Stacker.com has a list of the 50 worst jobs in America. To prove that their list is scientifically accurate and not just a list of jobs they personally would hate to have, they developed the “Misery Score.” The Misery Score combines four factors: job meaning, median income, job satisfaction and projected job growth. For some unknown reason, they believe that a job with no existential meaning, low pay, no satisfaction and low hope of advancement equals misery. As a result, they rank the worst five jobs as the following:
#5 – Lathe and turning machine tool setters (I’m not sure this is accurate. I’ve known many immigrants from Ireland who love this job and are perfectly content in it. After all, have you ever met an unhappy Irish Setter?)
#4 – Dry Cleaning (I’m not sure what would cause this job to be so high on the misery scale unless it has something to do with working with cancer-causing chemicals day in and day out).
#3 – Busboys and cafeteria workers (Wow, that is surprising! They all seem so happy!)
#2 – Dishwashers (which is funny because I heard you could really clean up in this job.)
#1 – Parking lot attendants (next time you are directed where to park, remember that attendant has a Misery Score of 97.2!)
Interestingly, I’ve had several jobs on their Top 50 Miserable Jobs list. I was a videotape editor (job #40). I worked construction (job #38). I worked retail in operations (job #27). I was a material handler for a large manufacturing company (job #20). And I was a professional guinea pig exterminator (for some reason, the PGPE was not listed on their website; but ask yourself, would you want a job killing guinea pigs? I rest my case. Worst job ever!)
I know I am beating a dead horse here (another horrible job), but it seems to me that NOT doing what you are specifically called, equipped and empowered to do, also falls in the category of a “horrible job.” Imagine Shakespeare with all his gifts of imagination, writing and wit forgoing a career as a playwright and, instead, taking up a wrench to become a plumber. Imagine Lincoln giving up law and politics and, instead, sticking with a career as a log splitter. Imagine Einstein deciding not to answer what E equals but, instead, going with a job making bagels (B = taste + love2). We would all think, “what a waste”! No matter what other career path they chose, it would be miserable compared to what they were “called” to do.
But here’s the thing. We have been called to serve and encourage one another. More than that. We have been supernaturally gifted and equipped by the Spirit to do this. And yet, we often insist that our own interests and hobbies are far more important than the needs and concerns of others. Worse, our calling is to care for one another, but we often prefer to keep things on a superficial level. Why? There are several possible reasons. Perhaps, we fear being seen as weak or overly spiritual or overly serious or in some way vulnerable. Perhaps, we will get into something that is over our head or has no easy escape or something that will drag us down. Perhaps, we just don’t have the energy to carry someone else’s burdens when our own burdens are already weighing us down. Perhaps, we are too interested in hearing what we have to say instead of listening to what the other person is saying. Perhaps it is just easier and safer and more self-gratifying to skip the “spur one another on to love and good deeds” part and just urge people to watch the next great show on Netflix.
Somewhere along the line, we chose to look at our calling and high privilege to serve, encourage and walk with others as a miserable job that we don’t want to do. Somehow, carrying our neighbors’ burdens has become to us as distasteful a being a PGPE. Somehow, the task just seems way beyond our reach. Somehow, we have let our fears dictate that someone else needs to do these “love-one-another-things” because we can’t.
Here are the two things I know and one I believe. First, the New Testament makes it clear that we all have been called to serve one another (the sheer number and repetition of the one-another passages prove this). And second, God promises to meet us if we step out in faith and serve and encourage the people he puts in our path. Here’s the thing I believe, and I believe it with all my heart. As we seek to follow God in faith and as God meets us in this work, we will discover that we might actually enjoy having great conversations with others.
Two weekends ago now, the Edge youth hiked Annapolis Rock. It was a 5.2-mile excursion with at least six miles of straight up. That’s why it is named Annapolis Rock. It does not face Annapolis. It is not adjacent to water like Annapolis. It is not the capital of anything. It is just a rock outcropping with a name that makes no sense just like how it can only be 5.2 miles out and back; and yet, it is still 6 miles up. In any case, as we arrived at the actual outcropping, we saw a young, intelligent-looking woman coming towards us. Not only was she wearing a uniform of sorts, she was also carrying a white bag and pair of tongs. I knew instantly that this woman had a miserable job. See, Annapolis Rock has a problem. Lots of people come to the Rock for an outing. Some even bring their dogs. But the Rock also has these other visitors who believe with all their cold-blooded hearts that the Rock is theirs to have and to hold. And they don’t like anyone to disturb them while they are catching a few rays on the outcroppings. And if you or your dog get too close, these rattlesnakes (some are disgusting Timber Rattlesnakes and some are vile Copperheads; and remember, “vile” is just a mixed-up form of “evil”) will strike, which means you will have a long journey back down the mountain. And so, the state hired this young woman to search the Rock from top to bottom several times a day and collect and relocate any rattlesnakes she can find. I would want to relocate the snake’s head from its body, but she gently and graciously carries them around in a bag until she can safely remove them from human contact. That’s right. Our friend, this nice, young woman, clothed and in her right mind, has chosen a profession where she wrangles snakes off the Rock and provides them a new home. Now, I would hate that job. But she LOVED it. And she loved showing everyone she met her snakes du jour. In fact, her job gave her a deep sense of meaning, satisfaction and joy. And her enthusiasm was so contagious, that it almost (almost) made me think that she had the best job in town. But that is what happens when you live in light of your calling.
Here’s the deal. You can either live for yourself and be a snake or you can fulfill your calling; and even at first if you find it awkward, difficult and way out of your comfort zone, you will sooner than later find unexpected joy. It is the promise of Jesus, the rock of our salvation and the giver of true joy. So, take the first step this week and enter into a conversation where your primary focus is to encourage the other person in a significant way. It may seem like it is an uphill climb; but once there, trust me, the view is spectacular.