I recently left a two-month mission field and was in between jobs. I needed a steady income plus a set schedule while I reestablished my professional speaking and life coaching businesses.
A manufacturing company hired me immediately, not because of natural skill, but mostly because I passed a drug test and background check. Both parties were desperate to fill an immediate need.
I trained for two days in a classroom and was thrown onto the assembly floor. I hit the ground running and within hours, I think we all questioned how I got utterly mismatched with assembly line work. My coworkers tactfully assured me I’d adapt with practice.
Every day brought noise, disorganization, low attendance, and harsh treatment between people. A hopeless chaos had melted these long-term employees into flesh-covered molds. They wanted out of the factory but didn’t know where else to turn. Some weren’t motivated to seek life beyond their misery. They accepted the conditions as means to an end. But how would they end? What would be left of their spirit?
I felt like an outcast or a newly convicted prisoner where inmates question, “What are you in for?” I cringed from frequent vulgar conversations and cynicism. Some co-workers included me in superficial conversations and polite questions. Socially, I didn’t necessarily want to fit in, but at the same time, I felt ostracized.
Every workday, I struggled to live my life mission, “spreading sunshine, one smile at a time.” One day I overheard a conversation and learned how my coworkers nicknamed me Sandra Dee from Olivia Newton-John’s character in the movie Grease. I knew God wouldn’t place a lamppost in the middle of Vegas, but my light beams were growing faint.
Sometimes I was tempted to throw out a light cuss word or offer a courtesy laugh at inappropriate jests just to lessen their “goody two shoes” opinion of me. I wanted to break the 90-day contract, but didn’t feel peace about leaving early. I sensed God wanted me to complete the work sentence.
One evening, I dropped into bed from pure exhaustion. Instead of my usual Bible reading, I shut off the light. Immediately I knew I was to read at least one line from my Bible before sleeping. I was weary and hesitant about what to read, but the reason became clear when I opened my Bible. My eyes went to Jeremiah 15:19. “Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.” Whammo!
I knew this line referred to my job. Initially, I retaliated. “Lord, there’s no way I want to stay in that jaded septic tank!” I remembered my temptation to cuss or laugh at inappropriate material. I had stopped leading with a faith example and stifled Truth so I could fly under their critical radar.
Jeremiah’s reading wasn’t inviting me to jump onto a preaching pedestal, but to encourage teammates without trying to control their response or outcome. “Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.” My prayers shifted from, “Lord, help me quickly leave this toxicity” to “Help me model Jesus so You can lure some fishy characters. God, You catch ‘em and clean ‘em!”
The work conditions remained dark, but in my work area, people started to filter their gossip and lessen their severe responses and assumptions. Gratefully, that job concluded. We all agreed that it was best not to continue my temp-to-hire position.
During that 90-day trial, I observed how many people are starved to be noticed as a person rather than a number. Deep down, I think we all crave for our creative souls to come alive. We’ve grown accustomed to the absence of gentle kindness. We’ve become guarded and wary of someone’s compassion.
Many businesses rely on machines and quotas to run their mission. God values us as people over a number on a production line. He’s created a body to hold the mold of our soul. I believe businesses grow when their investment hinges on an employee as a person.
Invite without force. Encourage without control. Fish with a net rather than a spear.
Planting thoughtful consideration,
“Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them” (Jer 15:19 NIV).