Monday, November 24, 2008

Who’s Got an Important Job?

Over the weekend, I attended a get-together with some high school friends. I hadn’t seen these folks in 17 years, so I’d wondered whether we’d be able to carry on a conversation—and, if so, what on earth would we talk about?

As we began sharing about the second half of our lives, several of my old schoolmates told of their paper-pushing, report-filing, 9-to-5 jobs. I asked for more detail, and one replied, “You know, it’s just a normal job.” Thing is, I haven’t recently experienced what a “normal” job is like, since I haven’t had one since 2004. And I miss it. One classmate mentioned the free beverages in his office, which took me right back to my last full-time job, where I was thrilled that I could make mint cocoa every day because my office had both cocoa packets and peppermint tea bags. I miss the daily interactions with co-workers, going out to lunch, and the shared joy of finishing a project.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the writing that I do. I just have a different experience—of getting up, drinking a glass of water (no coffee cart to grab from), walking from my kitchen into our home office, and often wishing I had a co-worker with whom to bounce around ideas. Instead, I email my stories to my editors in Chicago, hoping they don’t hate them, and wait for their emailed reply. And sometimes I “phone a friend,” asking their opinion on my work. “Normal” simply isn’t my normal.

I thought my friends’ jobs were a lot more fascinating than the tone in their voices suggested. They are doing work that is deeply meaningful to individuals, the country, and the world. Their work helps others receive medical care, make financial decisions, and access entertainment. Some of them figure out solutions to problems so others don’t have to worry about that stuff.

Some years ago, a friend who worked as an office assistant told me she felt her job was unimportant. “I’m just a secretary,” she’d said. And I replied, “Isn’t every working person a secretary?” In essence, everyone is working for someone else: Some people work for a supervisor, some for clients, some for shareholders. This might sound like I’m saying, “All jobs are relatively unimportant”—but my meaning is the furthest from this. Rather, I mean that all jobs are equally structurally important. If any part of the structure is missing, regardless of what type of part it is, the structure is incomplete.

This is the concept of the body of Christ. There are days that I feel like the pinky toe in the body. I’ve heard that a person could lose their toe and still be able to walk and function just fine. But function isn’t the point. The body was designed a particular way, which includes 10 toes. If one toe is gone—even if one toenail is missing—the body isn’t complete.

I once accidentally dropped something heavy on my foot, which caused bruising under the nail. I remember how I’d worried that my toenail might fall off. I didn’t want to be missing a nail on one toe, because I recognized this would cause me to feel incomplete. (Well, I’d feel it was ugly-looking to be toenail-less!) My mind recognized that even the smallest piece is needed for completeness. I love these verses from 1 Corinthians 12: “… there should be no division in the body … its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (v. 25-26).

On those days when I feel like I’m the pinky toenail, I hope I’ll also remember that I’m a valuable part of the body's structure. I hope I’ll learn to always regard every person as necessary for the body of Christ to be complete.

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