This week I came across this quote while reading Ben Witherington III's book, "Work: A Kingdom Perspective on Labor."
"I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker."- Helen Keller
As I have been working on work based ministry for teenagers I have been struck several times along the way by some realizations that I wanted to share.
1. This is a ton of work- Alot of mornings I get up at 4 a.m. to get started. I was told by a friend that they key to making my entrepreneurial idea run was just giving a few minutes a day. THERE IS NO WAY! Even with a stellar team in support it takes passion and hours to get this thing off the ground and I am still not convinced my company is going to run.
2. I was raised as an elitist- Never in a million years did I think that I would be a minister or that my ministry would lead me into landscaping. A lot of days I come home smelling like wet rotting grass which basically smells like cow poop. My car smells of gasoline and I have to bring a change of clothes to work so that I can swap outfits for my "real job". The other day I pulled up to my daughter's soccer practice in Camas with my landscaping trailer in tow and thought, "I wonder what this looks like from the outside?" From the inside it is hilarious, but also humbling. This social entrepreneurship has embarassed me and forced me to confront that I see myself as a certain kind of educated person. I am supposed to do certain things and not others. I am even a church elitist! It is hard for me to grapple with the fact that I am a full time minister who has a second job. I don't need the second job, but that isn't what people in the community think when I tell them what I do. Because when I explain to people out in the community that I am a minister and a landscaper I am pretty sure they think that I am a Bible thumper without a "real" education. The fact that I think this simply exposes my own arrogance and it is kind of sad. They don't know and don't care that I went to a phenomenal seminary for 3 years to get a Masters of Divinity. I have never thought of manual labor as beneath me. I was raised doing lots of manual work. But, I also never thought of it as an occupation that was worthy of my professional time. I am ashamed to say this as a Christ follower, but it is true. My respect for the landscaper and the small business owner has skyrocketed as I have taken on this project and I am only engaged in it one to two days a week. But, while that respect for my neighbor has gone up, I have also been confronted with some of the assumptions I was raised with. I knew those assumptions were there, but it is painful to have God call me into a project that reveals those biases so nakedly.
3. I am learning patience- No matter how grand my vision might be, this business will grow one shovel full at a time. I am learning to stay patient and pay attention to detail. I have been struck at my own sense of privilege that I often expect things to just work out, and often at a pace that is unrealistic. This is also a function of the kind of communities I was raised in. Building a new model of ministry and especially one that is entrepreneurial takes time! Not just the work time, but the waiting time. I don't know how people do this without some other means of sustaining themselves financially. It is anxiety ridden enough for me as it is. I can't imagine it without a safety net. I wait for calls back. I have to wait to see if new employees will work out. I have to wait until I finish my regular job to see if I have time to forward some aspect of this new business. I have to wait for answers as I flip certain problems and tasks over in my mind until a solution presents itself. I have to wait for at least a few years to figure out if this new model of ministry is really viable. If it isn't, will I have wasted thousands of dollars and hours for nothing? Lately, I find myself increasingly turning to prayers of trust as I wait...and wait....and wait.
About a month ago I went to a live show down in Portland and the guy that opened wrote this song about hard work and about workers from his own life. His name is Steve Moakler and the song is called, "Humble Operations." It struck a chord with me and I find myself listening to it regularly as I start my days early in the morning. Enjoy! And be blessed on your risky and humbling endeavors in life and ministry!