I ‘John Wayne’ Through Life

Straight out of high school, I worked at a small meat packing facility. My job was to grind three or four hundred pounds of beef every morning and bulk-pack it for shipping. The tubs of beef weighed eighty to a hundred pounds each, too much for the average eighteen-year-old girl to lift. But I figured out a way to shuffle them off the cutting table onto my shoulder. Then all I had to do was stand up under them, stagger to the grinder, and heave them into the grinding pan.

There would have been five or ten strong men at the ready to help, but I didn’t want to ask. I was too shy, or too proud to admit that I couldn’t do it myself. So instead I permanently damaged my shoulder.

This fall I’ve had to grit my teeth and tighten my belt financially.  Last winter I had nice clothes but I’ve since shrunk out of them. No shopping spree could be justified.  So though my coat was shabby to the point of embarrassment, I decided to keep wearing it and wait for the right opportunity.

Well, last week my church hosted their Thanksgiving Food and Clothing Drive.  Free food and clothes for anyone who needed them.  I had an extended argument with myself, going “you ARE poor” and “no I’m NOT” back and forth and back and forth. Whether I fit the criteria wasn’t the true issue. The real issue was shopping among the tables, and then being seen up in the choir in my new threads.  If I walked through those doors, I would admit that I couldn’t provide for myself just then.

I sensed God saying ‘let me provide for you, here.” Still I hemmed and hawed.  Finally, I was running nearby so I wrestled myself into the building, looking like a schlep with my windblown hair and my sweaty gear. Even when I had my bag in hand and was looking through the stacks of gently used jeans, I had a hard time admitting to my friendly church family that I wasn’t there to volunteer.  I was there to ‘shop’.

I found some clothes, but in the end I wonder if it was more a lesson in humility than in provision.

“God gives grace to the humble,” the Apostle Peter said.  I remind myself that independence is good, but when I ‘John Wayne’ my way through life, a lone gunmen against my battles, I miss out on the greatest sources of strength I have: my family, and my God.

Why bust my shoulder, when a stronger arm can help me lift?

A Peculiar Thing Called a Comfort Zone

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway” -John Wayne.

I discovered something odd about myself the other day. I examined other test subjects (coworkers, I mean) and found a similar phenomenon among them.

I am well aware that my life contains comfort zones. We all have them—protective bubbles of familiar tasks, people, places and viewpoints. What I hadn’t considered was that comfort zones might contain uncomfortable things.

Lemme ‘splain.

I just completed a training program for a job at a large manufacturing facility. For two weeks I sat through presentations and worked in a lab. But the bulk of our time was spent reading Standard Operation Procedures (SOP’s). These give step-by-step instructions for every mundane detail of factory life—all in highly technical language. Often they were for machines or procedures I had never heard of.

I’m sure you can imagine how ‘exciting’ that was.

The odd thing was that because I was afraid to go work on the plant floor, which was part of the program, I began to look forward to the safety of SOP reading. There were no new people. There were no surprises—just me and the other two girls. Boring as heck, but comfortable (the SOP’s, not the girls).

Pathetic, right?  It makes me wonder what other circumstances I’m accepting in life—boring, unedifying or harmful as they are—because they’re comfortable. Maybe it’s unpleasant but it’s familiar unpleasantness. Like: “Oh, I don’t mind living paycheque to paycheque. At least my bills are paid.” Or “I don’t mind being fat. I dress well so I still look good.”

Geez, Geralyn!

It may be fear, apathy or plain laziness. But whatever my reason for staying in the comfort zone, once the pain of staying there becomes greater than the pain of changing, I’ll change. Hence, the second job. And often you won’t be able to stay in that zone forever. My employer sure didn’t let me stay in training. I’m on the plant floor now, like it or not.

So if our comfort zones are actually uncomfortable, and if others might force us out of them anyway, shouldn’t we root out these little islands of complacency ourselves? Or, if you’re a person of faith, why not let God work on these parts of our lives instead of dragging our heels?

Just a little something to think about.  I’ll be thinking about it too–as I’m working on the plant floor.