By Ken Laue
My wife’s dad has a missing thumb.
My father-in-law was a Nebraska farm boy who lost the thumb as a teen in a horse roping accident. When the war broke out, he went to sign up for the armed services like the other guys his age.
He always took it hard that he was rejected because of his missing thumb, while his brother was allowed to serve. But the truth is that he served his country well as a farmer and rancher. You can’t fight a war without food.
It’s like my old boss, Bill, told us, “Don’t ever let me hear you say, I’m just a bus driver.” Then he would tell us how uniquely positioned each school bus driver is to bring encouragement to a child’s life, to contribute to their education, and to ensure they get to school each day to become a productive member of society; to be a friend when a cloud covers their life, to teach them discipline and respect for rules and safety practices . . . just for openers.
In these perilous times, everyone’s eyes are on the big cheeses: either the new president-elect, the outgoing administration, the posturing terrorist dictators in the news, or any of the other well-publicized players.
But in truth, it’s the little people that keep the world running, not the high-profile wheels or celebs.
When you occupy a humble station, it’s hard to see any importance to your life.
But imagine how the world would be just a week after all the custodians were to go on strike. Or the housekeeping staff at all the hotels, or the field workers.
I recently retired from student transportation after thirty-seven years, and I can tell you that we school bus professionals often fell prey to an inferiority complex – no doubt caused by lack of respect from a small but vocal minority of parents, teachers, administrators, motorists, and even students.
In the face of circumstance, it gets easy to buy into the lie that you don’t matter.
The barrage of thoughts is bolstered by the low salary: Why am I hauling people’s kids around when I can make more money driving the truck that collects their trash? Or delivers their beer? You can lose your focus on the enormous impact of simply getting students safely to class, day after day, month after month, year after year.
Pastor Warner once said, “Change is where our lives intersect Jesus telling us to follow Him.”
Biblical examples abound of God calling people to change their career and their city to become pastors and preachers. Peter and his pals gave up the fishing trade to follow Jesus and later found themselves at the forefront of world evangelism. Matthew gave up a lucrative career ripping off his own people as a tax collector for the Roman enemy. David went from a humble shepherd boy to the major player in Israeli politics (as in THE King).
In our fellowship, we are so caught up in the raising up of pastors and preachers (and rightly so) that we may sometimes forget that God intersects the lives of other people in a different way.
For many, The Lord’s call is to stay in their home environment and minister to co-workers, neighbors, family, and relatives.
The crazy guy in Luke 8 who went running around the tombs naked, breaking his chains and scaring the snot out of everyone, got gloriously saved when Jesus cast the demons out of him.
He wanted to follow Him, but Jesus stationed him as a witness to his hometown. No change of city, scenery, or career for this guy – well, except for going from whacked-out demon-possessed crazy man to clothed witness in his right mind.
What about the woman at the well whose sin-stained life Jesus exposed in John 4? We don’t see her joining Jesus and his entourage, but we do see her neighbors seriously impacted by her testimony.
World War II wasn’t just won by the front-line troops – although, may no one ever diminish their holy and sacred sacrifice of life and limb.
But without countless Rosie-the-Riveters – farmers who kept the food coming, and multitudes who kept the machinery of industry oiled and functioning – we’d be speaking either German or Japanese, and liberty would be but a distant memory.
By the same token, those God calls to stand firm in their hometown careers become the support base for the advancement of His army.
While my dad served in New Caledonia and Guadalcanal in World War II, Mom was a civilian employee of the Army. She was part of the group that wrote specs on the newly developed radar systems so that manufacturers could produce radar for the armed services.
A number of years back, I was serving in several ministries at my home church, The Door Church in Tucson. I was involved in a prison ministry, children’s church, the choir, Faith Camp for our pre-teen Young Servants, all while working a supervisory job at the school district’s Transportation Department with early show time, never enough sleep and mucho overtime.
I had laid my life down at the altar at several Bible Conferences to make myself available to God and to give my life to preaching. One year at the Children’s Worker’s Conference, I heard a repeating theme: that Children’s Church was a calling, not a “stepping stone” ministry. That it wasn’t a place to maintain a holding pattern while we awaited public or pulpit ministry or something more important.
We were in a vital, behind-scenes ministry, not serving in the public eye.
With great relief and a new focus, I began to major in Children’s Church, making more room for it, and gradually letting go of other ministries. It was then that I was able to see that God had called me to serve in the home church.
That also solved another mystery in my life: at the U of A I studied entomology (insects) and beekeeping. Numerous applications never resulted in a job in this field, while several decades of student bussing went by with several promotions and ended in retirement.
I realized God had tied together my career in serving school kids with my calling to serve the needs of kids in my home church. “Feed My lambs.”
Now, if you’ve been called to preach or pastor, and you’ve just got it in cruise control, skating on your calling… this essay isn’t meant to be a refuge for you. Get off of it and get on with it! How many people are not hearing the Gospel while you vacillate?
But if God intends for you to stay in your career – whether a construction worker, a businessman, a teacher, a member of the military, a landscaper or you-fill-in-the-blank – recognize that you are in a special position to minister to certain people’s lives as no one else can.
While that doesn’t mean God can’t and won’t bring change to your situation, or even to your calling, it does mean that you can serve with pride. Not the sinful pride of arrogance, but the kind of pride that comes from a job well done, knowing you are contributing to God’s war effort in a perilous time; a spiritual war for souls.