I feel that I’m called to be a pastor. I feel that God’s called all of us to a place, a role, a job in life. Some people get to do full time ministry jobs, some of us don’t. There’s a lot of ‘secular’ work that God’s people also need to do. After all, Jesus was a craftsman. I used to be wary of being a bi-vocational pastor, but now I’m glad to be in the everyday workforce along with the people I shepherd. Plus I need money. Now that I’m looking (along with half the country) for work, it gave me pause to reflect on some of the more…meaningful jobs I’ve had in the past; jobs which, thankfully, I am not called by God to.
Phone Book Delivery
This job was a hot, difficult, and awesome summer job. We were sent to the roughest neighborhoods at the crack of dawn (while all the crackheads were still sleeping) to throw phone books in driveways. What a lesson in culture! We saw houses literally falling down – with absolutely immaculate cars adorning their driveways. Some houses had last year’s phone book still on the porch. It was at this job that I came face to face with my first prostitute…she really didn’t want a phone book.
But some of those kids acted like we were the Red Cross or something. They’d chase the truck down the street, trying to get us to toss them more phone books like we were giving out free puppies. We were happy to oblige, because the faster we unloaded the books, the sooner we got to go home! (We also stacked the new books on top of the old books where we happened to find them. We didn’t want the new neighbors to be stuck with an outdated phone book!)
Some neighborhoods were less eventful than others. Sometimes we just hung onto the back of the truck like garbage men for blocks tossing phone books (hanging onto a rented moving truck like garbage men was the least of the code violations we committed.) It was during these days that we tried to keep score of how well we threw books. Landing one up on end was a million points.
Shelf Stocker, Grocery Store
This was the job I just couldn’t leave, no matter how hard I tried. I got this job in high school. Then I left when I went away to college, only to return during holiday breaks. After a few years, I finally broke away, I thought permanently. But a sudden crisis left me without work, in transition to a new church and in the middle of seminary. I had to go back – having accomplished nothing in my four year absence.
On New Year’s Eve, my exclusive job was to man the beer, wine and liquor department…yeah. I know, a Baptist seminary student working the liquor department. Whatever, I’m not a Baptist. My face didn’t melt or anything.
The strangest thing was that even while dressed in the store uniform: shirt, pants, and apron; even while having no hint of Jesus on my person; even while stocking the liquor shelves, some people felt they had to make sure I didn’t think they would be touching the stuff that night.
Lady: Excuse me, where can I find your finest, cheapest vodka?
Me: That would be this right here.
Lady: (filling cart with bottles) Oh it isn’t for me, just so you know. It’s for my husband and his friends. Don’t be thinking I’m going be drinking this, cause I’m not. I don’t touch the stuff.
Me: (thinking) Then you’re just an enabler? Thank God you aren’t sullying your conscience.
Yes, really. This happened several times, as if I looked as if I was anyone to be judging any customers who might be buying alcohol that night; me, the guy providing the stuff. Did I have a post-it note stuck to me saying PASTOR IN DISGUISE: WILL JUDGE YOU AND RECOMMEND TO GOD THAT HE SEND YOU TO HELL? I might as well have been passing out gospel tracts the way some of these people were acting. I should have hung out more in the cookie aisle to see if people would act the same way. ‘Sure, if your husband loves fig newtons that much and they are on sale, I’d stock up too.’
What got me almost as much was that judging by what I had to keep re-stocking, people seemed marking this ‘special occasion’ with the same swill they probably binged on the other 364 days of the year, just in greater amounts.
I love substitute teaching. It’s great variety, the teenagers are generally good for me, and we get along. The only problem is there isn’t enough work to go around.
Well, the other problem is that some people don’t teach regular subjects. So when you go to the website to see if a job has been posted, you sometimes get a teacher’s name and their job simply says, ‘CROSS CATEGORICAL.’ What does that mean? I found out it can mean a lot of things – it could be a teacher’s aide, a hall monitor, an in-school-suspension supervisor, special ed, lunch lady, counselor, custodian, or any other number of jobs that apparently aren’t appealing enough to be given a real name. Tell you what, if your job is so terrible that you don’t want to tell us what it is, then I don’t want to do it. Not even for one day. I learned that lesson too late one day.
What was your most ‘memorable’ secular job? What about your current job, is it your calling? Are you in a ministry bi-vocationally? Do you aspire to full time ministry?