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Compromise

With the holidays and ordination now behind me, I decided to try to find a part-time job. We managed to get through seminary without taking on much debt, but babies are expensive, and we’ve had two in the last three years, and so I thought that, if I could find the right situation, maybe it would be good for me to enter the working world for a little while. For the last month or two, I’ve been trolling help-wanted ads, trying to find a job that would fit our very specific needs. Obviously, I have some limitations in what I can and cannot do. I have a day job, or two of them depending on how much credit you’ll give me for watching the kids. We’re also in full-time support raising mode, and since Donnette goes to work all week, this too has fallen to me. Whatever job I found needed to keep our weekends free, and our Wednesday nights free, and needed to be okay with us occasionally going out-of-town for a week…there were not many jobs out there that met this criteria.

If you weren’t aware, my background is in the restaurant business, *1* and so it was my hope that I might be able to parlay this into a job waiting tables one or two evenings a week. To get even more picky, I wanted to find a place close to my house, and without much of a dress code, so that at 4:57 I could put on a t-shirt, walk out the door, and be at work on time ready to go. *2* To be honest, I had no real desire to go back to working in a restaurant, for any number of reasons that I won’t go into here. But, it’s the business I know, it’s an easy way to make a little bit of extra money, and I felt like it was a sacrifice I could make on behalf of our family. If nothing else, it was my hope that not really needing the money would make the work more tolerable, somehow knowing that I could quit at any time would make me far less inclined to want to quit. That was my hope.

On a slightly more spiritual level, I also thought it would be good for me to interact with non-Christians again. When Avonlea was born, I quit my restaurant job to stay at home with her (and to go to school full-time), and as such, I haven’t had regular interaction with non believers in about 2.5 years. I will confess that I actually enjoyed this spiritual hiatus. I grew up going to public schools, all the way through college. My professional life was entirely secular and so it’s not as if I’ve had no exposure to the outside world. I’ve had lots of non-Christian friends; thanks to the wonders of Facebook there’s a chance one or more of them will read this post. I’m appreciative of my background, I’m thankful for the people who befriended me even though my worldview is so very different (and at odds) with theirs, and I’m thankful that I’m headed to the mission field without rose-colored glasses on as to how non-Christians view the world and the church. But, being so immersed in the world can be draining, particularly when that world is as seedy *3* as the restaurant business. I enjoyed the Christian ghetto of seminary and church life, have been refreshed by being around fellow believers and happily reminded that there really is a difference between the way Christians and non-Christians live their lives. It was good for a time, and I was thankful for it.

But, as the psalmist says, there is a time for everything, and I felt that the time for being insulated was over, and so I was excited a couple of weeks ago when I came across a listing for a job with a restaurant that was soon to open in Rock Hill. Examining my previous criteria, I thought I’d hit the mother lode. It was close, opening up in downtown, less than five minutes away if there was traffic. Dress code? The people who were opening this place own an Irish bar downtown, and the dress code for the employees there seemed to be, as much as I could tell, casual homeless. (But more on this later.) This new venture would be an upscale pizza place, and if there’s one food I know all too well, it’s pizza. *4* Would they work with my schedule? I didn’t know, but it seemed worth it to find out. I filled out an application and talked to a couple of different managers, all the while being as straightforward as I could be with them as to who I am and what I was looking for in a job. To my surprise, they were fine with what I needed, fine with me working super part-time, fine with me being a missionary who would eventually be leaving for France, and so I thought, “Great!” what could go wrong? Last night was supposed to be the first night of training, and I showed up at 5:00, excited and ready to work.

But I hadn’t been in the door more than five minutes before I began to wonder if there was going to be a problem. The restaurant itself is pretty nice, the owners renovated an old factory type space, and there’s a good amount of exposed brick and copper piping, all of which is very hip these days. I suppose there’s always going to be a difficulty figuring out how to decorate a restaurant, but the direction these guys took was, at least in my opinion, a right turn in Albuquerque. I don’t want to be uncharitable, it isn’t super offensive, just questionable pictures from Rock and Roll’s glory days, and were I not a newly minted Reverend I probably wouldn’t have minded all that much. It certainly wouldn’t be enough to keep me from eating there, but to work there, well, maybe. This was further compounded by the uniforms. I’d hoped that the owners would carry the dress code over from their other venture, but instead they wanted the uniforms here to be, well, a little more uniform. I didn’t have a problem with the requirement of tennis shoes and jeans, and had they not showed us the back of the t-shirts I might be going back for second night of training tonight. *5* But they did show us the back, which contained a mildly offensive/ suggestive *6* slogan on it, a slogan that when I ran it by my wife, she immediately said “you are a minister, you can’t wear that sort of thing.” We actually talked about it for a little while longer, but by bedtime I had agreed to call today with my resignation, my foray back into the restaurant business having lasted exactly seven hours.

I don’t tell this story just to let everyone know about the last 24 hours of my life, and I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from eating at this place when it opens. It’s a fine restaurant, the owners seemed to be stand up guys who took my resignation this afternoon without any hint negativity whatsoever. I tell this story because it was originally my plan to write this week about some of the compromises that we are likely to face as we minister in France with a French denomination. I may still come back to that at some point. But the last 24 hours have reminded me that there are always compromises we’re asked to make, both as a minister in particular and as Christians in general. Our call is to be in the world, but not of the world, and how that shakes itself out looks very different depending on who you are and how your conscience convicts you. In this case, it seemed to be a compromise it would be unwise for me to make. But there will be others, especially when it comes to reaching the lost, that will absolutely need to be made and I pray, I pray that God will give me the necessary wisdom to know where the line must be drawn. Not to get super spiritual, but thinking about this does make me grateful for the gospel of grace, because given how much compromise we face every day, how much righteousness would any of us have to show for ourselves when it was all said and done?

So I will not be your server at any area restaurants anytime soon. Donnette says if I really want to be of help I can start by getting rid of all of our old books. She suggests starting with my “Calvin and Hobbes” collection. I’ll start the bidding at $1,000. Maybe less, after all, this was supposed to be a sacrifice…

Thank you for your prayers!

 

*1* The fruit of majoring in history instead of engineering. Not that engineering was really an option for me. Unlike my wife, who would have made a wonderful engineer, no one’s ever met me and thought, that guy really missed his calling to practical math. But still, there had to be something more worthwhile than history…

*2* This may sound like a lot to ask, but do keep in mind that we live a block away from downtown Rock Hill, so this wasn’t a total stretch.

*3* I’m not sure if seedy is the right word to use here, and I certainly wouldn’t want to characterize all the people I met during my stint in the business this way, because that wouldn’t be fair. However, I am inclined to think back to my very first night at my very first restaurant job, and my manager asking me to hang out for a few more minutes before I went home, so that he could quickly run out back and snort a line of coke off the hood of his car. So yeah, I’ll stick with seedy for now.

*4* If I’m counting correctly, I’ve worked at no less than five pizza places in my professional life. It’s a business that seems to sink its teeth into you and never let go. This, and I didn’t even like pizza when I was a kid!

*5* Sorry for the spoiler.

*6* It is pretty mild, and would really only offend the kind of person who didn’t like “Forrest Gump” because of all the sex-scenes. Still, there is a call for ministers to live lives above reproach, and that rules out even the mildly offensive.

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