Saturday, August 18, 2012

For All My Friends With "Real Jobs"

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?


  1. So here's my testimony, and I hope it encourages and helps you or some other reader. I got my "real job" last November and moved 1/3 of the way across the country. I've been fighting various kinds and degrees of misery ever since, some caused by the culture of my workplace and the ineptitude of my bosses, others by the seperation from my friends and family in the Midwest, and some others from my own reactions and my own mind. I just found out my "real job" isn't renewing my contract in October and I'm overjoyed. I've always loved the doctrine of vocation and I don't think I've been living it recently. I haven't felt like I'm contributing to my society or investing my talents for a long time now. So I'm excited to move back and put up with Ann Arbor drivers this fall--even on game days. I'm excited to take up part-time work helping writers develop their skills because I feel really useful to God and mankind when I do it. I'm super excited to put together PhD applications for next fall. And I'm even excited to go back to being poor, because money isn't fun when your best friends aren't spending it with you. Losing this "real job" is the best thing that's happened to me for a long time, because I'm going to be free to go back to doing what I love and being around the people I love. I'm so thankful for this.

    "Real jobs" are over-rated by our society. God gives us what we need when we need it, and puts us where He needs us when He needs us. I've learned a lot about trust and prayer in the last few months.

    1. Of course, this is a huge encouragement. I'm sorry about your frustrating year, but I'm thrilled that you know what you're meant to do and will be returning to it. Thank you.

    2. I agree, Ruth. You shouldn't let a job dictate where you live. You need to let God show you where you belong and get some kind of income going there.

  2. both humbled and encouraged. thanks, ruth and david.

  3. David,

    Great thoughts. I appreciate your sense of "real."

    There was a Harvard survey done about ten years ago. In the survey they interviewed people making over $100,000 per year. Now that salary put them in the top 5% of wealthy people OF ALL TIME!

    And yet 75% of them said they don't make enough money to meet their basic needs.

    So, when is enough enough? It's when you can say, "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...."


  4. “I will practice, and I will get better.” I admire you for your perspective in life, David. :) You reminded me about something that people often forget – staying positive. Anyway, that is one of the common misconceptions about some jobs, and sometimes, we can’t blame those people for making that judgment since we hold different perspectives in life. One way to deal with it is to try not to care and just focus on what you’re doing. Hard work does pay off in the end. :)

    Rupert  Echard

    1. Thanks a lot Rupert. It's was really encouraging to read your comment today.


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