In our Counseling Class yesterday some students got talking about their worst ever jobs. It got me thinking back over the years to some of the worst jobs I had in my life; five in particular stand out.
1. Morning Milk Delivery
This was my first job, I was 14, and I only lasted a week. It involved getting up Mon-Sat at 3.30am for a 4-8am shift delivering pints of milk (in glass bottles) to households in the suburbs of Glasgow. And yes, I was still in High School, meaning that I went straight to school from the milk run. Needless to say, I slept through most of my afternoon classes that week, and by the end of the week I think my parents realized this was probably not the best career move. It was also not a little dangerous; we had to jump off the back of a moving van with up to three pints of milk in each hand. My worst moment was when two of my “colleagues” tried to throw me off the back of the milk van that we were hanging on to as the driver careened around the dark streets of Glasgow at 50mph. My week’s work earned me the princely sum of 12 British pounds (@ $17 dollars).
2. Morning Bread Delivery
What was it about early morning jobs that attracted me? Anyway, at least this one was my own business. A friend and I (we were about 15 years old) went round our neighborhood asking if people wanted fresh, hot bread delivered to them on a Saturday morning. To our amazement we very quickly received over 100 orders. We contacted a bakery and managed to make a 100% profit on what we sold, earning us about $40-$50 each for about three hours work. It still involved getting up about 4am on a Saturday morning to take delivery of the bread and rolls, package them into the orders, and then go out into the often cold, dark, wet night to deliver them. And how did we deliver them? Well, as you can’t drive in Scotland until you are 17, we struck upon the idea of a shopping cart each. We “borrowed” them from a local grocery store and piled the carts so high that we actually could not see where we were going. What a racket as we rattled along with our cargo of sweet smelling bread and rolls. And I think I still have the scars of one snowy morning and an uncontrollable cart.
3. Potato Peeler
Yes, aged 16, I spent five summer weeks in a Scottish Hotel peeling potatoes. I think I did a few more things as well – like wash the huge porridge pots and dinner trays – but what I mainly remember is the huge pile of freshly dug, mud-caked potatoes that met me every morning begging to be washed, peeled, and sliced. I think we were catering for about 70 guests and – what is it about us Brits – they had boiled potatoes with every evening meal! I worked about a 60 hour week and earned about $50 per week – it was a Christian hotel, which apparently meant you could employ slaves.
4. Goods Lift Operator
You may have seen in the dark recesses of J C Penney or Sears, some rather scary looking elevators (we call them “lifts”) which sort of look like prisons. These are the lifts that move the clothes from storage to the floor and back again. Well, I got a summer job working one of these for $4.40 an hour. I thought it would be a breeze, but by end of the first day, in which I must have slid these heavy metal doors backwards and forwards about nine million times, I felt like I’d gone 15 rounds with Muhammed Ali. And then there were all these sweet little old store assistants with their “aching backs” who needed help to move their boxes in and out, in and out. “And maybe you could just carry them over to the far side as well, son…” I felt as if I spent the summer in a dungeon on a rack.
5. Hopper Popper Toy Salesman
A what?! Yes, true story. But that’s one I’ll save for another time.
Two words came to mind as I reminisced about my early “career”: preparation and privilege. God uses everything in our lives to prepare us for the next stage of our lives and, ultimately, for eternal life. I know it’s hard to see any possible connection between Hopper Poppers and heaven, but as James Dobson said, “Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.” Part of heaven’s joyful surprise will be when God helps us to connect all the dots of our lives. So, though I can’t put it all together right now, I strongly believe that each of these hard and rather humiliating jobs played some part in my preparation for the ministry.
Which brings me to my second word, privilege, the immense privilege God has now given me of being a preacher of the Gospel. Pastors, I know the “job” can be so difficult and so discouraging, but please don’t ever lose sight of the grace involved in being allowed to preach even one sermon or pastor even one precious soul. Let us ever say with Paul: “To me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” What a grace, a gift, an undeserved favor!
I could (and should) still be delivering milk or bread, peeling potatoes, operating an elevator, or (worst of all) selling Hopper Poppers. That’s what I deserve to be doing; if I deserve to be doing anything (and I don’t). But instead, God has graciously called me to preach Christ and even to train others to do the same. What amazing, amazing, amazing grace! May I never cease to wonder at the astonishing mercy of God.
Why does he pick the worst of people to do the best of jobs?