My friend Wes has spent most of his life working with his hands. Recently he’s been trying his hand at words – which is the sort of thing I encourage, particularly from someone like Wes who has something to say. He sent this to me a few days ago to dip into a bit.
Not a bad story for Christmas. Wes, you are indeed a beloved creation.
With awesome knees.
We all have to do it and we all want something for it. In fact, if we don’t feel that we are paid fairly, whether it be in money, honor or whatever motivates us to work, bitterness usually follows… quickly. I recently struggled with bitterness at work; this is not an unusual occurrence in my life. But I have recently been shown just how much bitterness there is in me and how harmful it is. To everyone. More importantly I’ve been shown how much it hurts God himself to witness me, his beloved creation, hurting myself and others he loves.
I am at work standing next to my machine, which happens to be in view of the supervisor’s office. As I work I notice folks going in and out of the office with cool new shirts, apparently given by the company to the employees. This is not a surprise as it is the Holidays and our company has been known to give such gifts. As time passes I wait for my turn to go in, give my size and collect my shirt. More time passes and I see a trend in who is receiving shirts and start to wonder what is going on. Asking one of the guys I know passing with his new shirt I inquire. He responds that the shirts are for those employees who recently worked two Saturdays to help fill some important orders.
In an instant I was mentally up in arms.
After all about four months previously I had worked two Sundays in a row to make up time for a machine that had gone down and stayed down weeks longer than expected. Oh and not to mention one of those Sundays was off shift causing me to understand what jet lag truly feels like. I also started to realize that of the people in my department that had worked one had volunteered and ended up cleaning his machine for half the shift because there was not enough work to keep him busy. Yet he was still awarded the stupid shirt for coming in and wasting overtime hours looking for things to keep him busy. If you are wondering if I’m a bit of a crybaby when it comes to silly things at work you’re right, this is one of my struggles in life.
Thank God that this time He put a stop to my personal hurricane of bitter, negative thoughts and gently reminded me of a story. Matthew 20:1-16. The parable of the workers in the vineyard.
I can’t say that this is one of my favorite stories, after all it isn’t fair. The workers that had been diligently working all day received the same pay as the slackers that probably were not even awake in the morning, or at mid-day, or in the early afternoon when the landowner was hiring the all the other workers. If fact the first time I read this parable I had to read it multiple times to make sure I had read it correctly. I was young at the time and the whole point obviously was lost on me.
But rereading it now in the throes of my bitter anger I saw the end a bit more clearly.
“Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
‘Generous.’ I was abruptly stopped in my mental tracks.
God continued speaking into me, reminding me of all the times I received ‘generous gifts’. This company, after all, had started me out at a good hourly rate and has given consistent raises since and many many other perks that they don’t have to give me. I began to feel a little silly as God shed some truth on my situation.
The amazing thing is that He did not stop there. God then started to remind me of His generosity. Of all the things in my life that helped keep me and my family comfortable; our clothes, house, vehicles, good food, extra time to do with as we want. Then He reminded me of all that He had given me personally, my healthy body, my mind, my ambitions, my desire for His truth. Finally, He reminded me of what he required of his Son on my and the world’s behalf. Now I’m awestruck, but God didn’t stop there either.
At this point I suddenly saw Jesus being put into the parable. After all He did all the work of submitting to the cross so that I, at nearly 40 years old, could finally drag myself out of my spiritual slumber at a leisurely three in the afternoon to finally decide to agree to take care of my heavenly Father’s business. So now the question to me was: how does he receive me as I come to collect my denarius of love/grace? (I’m guessing it’s a two sided coin.) Very gladly, I would imagine.
Some might say that I am stretching the meaning of this parable. Maybe so, but in revisiting this experience that I had with God I looked at the fruit. I started in a very old pattern of bitterness in my life; one relived literally thousands if not millions of times. But this time God stopped me with a gentle nudge, showed me my fault and his heart without the guilt that I usually feel from the revelation of my personal sins. So now instead of looping over and over again an internal dialogue of bitter hate toward those ‘unfair’ managers, my internal dialogue is full of praise and thankfulness for God’s generosity in my life, with none of the old frustration and anxiety whatsoever. In short it was a miracle, or simply His work, a work that God wants to continue to perform in all areas in my life. Not as a duty, as I usually see the work set before me, but as an artisan making right that what can’t make itself right.
He’s given me such generous grace.
And you know what?
That’s not fair.