Saturday, December 12, 2015

Good, Honest Dirt.

When I was a young man I got a job at an electrical company in the town of Wise, Virginia.  My friend Michael and I travelled around the tri-city area, eastern Kentucky and parts of Tennessee installing electrical systems.  I was thrilled to be out doing something.  I was thrilled to be making money.  Most of all I was thrilled not to be stuck behind a desk anymore.  It was an exciting time.  I worked hard.  I came home at the end of every day covered in honest dirt.   Any aches or pains I had were a happy reword for having put in a good day.  That continued for quite some time.

Then there was a new guy that got hired.  He was from up north.  He was like Larry the Cable Guy, always pushing to Get 'R done.   He wanted us to cut corners.  Speed things up by doing slip-shod work.  At this point I had been taking night classes in addition to working.  I was a licensed journeyman electrician with several years of experience under my built, a college degree, and a good work ethic.  I didn't want to cut corners.   I didn't want to endanger people to make money.  No, I wanted to do things right.  I was still very happy with my job, but this fellow was sapping my energy.  He was making it hard for me to see why he seemed to be favored by the boss while the rest of us seemed to get the less enjoyable work.

Then rumors began to spread.  Slowly at first, you would hear this or that.  "Did you know he has a company truck?"   "Did you know he has a gas card?"  "Did you know he gets vacation days?"  "health insurance?"  "Makes $10 an hour more than you?"   On and on they went.   I began to be disillusioned.  Work was no longer joyful.  I can honestly say I was no longer giving 100%.  My work began to suffer, as did those working for me.  This continued for some time.  I was very dissatisfied.

It all came to a point on day at a job in the small town of Honaker, Virginia.  The owner had hired another red hot Get 'R' Done guy from Balitmore.   This guy came on the job with the same attitude of the other and guess what?  He cut corners.  He pushed us to do things to save money, all the name of being a company man.  Then one day we found him smoking a joint in the basement, and we stood listening to him whine about his life and how unhappy he was.  I don't know what happened to him, but the next day he didn't show.  I called in to the owner and said he wasn't there.  A few days passed, we continued what little we had supplies for and still no foreman.  So the Boss came out and took me to the side, asking me if I would finish this job.   I had been running small jobs for a while, this one wasn't huge but I hadn't even seen the plans.  I eventually capitulated. 

After reading the plans and examining what this other man had done, I found out the job was a wreck.  It was an absolute mess.  Circuits pulled to the wrong side of the building.  Undersized wire for motors in the gymnasium.  Forgotten water pumps in the downstairs hundreds of feet across the building.  I ended up spending an entire day just sitting on a bucket looking out the window.   I didn't want to be there anymore.  I hated my job.  I hated my life.  I hated that people were making more to do less work.  I hated that in order to succeed materially I'd have to cheat, lie, and cut corners.

You see, my job hadn't changed.  I was making the same money.  I was working the same hours.  I was doing the same travelling, the same work, and coming home in that good honest dirt.. when I worked.  Nothing had changed, except me.  I had allowed those things around me, those rumors, those jealousies, those stresses to change who I was.  The man who had at one time been so excited to be doing anything outside of sitting at a desk, was now sitting on a bucket in a window.. coming home with clean clothes because he hadn't really worked that day.

The soldier's came to John in the Gospel and asked what they must do.   Do not extort, don't lie, and be satisfied with your wages.   How simple that really is.  Be kind.  Be honest.  Be happy.   When I first started working at that job that was who I was.  I was happy to be there.  I was kind to those I worked with.  I was honest.  I gave an honest days work for an honest wage.   I did good work.  I didn't cut corners.  It was when I didn't follow these rules that I began to hate my wages.  Hate my job.  Hate my life. 

It says that John said to them that God was coming to winnow the chaff from the wheat and destroy that which was worthless.  Such a dire message, right?  Then it says he continued to preach to them the good news.  What!?  Good news?  God is coming to get rid of the bad people!  What if I am one of them?   The thing is though they were expectant, they wanted the Messiah to come.  They were waiting for him!  So much so that when they saw John preaching repentance in his ascetic way they thought he might be the one.  They had their eyes open, they had their hearts ready, they wanted the Savior to come redeem them.  The Good news was that he was on the scene!  Redemption was at hand. 

That's what Advent is about.   It's about getting ready for Him.   It's about being expectant.  Receiving the good news, the Gospel, with hearts of eager for the coming of Christ.   It's about being good soliders.  Happy.  Honest.  Kind. Content with our life.  Striving to be better, but being happy with whatever we are given.  That's the thing though... society tries to tell us that happiness comes from more... more money.. money things... more status.. more power..  As long as we are always looking for more, we will never be content.  It's when we focus on Him, focus on his coming... asking him to be reborn in our hearts that we find true happiness. 

Are you expectant?  Are you content?  Is your life full of enjoyment and peace?  Or are you just after more?  Jealous of the other?  Gossipping and backbiting? Cutting corners to get ahead? 

Now is the time.  Not tomorrow, not next year, but now.  Then the Scripture comes alive that proclaims:

The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

His servant and yours,