Many of my friends wait tables. One evening one such friend was serving a family that had an adorable little girl who, in the course of the meal, became fascinated and delighted with having a server. As my friend bid the family goodnight the girl told her parents,
“I wanna be a waitress when I grow up”
“Oh no, baby” her mom said, “You'll go to college and get a real job.”
It was a cold and tactless thing to say in front of a server with a four year degree.
|Construction Worker by: wools|
I currently have three part time jobs, one uses my BA. These jobs probably wouldn’t fit that mother’s definition of “Real Jobs” But they're perfectly real. They really take up time, really wear on my body, and I've really put up with some really rude people. Yet as offensive as that mother was being, I’ve honestly caught myself using the same expression.
When my friends and I use the expression “real job” we're usually daydreaming. We’re talking about holding jobs that would only work us 40 hours each week, provide medical insurance, let us go to church on Sundays, and maybe pay enough to support a family. When we say “real job” we're fantasizing about finally and decisively breaking into the middle-class. “Real Jobs” are something we search, pray, and wait for. There’s nothing wrong with wanting those jobs, but I think we're mistaken to call them “Real.” I have three real jobs now. Real life has already started whether or not it's what we anticipated.
I am finishing up my last week in a professional ministry position and beginning a temp job at a mailorder company. This is perfectly real, although it wasn’t a part of my plan. Regrettably I’ve been letting the strain of circumstances dictate how joyfully I live my life. Let me be frank: This is total crap. Jesus didn't die for us so that temporal circumstances would get to tell us how happy we're allowed to be (Philippians 4:11-13). Sure I’d like life to be better than it is. Everyone wants that.
Literally every person in the world would like it if their life were better than it currently is. This is important to remember because it shows that possessions, income, and status won’t automatically make us happy if we get them. If they did then the rich people would all be happy. They’re not. With that knowledge in mind, we might as well find a way to enjoy life now. If life improves, fine. If it doesn’t we’ll at least have learned the right skills to deal with it.
Our joy in life is hugely affected by the attitudes we choose to practice. My piano teaching mother taught me “practice makes perfect,” and though I didn’t quite believe her, practice did make “better.” We can practice joy or we can practice grumbling, and we'll get better at whatever we practice. If we wait for life to improve to practice joyfully thanksgiving, we won't have the skills to actually enjoy our success.
So here’s my resolution:
I’m going to strive to thank God for every moment I get to be alive (1 Thess 5:18). I’m going to work my heart out packaging delicious things at the mailorder company. I’m going to dance when I hear music. I’m going to watch sunsets with my wife. I’m going to smile at strangers and try to see the face of God in them. I will forgive Ann Arbor drivers. I will try not to one-up my friends when we vent about our hardships. I'll brew beer when there is money and still share it when the money is gone. I will go on walks this fall. I will practice, and I will get better.
How do you practice joy?