So long as what we think of our life as an endless stream of different activities that we bounce between every day, then our life has not launched. Our lives are full of many different things which require our attention, our time and which fill up our schedules. However, until we are able to see each thing as a facet of a single thing which all converge and integrate, our life remains fettered to where it started.
I told you that it will take a different set of eyes to see this. So by way of example, we will explore today the single greatest “thing” of most people’s lives, our careers.
Most people can articulate the difference between a job and a career. Fewer can differentiate a career from a vocation. Fewer still a vocation from a mission. On one side of the spectrum, a job is a means to an end. On the other side of the spectrum, a mission is an end in itself. In the middle is a career which takes much more time, personal insight, and investment in order to secure, and the vocation which by it’s name attests to a “calling” or a deeper basis for engagement.
Societies and governments need us to be earners and taxpayers so these institutions begin the propaganda early in our childhood: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The educational system, which was designed in the industrial age to train people to listen to a foreman bark orders while the worker bee’s all comply in step. This was because the American workforce required an endless stream of widget builders, lever pullers, and assembly people. The dream was to have a job at all, and thus the opportunity to make a meager way in life. The work itself wasn’t existentially satisfying, rather satisfaction came by way of contributing and progress. That is profoundly insightful.
Today, our educational propaganda machine and structure still trains children to be worker bee’s pulling levers and then sends them to higher education where an entirely different ethos and propaganda devalue the labor efforts in favor of finding a means to earn a living by way of something existentially satisfying. Like Mike Rowe has said, the ethos to follow our dreams or our passion has displaced the wisdom of following opportunity.
The quagmire of confusion is epidemic. This shift to chase satisfaction instead of opportunity has left more people dissatisfied, marginalized, and impoverished because they gave all their time and resources toward gaining knowledge and skills which the market cannot reward. The economic disparity in our world and culture is not due to imbalance or unfairness, but an insistence on ignorance about what is required to remain economically viable in an increasingly technologically advanced society. As a person fails to stay ahead of the wave or keep pace with innovation, their skills become obsolete if they were ever viable in the first place.
This is NOT an economic or political side-tangent or rant here. Success in modern societies like America require high levels of consciousness, awareness, and intelligence. Those which possess these traits are not only more conscientious people, but are far more successful in any role in which they serve regardless of age or experience. These traits allow a person to do any job with excellence because they welcome service as an ethos. Anyone who avoids service as an ethos, simultaneously deflects any opportunity for existential satisfaction. And that is the key.
Education and specific training can be powerful but they don’t actually open the doors that our propaganda machine tells us it does. The wrong education or training is worse than none at all. Not only does it leave a person in debt, but it prologs the misery of trying to find a vocational fit. To launch one’s life doesn’t mean we must find a new career, or get more schooling, or change one’s major (although these changes may eventually take place). To launch our life, we need only change our ethos to service and excellence within our present sphere and immediately we transform a job or many jobs into a single mission.
I learned this working as a cleaner of portable toilets. Even thought I held a Masters degree in leadership, the lowest level worker on every construction site pitied me when I rolled in with my pumper truck. My job was disgusting by every external measurement, and that’s when the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples transformed my life. If the Christ of God could humble himself as a servant, I could kill my pride and explore how it would change things in my life. Instead of praying, “God, get me out of here” I prayed, “God, give me a heart to serve and to love.”
What is your hope and prayer? If it is one of escape, then you are skimming over life.
Instead of cleaning a toilet in 45 seconds, I spent as much time as was needed to restore each unit to it’s best possible condition. This meant my days went from 12 hours to 15-18 hours. Each unit was a challenge, not to my body, but to my soul. As my pride died, my life launched…one smelly toilet at a time.
One day a construction worker walked over to a unit I had just cleaned. I was resenting the fact that he was going to destroy it with mud and yesterday’s offering from the food truck. Instead, he waved me down and said to me: “I have been a construction worker my entire life and the aspect I hate most is the portable toilets. You do such a good job that you have restored some dignity back to my life.”
I no longer had a low-level job, I had a mission of bringing dignity back to others through service.
The propaganda of the world system tells us lies because it comes from the Father of lies. It lies to us and sends us into misery, bondage, slavery, and a life full of empty stress where we never find satisfaction in our work because we are endlessly finding fault with our boss, our territory, our commute, our hours, our pay, or something else. So we crawl and climb over others, thinking we will advance our life, make more money, and then, one day, in the future, we will finally be happy. The lie starts us off on the wrong road, the superhighway along with everyone else, which ends in the destruction of our soul or the loss of our self. Go ahead, chase satisfaction via a career or your passion or whatever you want. You’ll be sitting in my coaching chair later in life when your kids hate you, your spouse doesn’t even recognize you anymore, and you are so jaded and cynical and full of hatred that your body is breaking down from the inside out.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
The “narrow” (thlebo) gate means it’s “constricted”. It’s a turnstile which allows for no attachments, baggage or things to be clutched. If we would launch our life, we must do so by opening our hand to the lies and propaganda about money, career, and identity coming from our work and instead we must develop a heart to serve others in any role in which we find ourselves.
Serving is never a job, it is always a mission. While we can serve in countless ways, we are only doing one thing. The better we get at serving others, at humbling ourselves, the more valued we are, the less competition we face, and the more capable we are at serving a greater levels. The more we empty ourselves, the more we are filled. It’s the paradox of the kingdom, but it is the design of everything. If we truly want to be successful and to be happy (which are both the same thing) we can only get there through service. Down is the way up.
Once the ethos of service takes hold of our heart, our life is launched. We will never have another job again. True service means that we will only do one thing for the rest of our lives whether we are paid or not. It is the only path to true existential happiness. Serving is how we find ourselves. And when we do, we discover we are in the very footsteps of God.
“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:42-44)