Joyful Hearts and Sunburned Calves

\\EDIT I accidentally clicked the wrong date for the automatic publishing. Whopps! Thanks Todd for the catch and text.

You know that song “anything you can do I can do better”? My version of that song would go “anything you can do quicker I can do slower”. Part of this is because I am a habitual procrastinator, but the other part is because I lack motivation for anything I find as boring or stupid. So, while everyone else graduated Seminary in 4 years it took me 5.

My final year of seminary was particularly difficult because everyone I knew had left. The friends I had spent the last 4 years of my life with were now scattered all across the country and had real jobs, while I stayed put working on my internship. The summer before my 5th year was particularly interesting because I had just started dating my wife and she was headed back to Ohio for the summer after her 6-week mission trip to remote Alaska. She was headed back to Ohio to work at a local Christian summer camp where we had met years earlier.

Being the most romantic man in the world, I thought it would be a good idea to get a job at that camp and spend the summer building up our relationship. I had all the course work of seminary under my belt and 7 years of working at summer camps, so it made natural sense to me that they would want to hire me right on the spot for the camp director position. Well maybe not the Director position but easily the assistant director or some form of leadership position. So, I applied.

A couple of days went by and I got a phone call from the Director, Mike. He mentioned to me that he would love to hire me but there wasn’t any real need except for a life guard position. I started to suggest that he could shift around his staff, so I could have a more illustrious position, but he shot that idea down real quick. Essentially, I had two choices, 1 work somewhere else or 2 work as a life guard. Being that I could barely swim at the time I thought it would be disingenuous to accept a life guard position so I naturally accepted the life guard position.

I know you just reread that line above because the formatting is weird. You can stop rereading it. I knew I couldn’t swim and yet still accepted the position because I was desperate to spend the summer next to my new girlfriend.

So, I spent a couple of weeks training in the local pool on how to swim and then took a life guard test. After almost drowning during my certification test I got my certification and headed back to Ohio to work as a life guard.

I don’t know if you have ever been a life guard but the whole position is awful. Almost all of my impressions of things are heavily influenced by media portrayals, so I naturally thought that life guarding was a constant stream of action and adventure. *Spoiler Alert* Its not. You spend the entire day sitting in the sun inches from the relief of the cool water but never allowed to get in. Its like the punishment of Tantalus, always hungry but never allowed to eat.

As the summer dragged on I began to feel like I was wasting my time. I was an “almost seminary graduate” who had impeccable problem-solving skills and leadership. Watching a lake all day in the sun was a waste of my abilities and talents. I started to grumble to those around me that would listen and eventually was called to a meeting with the teen cabin leadership.

I sat down across from this college kid who wasn’t old enough to drink and listened to him lecture me on the downfalls of complaining. My pride got the better of me and I started to use my seminary education to debate him on semantical differences to make him feel stupid. He eventually gave up and said “I don’t know about any of that but I know that when we are serving God we are supposed to do it with a joyful heart and not complain.”

With that our meeting ended.

I hate it when people prove me wrong.

I knew deep down that the young kid was right, but I didn’t want to admit it. I wanted to have the respect I thought I deserved because of my education and abilities. I wanted to be honored and looked up to not some lowly life guard.

It took me 3/4s of the summer to finally break down from my pride and instead life fully into the realm of being the best damn life guard I could be.

I spent the majority of that summer living into a belief that I was too good to be a “stupid lifeguard”
that I missed out on being a “stupid lifeguard”. As that “stupid lifeguard” I had a unique opportunity to connect with other counselors and staff that someone on a leadership team wouldn’t have. I was like an undercover pastor. I could have made such an impact on people’s lives had I just allowed myself to be used.

The reality is that I still do this today. Sometimes I feel like the tasks I have to do for work are too below me or the current pulpit supply position I am filling is too below my skills. Yet in both of those situations that young kid is right.

As a Christian I am not called to a position of honor or glory. I am not called to be the leader, the visionary or even a pastor. I am called to be a servant of God. As a servant of God, I must always remember to die to myself. To live each moment as if I am serving God directly and to humble myself.

In other words, I need to constantly remind myself to “shut up and serve”.

No matter what your position is currently whether it be pastor, CEO, System’s Engineer or janitor, you are a servant. I guarantee that if we serve others first we will see a unique opportunity to share the Gospel that would have been other wised missed.

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