There are certain jobs, such as actor, model, abstract artist, or football kicker, that you’ll often hear someone say, “I could do that.” They really can’t; not normally. The people in those professions have studied, devoted themselves, and possess the talent for their craft. My only consolation is the fact that those people can’t be me. Of course, they don’t want to be me. I don’t want to be me; I want to be a better version of myself. Actually, I would like to be a much better version of myself.
I decided to sit down and write a list of the times when I was a much better version of myself. When was I, even if only for a fleeting moment, the person I wanted to be? Everything on the list had something in common. Each time the Lord asked me to do something, I did it.
First, let me clarify “Lord asked.” I didn’t hear an audible voice from a cloud or a burning bush. It typically happens while I’m praying, probably because that’s when I’m the most open to it. I will sense a wave of peace, and then a complete idea or possibly a complete sentence that is not in line with what I’m currently thinking will suddenly be in my thoughts. I will push it away, but it quickly returns. That doesn’t mean it’s the Lord, but it does get my attention. I examined to see if it sounded like something the Lord would say; is it in keeping with his character? If that all checks out, do I believe in my heart it’s the Lord, did faith come with it, and do I have a certainty that it’s the Lord even if I can’t explain why? Lastly, if after everything, will I be the only one harmed if I’m wrong?
An example of the things on my list happened in the summer of 1970. The small company I worked for had been bought out by a much larger national firm that repaired computers and data processing equipment. I was used to working alone, and now I worked with three other engineers and had a direct boss in the office. This was large equipment that required us to travel to the customer site.
I wanted to fit in with the other engineers. I was required at the previous company to wear a business suit, but the engineers wore a short-sleeved white shirt and tie with no coat on this job. They would go into the office each morning and have coffee together. It would be 9 or 9:30 before they would leave on their first call of the day. It was a pleasant way to start the day, and I enjoyed the slower work pace that was expected.
The other engineers were friendly to me but constantly complained about doing more than their fair share of the work. This seemed to be a problem they had long before I joined them. More than once, I heard someone say that they had intentionally slowed down working, so they didn’t have to take any more calls than anyone else.
One morning while driving to work, the Lord told me, “I want you to give me this day while you’re working.” I assumed he meant he would want me to listen to Christian music, listen to a sermon on the radio, or possibly pray for something in particular. I said, “Yes, Lord.”
I wanted a “spiritual” day, but the Lord wanted me to be spiritual. The Lord said, “I want you to take ten calls today.”
There were many days when we didn’t have ten calls for the entire office, but if that’s what the Lord wanted, that’s what I was going to do. I began working as fast as I could. I grabbed a fast-food hamburger and ate lunch while driving. At day’s end, I had taken ten calls. I went home tired that night but very satisfied with my job.
The following morning, the Lord wanted me to take 12 calls that day. I didn’t have time for coffee in the office if I was going to be able to do that many calls. Although only 14 calls came into the office that day, somehow, I took 12 of them. It was another excellent day, and I felt much happier with the job and myself. I felt like I was working for the Lord.
The Lord stopped telling me how many calls to take but encouraged me to take as many as I could each day. After that, I rarely saw the other engineers other than when I would drop off my reports at the office or go in for a meeting. No longer trying to fit in, I went back to wearing a business suit each day.
About six months later, on my way to work one morning, the Lord said, “In this company, promotion comes through inequity.”
As I arrived at work, the boss asked me to come into his office. He gave me a promotion and a raise. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t do it for him or the company; I just thanked him. I thanked the Lord when I got to the car. I had done it for the Lord, but the Lord had me do it for me. He made me a better employee when I hadn’t been trying to be a better employee. He showed me that I had a fundamental weakness: I wanted to fit in with the people around me, and God wanted me to fit in with him. Doing both is possible far less often than I previously thought. I have never overcome that weakness, and I still fail far too often, but I’ve come to recognize it more readily when it’s leading me astray.
Fitting in is a natural tendency of life, but I must be careful whom I fit in with. I have to be cautious with the influences around me. Picking the wrong friends can make me miserable with my life. Choosing the wrong church can make me religious rather than spiritual. Selecting the wrong movies or TV shows can subtly change me to be like the people I admire while watching. Knowing I’m weak, hopefully, makes me more cautious.
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