Freshman First 40 — Day 16
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2011
The smell would catch in your throat before you even turned on the long gravel road that ended in a plant where chicken fat was rendered. My first real job was located on that gravel road, and after I finished my first summer working there, I was determined to have a “real” job after college.
The smell wasn’t the worst part of the job—it was how slowly time passed when I was doing something I didn’t enjoy. I was bored and kept wishing the time would pass more quickly so I could get home, see my friends, and watch my bank account grow slowly into college funds.
The grease factory and the boredom helped me want to work harder, but so did my desire to do something that mattered; I would make a difference in the world and earn a living at the same time. My work would be purposeful. If I could go back and have a conversation with my teenaged self, I would tell
her that her work was already purposeful. Work can be more than a way to pass the time or make a living; it can be a way to spend time with God. Even the small daily tasks of life like scraping a windshield in winter or scrubbing vegetables in summer can be significant when we remember the grace that seeps through each task we perform.
I would tell my younger self that rushing through part of life in order to “make it” is giving away part of your life. I think it may also be prideful, working under the assumption that our plan is always God’s plan.
We may think our work has God’s purpose in mind, but sometimes that’s the fallacy of believing what I want is what God wants. I know I often justified my life’s plan on what I wanted, and didn’t much think about the sacredness of each moment.
So how does anyone ever know God’s plan for his or her life? I think each of us has to carve out time to listen to God, as opposed to telling God what we want. In my teenaged summers, God heard a lot from me about how I didn’t like the smell or the boredom.
If we see our work as making us more than human, then we lose touch with God. We limit our ability to sense God’s overwhelming love for us. Whatever our “work” is, it’s also a response to God that transcends time. When we lose that perspective and focus on “making it,” we forget our first call to be the beloved children of God.
The Psalmist helps me with God’s love and steadfastness when he proclaims: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain (Ps. 127).
DR. ROBBIE PINTER
Department of English