set out to get a jumpstart on her Wednesday tasks. Her goal was to create time in her Wednesday schedule to bake the +40 loaves. By the time I returned home from my evening meeting, she had completed all of the normal Wednesday tasks – and was struggling with more back pain than she has had in a long time.

You see, having accepted a mission, she was not about to let things slide. By Wednesday evening she had baked and wrapped 50 loaves of pumpkin bread, and was back in her chair – with at least as much pain as the night before. Yet, Thursday morning she was up before 6:00 a.m. preparing for another active day with Brooklyn … and without a single complaint about her back. That’s what extra milers do.

And I have been surrounded by them my whole life. Today I am particularly thankful for Monica, along with our immediate and extended families … the staff I work with on a daily basis at STL … lay volunteers who serve in so many different capacities … the people connected to STL through auxiliary agencies in our facility. The list goes on and on.

And, as I think about them, the appreciative – though a bit embarrassed – grin returns. I look at all the “behind the scenes” work that these extra milers do … while I simply serve as the “face of the franchise” (Here you should laugh with me, at God using such a face for such a role) who gets most of the glory for all of their hard work.

What does the Apostle Paul say? “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. … All are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12.4-11)

Paul then continues by stating, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit. … You are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12.12-13, 27)

God assigns us each specific a role. He gives us the gifts necessary to succeed. And his Spirit empowers his people to be extra milers in his kingdom. So, I guess I’ll just have to accept the fact … acknowledge that it is God’s will … that I am simply called to serve as “eye candy” on the face of Christ.

Extra Milers