I was seventeen when I entered the workforce in what was likely the most unglamorous job possible—a gas station attendant. The reasons why I ended up at the local BP are any 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. 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. The BP was a busy place. 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.
But then something happened.
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 life went from being one of service to being one of clock-watching. I felt like a prisoner that was paroled at 4:00 every afternoon but had to report back promptly the next day.
My job became just that. A job.
How this happened still 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 a 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.
It’s our menial tasks and not our extraordinary ones that challenge our calling. It’s those things we do and those people we see every day that lull us into a false sense of who we are and what we God expects us to do.
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 doing the driving.
And that’s a lesson I’ll learn and relearn for the rest of my life.