The Hardest Job (Prayer Devotional for the week of May 10, 2015)

My first job (not including babysitting) was working the cash register at a drycleaner. I remember a customer got upset because his jeans were only extra-starched, but not stiff enough to double as drum skins. It was laughable, but that wasn’t the hardest job, by any means. Several years later, I worked as a newspaper reporter, and I once got chewed out by my editor. That job got on my nerves, but even it wasn’t the hardest job.

 

Then, there was the time I had to eat scorpion and dog meat (not in the same meal) at my teaching job in China, or else risk offending the host. That was a little freaky, but certainly not the hardest job I’ve had. There was also the job where a bunch of people got fired, and I eventually left for a much lower paying position just to save my skin (and my sanity). That job took a toll on my emotional health, but even it wasn’t the hardest.

 

For me, the hardest job is parenting. I used to think it was tough when the kids were little and needed constant care and attention, but sometimes it feels even more difficult now that they’re older and can voice their feelings and opinions. I can think of few things more humbling than having a person whose poop you’ve wiped and whose puke you’ve caught with your own shirt tell you that they don’t want you as a parent, or that you’re “so mean” to them, or that you “never” do anything nice for them.

 

Yes, parenting is certainly one of the most delayed-reward jobs on the planet. There are verses like Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20 that we can encourage our children to memorize and put into practice, but Proverbs 22:6 is the epitome of all parenting verses, as it gives us hope that one of these days, we’ll eventually see the fruit from our labors.

 

Some of you are still in the diapering days; others are already enjoying grandparenthood. Some are not parents, but you still have influence over the children in your life. May we be examples for them to emulate our love and respect for God, so that they will take it to heart and … excuse me, I have to go … someone was apparently playing catch with a rock in the backyard and caught it with his face. Sigh.

Anchors don’t look back (Prayer devotional for the week of June 8, 2014)

Much of the time, the star athletes have the first turn. There are starting pitchers in baseball, starting point guards in basketball, starting quarterbacks in football, etc. In these sports, you want to get on the board first and stay in the lead.

A different strategy comes into play when the sport is a relay race, however. Certainly, the lead runner or swimmer needs to be a strong athlete, and those in the middle of the race need to maintain a swift pace, but the star—the one who will bring home the win—is the powerhouse anchor. The last one to leave the starting block is the one people look to for the finale. The anchor breaks the ribbon with one final stride; the anchor stops the timer with one final stroke.

In life, though, we don’t always like being last … do we?

When you are the anchor, you don’t start on 0:00. You start at whatever point your team made it to before your leg began. You might already be in the lead; you might be trailing everyone. Regardless, it’s your job to kick it in gear (pun intended) and either maintain the lead or earn it.

Likewise, we don’t have control over many of the circumstances that have affected our lives in the past. We can’t usually undo past mistakes. You can’t choose your parents; you don’t pick your siblings. You can influence but not force change in your spouse and children. You can’t single-handedly fix corporate lay-offs or the tumbling stock market.

You may be running the anchor leg in life, but don’t give up! God doesn’t expect you to run the whole race alone, but he does expect you to keep on keeping on. Check out Romans 12: 11-12: “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder” (The Message).

So, if you are looking over your shoulder at the past, then you are not focusing on the race ahead … and anyone who has ever seen a horror flick knows that looking over your shoulder while running is a bad, bad idea. Stay alert; don’t quit.

Originally posted May 22, 2011