Like many of you I have held secular jobs to support myself, and I write about these on another blog which I don’t really share. It’s a place where I can vent the frustration of having to work alongside, and serve people who don’t really care to hear about Jesus Christ.
I have worked at my current job for 12 years which is amazing when you consider that I almost quit the first summer. Some tough guys came in the store and, well, I thought I was going to get a bullet in the head. I work in a convenience store which is actually one of the most dangerous places to work. A customer at a nearby store was shot in the head when he came to the defense of the cashier who was being threatened by an assailant. This type of business, by its very nature, attracts a disproportionate number of unsavory characters.
Everyday we have to confront shoplifters, panhandlers, loiters and an inordinate number of nasty, mean and abusive customers who like to yell, curse and throw things. There are certain profane words I never heard in public when I was a younger man, and now I hear them everyday. It is a wretched job, and I don’t know how many times I laid prostrate on the ground, crying out to the LORD for deliverance.
Twelve long years I have suffered. After a customer violently beat me I wondered if God heard my prayers, or if He even cared. One thing I learned was that the LORD works according to His timetable. Joseph was in an Egyptian jail for 13 years. The generation of Moses wandered through the desert forty years. Abraham had to wait 25 years before Isaac was born. I prayed a thousand prayers unto the LORD as it is written — pray without ceasing. Whatever situation you’re in has to run its course. There are challenges that you will have to overcome. You’ve got to endure. You’ve got to keep praying. (See, The Parable of the Persistent Widow.)
Over the years I’ve worked with some pretty difficult people — alcoholics, heroin addicts and abusive (bipolar) personalities. There was one unforgettable guy — Vinny, not his real name — who lived out of his car. Supposedly, he was an enforcer in Chicago. He collected outstanding debts for mobster types … bookies and such. The boss-man asked him to collect on a guy who happened to be a friend, but he didn’t want to break the guy’s knees so he sneaked out-of-town. Well, you can’t run from the mob unless you’re in a witness protection program, or go off the grid which is what Vinny did. He had no address, phone number or bank account. The first night at work he pulled out a wad of cash and asked if I needed a loan. Yeah, I only took the job because I needed to pay rent, but I wasn’t so desperate as to risk having my knees shattered.
I’ll never forget the night when the Godfather (and his lieutenants) came into the store. Vinny gasped when he saw his old paisanos from Chi town; and the mob boss — like he had cotton balls in his cheeks — asked, “Vinny, you got the money?” Vinny, with trembling hands, held up an envelope stuffed with cash and feebly said, “I was gonna give it to you.”
Just as I thought we were gonna die — the mob doesn’t like witnesses — the boss said, “Vin, let’s take a walk.” As they went out the door I finally exhaled. Maybe they didn’t notice me, or maybe we’d both end up in the dumpster. The conversation was very animated. Well, Vinny’s arms were flailing, but the mobsters’ hands remained in their pockets … keeping the trigger warm I imagined.
After a few tense moments, Vinny handed over the envelope and was allowed to walk away. He didn’t speak a word for the remainder of our shift, and I never — ever — asked.
The thugs who wanted to shoot me, and the encounter with the Godfather all happened that first week. I prayed from then on, “LORD, I’ve got to get out of here!”
Except for the regulars, who understand how difficult the job is, there is no respect. People pass judgement on service workers. They don’t know that I have a Master’s Degree, or that I write. Nor do they know the circumstances and challenges that led me here. These things are posted on the other blog, but I make no excuses. People, when they find out that I have a degree, get even more squint-eyed: Why do you work here? Their estimation of me sinks even lower.
I have to say it doesn’t enhance my testimony nor is it a compelling witness of my Christian faith to tell people where I work. But isn’t that what they always ask — What do you do for a living? I noted in my last post that, in God’s kingdom, we are not defined by our occupation, but in our service to Him. I’m not talking about customer service. Selling beer and cigarettes all day grieves my soul, and in no way glorifies God. A large number of my customers are homeless alcoholics, or functioning alcoholics who drink a case of beer every night and are somehow capable of holding down a job.
Over the years a few of my customers have succumbed to their addictions. I sold them the beer and cigarettes that killed them. How would that make you feel? Maybe I’ll tell their story in later posts — Keith, for example, who wanted desperately to quit drinking. He used to stand in the window and watch me run the register. He was so impressed with my skill, and wondered if he could do that. Keith was found dead in an alley behind the store. Cause of death — liver disease.
Thursday was my last day on this job. My eyes are so bad that I can no longer do the work. I was born with bad eyes, and have prayed a thousand prayers for healing. I am still waiting on the LORD to be healed.
David, my namesake, wrote:
Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD (Psalm 27:14).
Contrary to Word of Faith I cannot speak health into reality. We are not little gods. Only by the Word might I be healed. As the LORD pleases I will continue to post, and though I receive no wage for this ministry I pray the LORD will provide.
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