Due to upcoming costs for seminary, living in Portland, poker, and maybe a new car, I got a second job working the grounds crew with the Eugene Emeralds (a minor league baseball affiliate of the San Diego Padres). How I got that job, though, wasn’t the easiest of processes and involved biting the bullet on a mistake I made.
I first applied to work in the merchandise department for the Ems, but wasn’t hired for the job. Despite a small kick to the pride, I was okay with it – even more so, now. But there was still the issue with gathering some extra funds for all the costs awaiting me this fall.
[Enter Tony Overstake]
Tony was one of the pastors at Calvary Fellowship before the head pastor resigned and the building was sold. He’s the current UO chaplain working through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes ministry. Ever since my freshman year of college, we’ve been meeting up as regularly as possible for a Bible study. On one particular meeting, he asked me if I wanted to come to his place the next day and pull some weeds. Seeing the opportunity to gather some funds, I said I would. So the next day I drove down to Creswell in my yard-work clothes.
I used to pull weeds as a kid living with my grandpa in Lincoln City. I hated it. I still hate it. But, as evidenced by the offer from Tony, what my grandpa put me through as a kid paid off, literally. Yet something happened toward the end of the day that I’m not exactly ashamed of, but I know I’m not proud of.
It was hot out that particular day. I can’t remember the exact temperature, but it was more than this coastal kid is used to. I was drinking a lot of water and doing my best to keep hydrated throughout the day – trying to work in the shade as much as possible. However, the last hour and a half had to be done directly in sunlight. And since the weeds were growing amongst the flowers (Tony’s flowers; not his wife’s), I was crouched low to the ground so I could get a better grip on the weeds. I have no idea how long I was crouched low, but when I went to stand up, I felt incredibly dizzy and actually fell over.
In that moment, I decided to call it. I had been working for about six hours and felt totally drained of energy, so I thought my dizziness was a sign I should call it a day. What I didn’t take into account was how there was only about ten minutes left of work. If I had taken a five minute break, gotten some water, and gone back at it for those ten minutes, I would have done a more respectable thing. Instead, I quit before the job was finished.
None of this had come to mind until Tony talked to me moments later. He was writing me a check for having worked, but he said something that stuck with me, “I’m just going to go ahead and say this, but I think you should have finished the job. I understand you were dizzy and it’s hot out, but it was only ten minutes worth of work. So this is just for future reference, but if you’re working for someone and trying to impress an employer, you might want to work through the difficulties.”
Believe me, I didn’t want to hear that. In fact, I drove home with a bitter taste in my mouth because I felt as though it wasn’t my fault that I stopped. And yet, I don’t think my bitter feeling was toward Tony or what he said; it was because he was right. Given a choice between comfort and finishing a job, I chose comfort. Sure, I was dizzy, but like I said above; I could have taken a five minute break (or less) and gone right back to work to finish out the project. Instead, I took that opportunity and chose to be comfortable rather than respectable.
No, I don’t think Tony respects me any less than what he did before I showed up to work that day. But he certainly doesn’t have any good reason to respect me more after that day. And that’s where I dropped the ball. I didn’t take advantage of an opportunity to work hard and work well for someone I respect. Yet it’s because I respect Tony that I was able to hear his honest and gentle rebuke (Two things I noticed about Tony’s words to me: 1. He could have said them in front of his wife and thereby embarrass me or 2. He could have said them right when I chose to call it a day with all the emotion he must have felt; he didn’t. He kept his cool and told me quietly).
A while ago I had written a post about Dutch Uncles and about how we need them and how we need to be them. Tony was the epitome of a Dutch Uncle that day; he was honest, yet constructive, telling me what I needed to hear so that I may do better the next time around. Little did I know that the next time around was that following Thursday when I went to my first day with the Ems grounds crew.
It was not an easy day. I was told the day before all the duties of the job, but was still nervous about putting them all into practice on my first day. When I showed up, I had expected to find another guy whom I was told was my coworker. He wasn’t there. And since the guy who hired me had another job working with the U of O athletic department, I knew he wasn’t going to be there for a little while.
All of the things the other guy was supposed to have done, since he shows up two hours before me, were now my responsibility and I had to learn on the fly. What Tony had told me the Saturday before was the driving force to my work ethic on that Thursday and every day thereafter.
My Saturday with Tony was chockfull of lessons from Proverbs; stuff about a wise man listening to a rebuke (3:11-12, 12:15, 19:20), how rebukes are meant to improve you (1:23, 29:1), how iron sharpens iron (27:17), keeping your cool when feeling emotional (29:11), walking with the wise (13:20), and not slacking off when on the job (18:9). If Tony had not said what he did, I might still have gotten the second job, but I know for sure I wouldn’t have had the same drive to work well and take advantage of an opportunity to impress an employer.
Listening to a rebuke is never easy. It hurts our pride and oftentimes makes us feel as though we’re incapable of doing things the right way. Yet it is precisely what Proverbs 3:11-12 says that urges us to listen when we’re corrected, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” God loves us enough to correct us when we mess up or not do as well as we should have. He does so because He’s re-creating us.
Ignoring your critics is often seen as a good thing. And maybe sometimes it is – like when the criticism is destructive and not ground in any good reason. But without someone telling us we’re doing it wrong, how will we know if we’re ever doing it right? Such a practice demands discernment to, like pulling weeds from flowers, sift the bad criticism from the good.
“[Be] quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” – James 1:19
Who knows? Listening to correction just might actually land you a job.