"We make a living by what we do, we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill
I have always been a good student. Through high school and college I rarely had to crack a book to make goods grades, and in college even failed to bother buying many of the books for my classes. By the end of college, my dream, much like many college kids, was to retreat into a monastic world of intellectualism and Christian thought where I could reflect deeply on the things of God and not be bothered with the things of this world. I could easily have become a nun. (Though, I really don't think I would look good in those dress thingys). How much easier and more pure my life would be if I could be in the world as little as possible! And how much more godly I would be as a result of being separated from so much temptation. Convent life is for me! No temptations with the flesh (only the mind) and no confrontations with a sinful world. And you can study and daydream about God all day long!
But reality set it. It was during those same college years that I begrudgingly worked numerous jobs to pay the the bills. By far, though, the hardest physical job was one I held on 10th Ave North in Birmingham. I worked in warehouse that sold nuts and bolts and washers, and similar type fasteners all over the Southeast. A huge warehouse, I had to know the difference between and location of Grade 2, Grade 5 and Grade 8 bolts and screws, with matching washers and nuts. I had to climb racks of bolts, each sorted by diameter, grade and size to piece together orders. I had to maneuver a forklift in tight areas, load and unload semi-trucks. The summers were sweltering, as there was no air conditioning in that building. The winters were equally harsh, though we did have a few gas and diesel space heaters we would gather around when the chill got too bad. All this for the whopping total of $4.25 an hour. And besides, I got to learn a lot of interesting new linguistic combinations from that bunch of blue collar guys with whom I worked. (I had no clue that a particular cross species mating combination was even possible, but apparently when you drop a keg of bolts on your foot it brings it to mind.)
As I think back on it, I'm glad I worked with bolts, rather than nuns. I am still not sure how I managed to work 40 hours while taking a full class load in college. That company was good to me, allowing me to be gone for class, but demanding I be there all other times. This gentile intellectual (mental is probably a better word) boy from a middle class family went to college with grease under his fingernails and wearing a blue collar warehouse uniform. (Rich preppy college chicks really dig that.) I learned that hard physical work is not beneath anyone and certainly honorable, but also not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Since then, there have been numerous jobs I have held, some paying better than others, but each with its own difficulties commensurate with the pay. But of all the things I have done to feed and house my family, what I do now is probably the most demanding. The stress is huge. One mistake and bad things happen. The hours are long and hard, the work load cyclical, the people I deal with at times are obnoxious, and the time it calls for me to be away from my family overwhelming. I have missed sporting events and school concerts, holidays and birthday celebrations all in the pursuit of the vocation in which I participate. Make no mistake, those are big sacrifices, not only for me, but for those who I care about and who are closest to me.
But along that way I have met people in need, worked with people in need, and played with people in need. I saw real hurts and real joys of real people expressing themselves without regard for what others mights think. And those people have had the opportunity to see a Christian where they least expected to find one. (Not that I have always been the best example.)
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life... (Phil. 2:12-15).
As I grow older I understand more and more what it means to "work out my salvation with fear and trembling". It doesn't mean to hide in the cloisture of the convent, or create a sacred bubble that the world cannot penetrate. (Failure to sin from lack of opportunity is not the same thing as being sinless.) It means, at least for me, to be in the path of this crooked and depraved generation, shine like the stars and hold out the word of life. It is facing the temptations and knowing that through God's strength they hold no power. It means coming into contact with people from all walks of life and showing them the Gospel of Christ in me.
If I fail in this world, there's always the nun thing. Just call me Sister For The Luv.