Grabbing my phone on the way out the door for choir, I noticed the “missed call/voicemail” alerts. I recognized the number of a friend, but it was uncommon for her to call. Hmmmm. Retrieving the message, I heard a strange uneasiness in her voice as she wrestled to come up with the right words.
“Lorretta…” Pregnant pause.
“Um… I was wondering…. I mean, do you still…”
Her question dangled over the phone line for an uncomfortable moment.
Then suddenly, “Please call me back when you get a minute?” Click.
Curious? Yeah, me too.
I quickly dialed her number to discover whatever in the world was wrong. Finally answering, I could tell she was still so nervous! I had no clue.
Rambling through the background in her mind, she finally summoned the courage to ask if I still did “THAT”. “THAT” being the reason she needed my help. And well, since I did still do “THAT”, I replied I’d be happy to help but inside I was thoroughly bemused by her embarrassment— for herself (maybe?) needing my help with “THAT” or was it for me—the one willing to do“THAT”? I still don’t know.
Fact is, I did “THAT” then and I still do now.
In fact, I’ll do “THAT” twice this week because I didn’t have time last week.
Yes, I’m here to confess that I engage in what is likely the world’s oldest “occupation”:
I clean houses. Whew! I’m so glad I got “THAT” off my chest!
Another confession: It was not a proud moment when I decided to take my first housecleaning job. But the fact is, as business owners, media missionaries and “self-unemployed” artists, we needed a little extra at our house to make ends meet. Plus I needed the added flexibility of naming my own hours so I could keep home schooling, volunteering and GreenPeas-business-ing. Let’s face it: there are very few situations nearly as accommodating as this (without having to constantly salespitch your entire friend base). Besides, I get to catch up on all my ministry podcasts while I vacuum and mop!
So, gradually I’ve gotten used to the idea of mentioning that I do “a little cleaning on the side” and I have no problem stating as fact that it’s the way God helps me provide for my family in this season of life. Still, this look-back at my friend’s discomfort and realizing my own, I recognize that there is a certain level of stigma against the idea that someone might choose to earn money this way. I felt it at first, until God gave me peace and helped me to swallow a HUGE chunk of my “I’m-Too-Educated/Good-For-THAT” attitude (also spelled P-R-I-D-E).
I remember when it happened too. Working in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya a couple of summers ago, we were filming a ministry series for a water and AIDS hospice project. Our days were packed with one location after another interviewing and filming various people associated with these projects. It was wonderful. Sometimes, we were graciously invited into homes for a bit of hospitality. On those occasions, there was always time to share and pray (whether there was time in the schedule– or not!) and we were always left blessed.
At one home, our guides introduced us to a kind-faced woman and two younger girls. She was the local “church mother” who also trained up Christian house girls. As young Christian women they struggled with the stigma because it was not considered a very honorable profession. Not what they wanted to be when they grew up. However, it was the best they could hope for without a skill set or education. Then, remembering our conversation from the night before, our guide asked if I’d share about my experience with “THAT” line of work.
What I could say?
True, we had shared our testimonies and desires to use our business/ministry to work full time on the mission field—how we did whatever we could to keep things afloat and in passing, I mentioned I did THAT. Obviously, the Holy Spirit had orchestrated this divine encouragement opportunity and I was ON.
I wasn’t prepared to say all wish I’d said that day. I remember explaining I was glad to have work allowing me time to do church ministry and to work with my husband. I told them how it freed me up with time to teach my children and provide for my family. Truthfully, how it had been a way to serve God through some difficult times in my life and through it I tried my best to bring Him glory.
As I spoke, I knew in my heart our situations were radically different. I was working for extra money and they were likely working for all they’d have and not much more. Lack of education and opportunity was not my issue as it was for them.
Still more humbling was the look of confusion and really— surprise on their faces because in their wildest imaginations, no white woman from America would ever have to do THAT. Surely not.
We are rich.
All of us.
Well, that’s always a kick in the pants, isn’t it?
I’m pretty sure I mumbled some other well-meaning encouragements hoping they’d understand it was possible to serve God proudly in their places of employment. Of course God was reminding me at the same time how clever it is that He doesn’t waste ANYTHING from the willing.
I needed to remember this NOW. I’ve been feeling discouraged– not despairing but wondering about the whole missions thing and how God wants us to answer the call we said yes to 15 years ago. Just being honest. It’s a big, fat question mark.
These remembrances alongside something I heard this past weekend are helping to resharpen my focus (again). A young woman was sharing a recent experience and she said:
“Sometimes we are praying so hard for God to move us out of a situation that we almost miss what he wants to do with us where we are.”
No great mystery— just a whole lotta truth. Sheesh. More truth was piled on from 1 Corinthians 10:31 where Paul is teaching about idolatry but the word “WHATEVER” is what got me. It’s found again in Colossians 3— twice but particularly in verse 17:
Just do whatever.
Right here, right now.
All of it for Him.
I don’t know about you, but it gives me a lot to think about as I work and wait— doing THAT or whatever it is He asks of me— for His glory.