I’m standing at the fountain station inside the Lawrence Steak n Shake. I’ve been standing there, about four hours a day, for the past year, after losing my earlier job as secretary for a manufacturing company without warning. My boss had simply approached me one morning, informed me there wasn’t enough work for two people, thus I was being laid off effective right then and there (although he was gracious enough to give me two weeks’ vacation pay as an apology for the lack of warning).
Working in a restaurant proved an eye-opening experience. Before, I tended to look down on fast-food employees. To my arrogant eyes, many appeared dull-witted and slovenly. I, however, was a professional, with a degree and a career and everything!
Then I got burned out on journalism (just as my dad warned). Then I quit before they could fire me. Then I started working as a secretary/office manager for the manufacturing concern. Then I got laid off. In the six years since I’d graduated from college with my sparkly degree, I was unemployed and without hope of getting back into my previous field, only now I was married, had an apartment and a family to support.
So I took the job at Steak n Shake with gratitude, and I learned a few things.
One of the first things I learned is that these people are not dull; they are tired. Food service is a tiring profession. Everything that is not unclean (in the sense of having food residue on it) is in the process of becoming unclean, so there is constant impetus to scrape, spray, wash, wipe and scrub almost every surface, device and utensil, followed by yourself. Also, there’s a fairly steady stream of orders coming in both from the dining area and drive-through, and each order needs to be dealt with pretty much as soon as it arrives, even though this is usually impossible.
So there you are, trying to cook or make shakes or drinks or take orders and deal with multiple sources of information and keep your workspace clean, all at once. To top it all off (at least during the year I worked at SnS), there’s your boss wandering around shouting “Let’s not miss this time, people!”
I learned that if you sit in drive-through at the window after you’ve gotten your food, there’s a strong chance they’ll run over on their time clock, which makes management and employees unhappy (because then management yells at them).
I realized my new coworkers were intelligent, hard-working people who in some cases had landed here, in other cases had come here because this was what they liked to do. (For the most part. Almost anywhere, there will be a person or three who is not a particularly hard worker.)
I learned that God will find you no matter where you find yourself.
So there I am, standing at the fountain counter, wearing my white shirt, red bow tie, black hat, pants and apron. Big heavy shoes guaranteed not to slip on anything. I’m sticky with shake splatter. Tired. Wanting to go home to my daughter. I’m going through the motions of making another shake…when I feel it. The Call. Like a whisper in my mind, a tap on my shoulder. A stream of holy silver starting spontaneously and running the length of me. Like a hug.
“I want you,” the little voice that wasn’t said. “Go out, spread the Word.”
My initial feeling was elation. The Call! Ministry! What a joyous occupation, what a wonderful direction!
As the first jolt receded, I started wondering how I would go about this new path. I figured I’d go to seminary, perhaps become an ordained pastor or a hospital chaplain. Ideas on how to afford seminary did not immediately spring to mind.
I started researching seminary schools anyway. I also talked with one of my coworkers about ministry, as he was planning on going into it (and unlike me, had a plan).
As the months wore on, I began to have doubts. Was this really my calling, public ministry? I didn’t think I could. I have a low speaking voice. Other people sometimes have trouble hearing me over the phone. Also, I get nervous speaking to and in front of people, and when I get nervous, my voice gets softer and even more difficult to discern.
My coworker (the one with the plan) said a call to ministry could be anywhere, not necessarily in a church. It could be at home; it could be at work. Hmm… To me, that helped, but it didn’t fully overcome my shyness problem. I kept wondering.
At the time, I was playing in a d20 Modern game, playing a Christian evangelist elf named Lasairian Viliami. The juxtaposition was not lost on me. Here I am too afraid to speak to people about my faith in person, and I’d invented a character who couldn’t help but talk to others about God.
I’ve always loved to write. I’ve written a few very short stories, bits of fan fiction about the above-mentioned character, a volume of poetry, and taken several dozen stabs at writing a novel. One of the several reasons I went into journalism is my love of writing.
To me, my reluctance/fear didn’t indicate a career in public ministry. To me, anyway.
At the time I was playing in a role-playing game in which I had created a very outgoing Christian evangelist character. The world he lived in was fraught with danger, especially for one like him (a non-human, and a Christian to boot), but he was determined to spread the Gospel no matter what danger he found himself in as a result. I find it difficult to bring up issues of faith with family and friends.
At least, in person.
But I can write.
This blog, Forget Oneself, as in the expression to become lost in thought, shall be my writer’s journey, with writings about writing and selections of my various projects – Getting Hammered, and the fictional works small exorcisms and forget oneself. GH is a personal journal of my thoughts on faith; SE involves revenge, pain and letting go of the past; FO is one man’s explanation of how his life went off the rails, and his wish for forgiveness.
I hope you enjoy.