In the final post of the series Heart, Work & World? Telling First-Hand Accounts of the Gospel in our Work, we hear from a facilities manager who works at a local church. My favorite part about this story is the quote in the fourth paragraph. Quite stunning that through picking up trash he can see atonement – and the salvation of the world!
The doctrine we’re highlighting here is the doctrine of the perseverance, the Christian teaching that once somebody is “born again” by the Holy Spirit, nothing in heaven or earth can separate them from the love of Christ. Jesus will keep eternally safe all those entrusted to him by the Father.
Because of this great confidence we don't’ give up. We continue to serve God and neighbor in our work, not necessarily because of the results we see, but because of the great promises we have in Christ.
I grew up on an air force base with my two brothers and two step sisters. After high school, I joined the Navy for four years, and then headed to Florida for construction. But then I followed a girl out to Denver, where I also worked in restaurants. When I was around 30, I realized my life had no direction. I was doing drugs and alcohol. But then God met me and started cleaning up my life.
I now work as a facilities manager. One of the first things I do in the morning is I'll check my emails and see if there's anything that needs to be taken care of. Once I check that, I'll go outside and I'll start picking up the trash around all the outside common area.
You know, most of the time you'd look at picking trash as being a negative. It's like, "Do I really have to do this? This is the worst part of my job. I hate doing it."
But as I spend time with God meditating, worshipping and thanking Him, He shows me the sins of the world and how Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is sufficient for our sins. Like the mess I see each morning, our sins are everywhere - they're always there before us even though the debt has been paid. And so as I pick up this trash, I just see God cleansing me - and the world. It’s kind of a strange analogy.
Each week there are challenges. I have a lot of internal battles. A lot of times I feel like I’m not respected or what I’m doing isn’t really valued by others. Other days people don’t really communicate with me what they need. And sometimes you get kind of overwhelmed with the day-to-day activities. Going through the calendar, making sure people have exactly what they need, getting my staff together, checking the to-do list and everything that needs to get fixed.
So I say, "Lord, let me be your hands, let me be your feet this day. Help me to do the things that I need to do." It’s because of my relationship with Him that I don’t give up. He seems to say to me, “I have you right where I want you to be.” That’s where perseverance comes in. I just really try to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and what God’s trying to tell me in those tough times.
And quite honestly I couldn't do it without Him anyway. It's a lot of building to take care of, and with my staff I'm relying on people. I try to make time every day to build relationships too. That's something I've never really taken the time to do with other jobs. Always so focused on hustle and bustle and trying to perform, trying to be something good. But He just shows me it's about relationships too - it's not always about doing this and that. It's about building relationships and getting to know people.
We're all broken people, and I deal with broken things every day. But in that constant relationship with Him — well, I feel like my yoke is easy and my burden is light if I give it to Him.
Jeff Haanen is a writer and entrepreneur. He founded Denver Institute for Faith & Work, a community of conveners, teachers and learners offering experiences and educational resources on the gospel, work, and community renewal. He is the author of An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life and an upcoming two-book series on spiritual formation, vocation, and the working class for Intervarsity Press. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Denver and attends Wellspring Church in Englewood, Colorado.