Keeping the Newness in Your Work

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I was seventeen when I entered the workforce in what was likely the most unglamorous job possible—gas station attendant. The reasons why I ended up at the local BP are many and not very relevant twenty years later. This, however, is:

I wanted to make a difference.

It might seem strange to think such a thing would be possible in that line of work. After all, I wasn’t spending my days healing the sick or teaching the young or shepherding a congregation. My eight hours were spent wiping windshields and asking, “Fill her up, ma’am?”

But still, I thought the gas station would be the perfect place to bring God a little closer to folks who didn’t normally get a good look at him. I wasn’t sure if God could call someone to pump gas, but I was sure he expected me to do the best I could with what I had.

And I did. For a while. I smiled. I was the polite gentleman. I invited people to church. Once I even prayed with someone as I checked her oil.

And you know what? It was nice. Very nice. For the first time in my life, I felt useful. I may have been making minimum wage and driving home with more dirt and grime than I ever thought possible, but I didn’t mind.

God was using me, and I was right where I wanted to be.

Then the days grew longer and the nights shorter. The work became harder. And the people . . . well, somehow the people turned into customers to be herded in and out as fast as possible. My mood soured. I said as little as possible. My work transformed from an act of service to a period of clock-watching. I felt like a prisoner who was paroled at 4:00 every afternoon but had to report back the next day.

My job became just that. A job.

How that happened escaped me at the time, but experience has given me the answer. The newness wore off. The shine that was purpose, even calling, was covered by the gray film of the same old.

It doesn’t take a life-changing event to rob us of joy and faith. Not a death or a sickness or a job loss. No, all it takes is the endless grind of the everyday.

Our menial tasks and not our extraordinary ones present the biggest challenge to our calling. Those things we do and those people we see every day lull us into a false sense of who we are and what God expects of us.

Our jobs can become a highway if we let them, an endless expanse of pavement with nothing but the thump-thump of time to let us know we’re not holding still. But it doesn’t matter much that we’re simply going, does it? What matters is who’s driving.

And that’s a lesson I’ll learn and relearn for the rest of my life.

Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:

  • Are you mired in a job you once felt called to do but now have doubts?
  • How can you keep the “newness” of your career from fading into “sameness”?
  • Do you see your work as holy and mission-based or simply a means to pay the bills?
  • For a related message, visit Howard Butt’s one-minute attitude adjustment: Take a Chance and Renew Your Work.

Photograph, "Nourishing" by Elizabeth Weller, used with permission