Monday, October 31, 2011

There's nothing common or mundane about your job.

As a teenager growing up in Southern California, one of my first jobs was busboy at a restaurant chain in my town. I actually enjoyed the job except for Sundays when the church crowd made their grand entrance, shortly after noon.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a Christian and I love the catholic church (the universal church of Christ comprised of all believers worldwide). But, I am embarrassed by the behavior of church-goers who frequent restaurants after church on Sundays. Their behavior in many cases is a stumbling block to the servers who wait on them. It certainly was to those that I worked with for a few years. Most of them had nothing good to say about the Sunday church crowd.

But, I digress…back to the point I was starting to make--I would do my best to make sure that each table was spotlessly clean. Now, to do that I had to use hot, soapy water. I remember other busboys and waitresses who would clean a table with cold, greasy water because it was easier than frequently refilling the bucket with fresh hot soapy water. Who would want to sit down at a table covered with a film of grease, all because a busboy was too lazy to do his job correctly?

Something else was at work in my psyche as I bused and cleaned tables. I was not cleaning these tables for the next customer who would be seated, but rather, I was cleaning each table for Jesus. I know this can sound “hyper-religious” and maybe crazy, but that was my mindset.
North Beach, Burlington, Vermont around 1945

A few years later, when I was living in a commune in Burlington, Vermont (that’s another story for another blog post), one of my jobs was janitor for New England Telephone in Burlington (before Bell Telephone was broken up by court order). My job was to take a garage broom and sweep the garage floors as well as clean the bathrooms and offices of 2 garages in So. Burlington, Vermont.

At first, I hated my job because it seemed that I had no sooner spotlessly cleaned the garage floor than a big line truck would roll in with more snow and mud, messing up the garage floors I had just cleaned. On some days, it seemed like I couldn’t get ahead. I grew to resent these phone linemen and their trucks, even though they were the reason I had a job in the first place!

One day God gave me an attitude adjustment and reminded me that I should be pushing the broom for Him rather than Bell Telephone. That was my epiphany regarding that job and work in general. My attitude did a 180. I started pushing the broom for Jesus and started cleaning the break room and the toilets for Him. Not only was I happier, but I also started accomplishing my entire routine in record time, doing what had  taken me 8-hours, in about 4-5 hours yet I still received pay for 8-hours.

However, my thoughts on work as service to God pale in comparison with those of Brother Lawrence (a Carmelite monk in Paris who lived from 1614-1691). Brother Lawrence  was assigned to work in the monastery kitchen, where, amidst the tedious chores of cooking and cleaning at the constant bidding of his superiors, he developed a new understanding of spirituality and work. He writes, “Men invent means and methods of coming at God’s love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love…and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet, it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of Him?”

For Brother Lawrence, “common business,” no matter how mundane or routine, could be a medium of God’s love.

Brother Lawrence felt having a proper heart about tasks made every detail of his life possess surpassing value. "I began to live as if there were no one save God and me in the world."

Brother Lawrence came to realize that he cooked meals, ran errands, scrubbed pots, and endured the scorn of the world alongside God. One of his most famous sayings refers to his kitchen: "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”

The work you do today DOES matter to God. It can be done as an act of prayer and praise to God. You don’t need to wait for next Sunday. Start praying to God today by doing whatever work you may feel like you’re stuck doing, to the glory of God.  

Whatever the daily grind, it certainly can’t be as bad as scrubbing pots and pans for years like Brother Lawrence was assigned to do.  We need to do whatever we’ve been given this day for His Glory as a prayer and an act of worship to the One who created us and has blessed us in so many ways.

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