I’m enjoying some downtime with my family this week, so we’re heading to the archives to pull up some of the earliest content from the blog. This post originally appeared in August 2008.
Life is too short to do something you’re not wired to do.
I learned this my first semester in seminary. When you’re in seminary, you have to get something called a Seminary Job. (Some losers make their wives work fifty hours a week while they play ping pong and talk theology in the student center, but those are the guys who end up having something called a Never Ending Seminary Career. And sometimes a Seminary Divorce.)
My first Seminary Job was a popular choice for seminary students. I was a security guard at a computer assembly plant. (Irrelevant small world trivia: the building where I worked is only a half-mile from our Brier Creek Campus, so I feel like I’ve come full-circle during my time in North Carolina.) It wasn’t a horrible job. I worked second shift, I was able to study part of the time, I made people laugh with my polyester uniform and clip on tie.
But I have to tell you: I’m not wired to be a security guard. For one thing, that was during the incredibly Nice and Accommodating Phase of my life. I still have symptoms, but back then, I was a complete pushover. Example: when I was monitoring people going through the metal detector, you could often hear me say something like, “Excuse me, is that a brand new laptop stuffed into the back of your pants? Oh, just a really large, metal wallet? No problem, ma’am. Have a nice day, and don’t forget the power cord for your wallet!”
There was another seminary student who worked with me. His nickname was “Beast.” One of the nicest guys you’d ever meet, but you would not know that by looking at him. He towered over people as they were going through the checkpoint. Sometimes he sneered. They would see Beast, and they would begin getting nervous. They would voluntarily show him the stuff they were trying to steal. They wouldn’t even put up a fight. Heck, they wouldn’t even wait for him to see it. He was that intimidating. I often thought he should be a Catholic priest rather than a Baptist pastor. It would make confession go a lot smoother, except that of course he’d have to rip apart that little dividing screen with his teeth so they could see him and be frightened.
I realized after about six minutes on the security job that I was not wired to do it. I was pretty decent at it. I followed instructions, I was nice to people, I never once forgot my clip on tie. But I wasn’t wired for it. Not one day did I wake up and say, “Boy howdy, I can’t wait to suit up in polyester and prevent people from stealing laptops!” No, there were days where I wished I had been issued a gun (I wasn’t) so that I could shoot myself in the foot a la Barney Fife to keep from having to go to work.
It’s okay to do something for a while if it’s a Seminary Job or if you’re trying to make ends meet. But it’s no way to spend your life. That’s why one of my passions is to see people volunteer for areas because they get to, not because they’re guilted to.
The worst job that you can hold in church is one that you’re not wired for. I’ve seen people who are miserable working with kids because…really and truly…they don’t like kids. (Kids aren’t too crazy about them, either.) I’ve seen people who lead worship who look like they’ve been baptized in pickle juice because they really don’t enjoy singing. I would have liked to have been there to defend them whenever their arch-enemy apparently held a gun to their head and forced them to join the choir. I would have busted out my security guard kung fu moves on ‘em.
In our church, there are numbers nerds who can’t imagine a happier life than sitting down and coming up with new nerdy formulas in their nerdy Excel spreadsheet. Great! Be an office volunteer and create some formulas for those of us who can’t. We have neatniks who can spot a speck of dust at fifty paces. Cool! Sign up to be a part of our Set Up / Tear Down teams. We have jock types who can bench press Yugoslavia. Awesome! Take a cue from my friend Beast and serve on security detail in Summit Kids.
The point: everybody has something that makes their hearts beat a little faster. Everybody has something that causes them to want to get out of bed in the morning. As long as it’s not illegal or immoral, we can use it at the Summit for ministry. (And if it is illegal, it gives our jock types a way to minister as they crush your head.)
Where is your gut telling you to serve?