Aaron Wiley and his wife Erleigh went to his favorite jeweler in May to get her diamond necklace upgraded. Their jeweler, Jennifer Pratt of JPratt Designs, helped them select a new motif for her necklace. The next day, Jennifer offered them something else: her kidney.
During their design appointment, she asked Aaron if he would like a glass of water. Erleigh said, “He can’t have any more water—he’s on dialysis and has to restrict his intake.” She had donated a kidney to her husband in 2008, but it failed in 2017 and he had been forced to live on dialysis. Aaron, a private practice attorney, continued to work, timing his travel schedule around four-hour dialysis treatments every other night.
Jennifer told a reporter that when she learned of Aaron’s plight, “I went home and told my husband, ‘I’m going to try and give Aaron my kidney.'” She added: “We were living a peaceful life, drinking wine and enjoying the pool in our backyard, and Aaron was in dialysis three or four times a week. I thought, ‘This is something I can do to fix that problem. I can make life better for him.'”
Rigorous testing showed she was a perfect match. On August 25, she gave one of her kidneys to Aaron during a four-hour transplant surgery at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, where she and the Wileys live.
She and Aaron are now recovering at home. Erleigh says, “Jennifer is proof that there truly are angels on Earth. She’s a person of action who never wavered. We’ll never be able to thank her enough.”
Partnering with our Maker
Labor Day is the first Monday in September. According to the US Department of Labor, this day is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” Some of these achievements are obvious and immediate. Other work creates outcomes we cannot measure on this side of eternity.
Every person Aaron Wiley helps as an attorney and influences as a person will be an extension of Jennifer Pratt’s selfless gift to him. As is every person who learns their story, including you and me today.
That’s the way work works.
God put the first man in the garden of Eden “to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The Hebrew word translated “work” means to cultivate and improve. The word translated “keep” means to guard and nurture. Taking these verbs together, we learn that we are called to partner with the Creator of the universe by developing and protecting his creation.
Tragically, the Fall made this calling much more difficult and painful than it was originally designed to be (Genesis 3:17–19). As a result, it is easy to view work as an unfortunate but necessary means to an end. We work to make enough money to do what we want to do with the time when we’re not working. Many work during the week so they can live on the weekends.
This is the wrong way to view work.
Two reasons to sew clothes for a baby
Philosopher Simone Weil believed that people need to work not only for income but also for the experience of work itself. In her view, we were not created for lives of idle pleasure. It is through work that people contribute to the lives of others. Work reminds us that we are part of something greater and provides a larger purpose for our lives.
She wrote of the calling to serve others: “Anyone whose attention and love are really directed toward the reality outside the world recognizes at the same time that he is bound, both in public and private life, by the single and permanent obligation to remedy, according to his responsibilities and to the extent of his power, all the privations of soul and body which are liable to destroy or damage the earthly life of any human being whatsoever.”
In other words, we are called to work to reverse the Fall. The more difficult the work, the more urgently it is needed. The sicker the patient, the more necessary the doctor.
Remembering that our work has a larger purpose than we know gives purpose to our work. For example, Weil asked us to imagine that two women are sewing clothes for a baby. One is pregnant and thinks about the unborn child for whom she is working. The other is a convict engaged in prison labor.
Each seems to be doing the same work, “but a whole gulf of difference lies between one occupation and the other.”
“Rivers of living water”
On this Labor Day, I hope you’ll take some time to reflect on your labor. Is your work an unfortunate but necessary means to an end? Or do you see your work as your kingdom assignment, your unique way of loving your Lord and your neighbor?
It may be that, like Jennifer Pratt, you will meet someone in the midst of your labors this week whose life you can change with your service. Or it may be that your work will touch lives you will not meet on this side of eternity.
Oswald Chambers noted that “God rarely allows a soul to see how great a blessing he is.” This is because, as Chambers observed, “A river touches places of which its source knows nothing.”
If you will stay close to your Source, the Lord Jesus, “out of [your] heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).
So, here’s the vital question we should ask ourselves on behalf of everyone for whom we work, whether we know them or not: How close are we to our Source today?