Monday, May 21, 2007

The Wrong Call

I'm still trying to figure out why my co-worker picked up the phone. She had no business doing that. It was my call.

I helped one customer last Thursday. This was unique, as hundreds and maybe thousands of customers frequent Borders on any given Thursday. Even when I shelve books all day, a point comes where a co-worker needs assistance at the Info Desk or at the Registers. Every day, customers are unavoidable.

1:00pm approached on Thursday, and I stood in the back room unboxing books. I like this task because watching a pile of book boxes dwindle feels productive. If work cannot feel fun, let it at least seem productive. Headset and nametag strewn beside me, I focused on the shrinking task and growing accomplishment which stood before me.

The phone rang on line 2. It rang three times, at which point everyone in the store, regardless of current task, stood obligated to answer it per Borders Field Manual 5Bii (and no, I cannot provide a link to this book; it's top secret). I waited until ring five, futilely hoping someone else would get it. Alack and alas, every day, customers are unavoidable. At ring six, I grabbed the phone, did my happy voice intro, and waited for the demand. Customers no longer ask these days. They demand.

Turned out, 'twas not a customer at all but a personal call for a co-worker. I put the caller on hold and went to find said employee. Upon learning she had not returned from lunch, I went to the Info desk to finish the call when I discovered another co-worker of mine had picked up line 2 - MY line 2.

What was she doing?!?!?! That's my call. We NEVER pick up calls for each other, not out of inconsideration but to avoid confusion. That was my call!

In the midst of my agitation, I noticed a customer standing by the info desk. Her arms labored under three Lee Strobel books. She asked for help, not with the books but with finding another book. Apparently, her forearms had not had enough.

She wanted a book called "The Journey," a Bible edition published to help guide people who have little experience with Christianity but want to learn more.

Cool, I thought. I never knew anyone actually bought those. She must have a friend who needs a gift.

As we strolled to the Bibles section, I mentioned that my co-worker, Ken aka. The Anvil, graduated from seminary last week and that Mr. Strobel had attended the graduation. The Anvil had literally run into him, as the both rounded the same corner from different angles. The Anvil won the collision, obviously.

My new friend told me that she likes Strobel; he answers her questions in a way she can understand. She asked me if I knew anything else Strobelesque.

Jackpot! Christian book recommendation! I love these. To help me offer some suggestions, I asked her if these were for a friend and what that friend was particularly interested in.

She replied that the books were, in fact, for her. This interested me, so I asked some more questions. My new friend here had "grown up Christian, but not going to church" and had decided she needed to learn more, to find out what she believed. Denominations confused her; she grew up in one but feels better in another. She wanted to know where dinosaurs fit into the Bible.

Good, honest questions really excite me, so I was rather excited at this point. I directed her to Geisler's "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist" and pointed her to some C.S. Lewis. I asked her if she had anyone to talk these questions through with, anyone who had come alongside her. She replied she did not. We traded e-mail addresses and hopefully will get together this week.

As she left the section and I returned to the unboxing room, she said, "I don't think it was an accident God had you here. . . " and trailed off. Or more aptly, I cut her off, repeating I hoped we could soon get together for coffee. Remember, I am excitable.

No other calls for assistance came that day. I left at 3:30 having assisted one customer.

An old saying proclaims, "Shit happens." Occassionally, krazy shit happens. It's so crazy it has to be misspelled. God really is nuts. I go to work these days with no hope. I'm as disinterested and unproductive as I've been in my eight months there and have really moped my way into a rut while also rutting my way into a mope. My new friend probably entered Borders with no hope too. She'd been to tons of retail stores before, many with burdensome questions. Why would this time be any different? Yet, we will hopefully hang out soon. Maybe this will be part of a tremendous movement in her life and in mine. At the very least, it's hopeful.

But I'm still trying to figure out why my co-worker picked up the phone. She had no business doing that. It was my call.


Jeff said...

Maybe this is a rant or a diatribe, I'm not really sure. To be honest, I don't really know what that 2nd word means. I just think it sounds cool, so I use it...kinda like the word f***.
Anyways, your post came at an interesting time for me. I've been contemplating Jen's last post and contemplating some text that I was just reading about in the class I'm teaching about. And the idea that I keep thinking about is "how do we do God's work". That is, should we contemplate career change, that is, life change to do "God's work".
Your story is an example of what I'm inclined to believe. God's work can be done anywhere. To assume that God's work depends on you or I individually focusing on doing "God's work" with our career does not take into account the fundamental assumption of God's power.
I certainly don't think there's anything wrong with going into full time ministry. If there's nothing else that you would do with your life, then by all means go for it. But I think if ministry can be done at Borders, then it can be done anywhere. And it NEEDS to be done anywhere.
I think the thing that's evidenced in what you did was a love for Jesus and a passion for discussing him and "things of God". I would hope that all believers would have this same passion.
In conclusion, I think God's ministry is done ANYWHERE. It is not us who ministers but it is the Holy Spirit that ministers through us. The compulsion to discuss all things Strobel is born out of the Holy Spirit working in your life. The sequence of events is born out of God's great plan.
I don't want to make this a discussion of Calvinism, but it excites me to know that we have a God who works his masterful plan in a way that I cannot understand. And I'm thankful for those moments of grace where I clearly see him orchestrating things.

Bradley said...

Byron Peters at CCC is very fond of saying, "If God calls you to be a plumber, then plunge toilets to the glory of God!" As Jeff mentions above, it is good to know that we serve a God who is faithful to give us productive, kingdom-oriented work regardless of our particular vocation.

I actually had a conversation with my father today about the potential dangers of full-time ministry. I agree with the above statement that there's nothing wrong with it, and obviously if God calls us to it, then we ought to go. However, often I am struck by the sneaking suspicion that we as Christians confuse guilt (and I suspect it's self-serving guilt to boot) over our perceived lack of ministry "success" with a calling to full-time minnistry--in other words, we feel that if we were just engaged in full-time ministry, we'd know that God was really using us to build the kingdom. However, as Ben's post illustrates, God uses us ALL to build the kingdom (dare I say in mysterious ways?) in our peculiar callings. Praise God for his faithfulness to us, and his condescending to use us in the first place!