blessed, boring job, dimples, factory job, foot washing, graces, gratitude, grinding marks, imperfections, John 13, Jonah, piston ring, process, prodigal pastor, scratches, sorter, think, washing feet, wedding ring
“So Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” ~ John 13:4-5
Washing feet… Yep, that to me is a lot like what I have been doing in my current job for the last 4 weeks (1 more week to go). To some degree, I wonder if it’s even worse as sometimes it’s been hard to know what sort of service or purpose I am really providing. How really necessary is what I have been doing from 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday?
What have I been doing, you ask? I’ve been working in a factory where they make small piston rings for various vehicles. It is a Japanese based company and this is its U.S. headquarters. All day long thousands (maybe millions) of piston rings of various sizes are made starting out from just metal shavings and passing through various machines along the way. Workers work around the clock 5-6 days per week, and I believe I must have the most boring job of them all…
For those of you who are married and male, imagine holding an object slightly bigger than your wedding ring in your fingers and spinning it while looking for tiny imperfections on it;scratches, grinding marks, dimples, etc. Imagine then looking at anywhere from 5,000-10,000 pieces of these every day, for 8 hours straight, and throwing rings with imperfections into one bin and the other “good parts” into another. For my first 3 weeks (for this last week I’ve had a partner and someone to talk to) at this position I’ve had to sit at a table all alone in a big warehouse, leaned over a magnifying glass with a light inspecting these parts. So far I have to have looked at over 50,000 (maybe 75,000) parts total! They call me a “Sorter”, however, I believe such a grueling process deserves something more, like “Master Sorter” or “Sorter Extraordinaire” (funny, how my wife and in-laws insist on calling me, “Dimple Checker”).
This sounds crazy, huh? Mainly, about all I do every day at this job is think. Hundreds of various things pass through my mind each day (you’d be amazed at how many sermon illustrations I’ve thought of related to this process and these tiny, little parts these past weeks). I end up singing to myself various songs that randomly come to mind; mostly praise or Christian radio songs, along with the occasional 80’s or early 90’s anthem or ballad (I grew up in the 80’s afterall). Lastly, I find myself reciting certain Scripture passages from the Bible I have memorized or processing other various passages and personal experiences I’ve had over the years (especially my two pastorates since seminary that have been difficult or my sense of calling from God).
Most of the time I wind up thinking about, how did I get here, and/or where could all of this possibly be leading? Not to demean this position at all, as actually I’ve experienced many graces while holding this position over the past 4 weeks. That’s basically what this post is really meant to be about.
How have I ended up here, though? You could easily say I don’t deserve such a position. I’ve been to college (3 to be exact, along with earning 3 degrees). I have a Masters of Divinity degree, which certainly must allot me something much more prestigious than this. I wouldn’t call myself a prodigal pastor who demanded what I have received, only to take itand run off and blow it all on wild living, and now I am left to serve my own term of feeding the pigs for a living before coming to my senses and returning to God the Father (Luke 15:11-20). Nor have I been a on the run from Godlike Jonah and this is my belly of a fish type of experience. For the record too, neither am I some sort of saint (other than that I am one in Christ)and should consider myself above this sort of thing, or anything for that matter (Phil. 2:5-8). A co-worker of mine after learning that I have been a pastor and to seminary did say to me, “It is very humble of you to work such a position like this.” I haven’t sought to wear it like any sort of badge of honor in that way for myself either though.
As I have already mentioned, I have experienced many graces in this position over the last 4 weeks. Like what, you say? Well, first of all, I am very grateful to have this position. It serves a very particular need for my family and I right now (that of income), and the company I work for really didn’t need to give me such a position either. Not to mention that I was originally hired to do something completely different, however the machine wasn’t totally ready, so they graciously found another form of service I could provide for the short number of weeks I needed something (they could have said, “Sorry, it turns out we have nothing for you afterall”, and sent me home).
Secondly, I have met and rubbed shoulders with people I likely would have never gotten the chance to otherwise. My very first day there I was mistakenly trained on some machines I wasn’t originally hired for because when I showed up that morning no one was aware that I was coming in at all or why. Also, as I mentioned above, once they discovered what I was originally there for, that machine wasn’t ready to be worked with, so they stuck me at a table sorting parts, all the while with my supervisor and the HR person being extremely sincere, kind, and apologetic. I could have been mean, pout, or chosen to have a bad attitude towards them, but instead I decided to be kind and understanding back and show grace. I imagine this may have had something to do with why they found at least something for me to do and have welcomed me back ever since.
All of the other workers in this factory have been very pleasant to work with as well. I’ve worked at other factories before with people with far worse attitudes, relations towards each other, language, and work habits. The two people I’ve gotten to work with the closest I’ve appreciated very much. The person who first trained me on the wrong machines in the beginning happens to be homosexual. I got to know him and have treated him like I would anyone else since, and I think that has helped us get along well from the start. Secondly, my sorting partner for the past week just happens to be a recent past resident at the behavioral health hospital I will start a chaplaincy internship at the day after Memorial Day (Pine Rest of Grand Rapids, MI). He’s a recovering heroin addict, swears about every other word, and has a few felonies, but he also has a very cute daughter who is almost 1-year-old, many interesting stories, and has been able to tell me a lot about Pine Rest along with the Salvation Army and other places.
Lastly then, a third grace I’ve experienced with this position has to do with some of the little things, like getting home from a full day’s work every day at 2:30 p.m. and being able to be with my wife, kids, and in-laws while leaving work at work (that’s not easy to do as a pastor). I’ve also been thankful for a job that affords me the opportunity to think and process things right now too and hasn’t been too taxing as well. I have found these things to be quite refreshing, even while going cross-eyed repeatedly all day long from looking at tiny little parts constantly and trying to keep up a good pace, and while being tired from getting up at 4:30 a.m. each morning and doing something so straining on my eyes.
All in all, I can’t really complain about this position for the past few weeks. Even though it could maybe be compared to washing feet, or dare I say worse. Maybe I’ve been given a chance to follow the example of Christ my Lord as he has told us to do (John 13:14). And I’ve been blessed while doing it as well—“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them [too].” ~ John 13:17
As I’ve described it above, what would it be like if everything we do is done in such a way as if we were washing feet? What sort of feet washing experiences can you tell, and how have you been blessed in doing them? I’d love for you to share them in the comments section below…