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paint parties

It's finally September! I have plans to make pumpkin bread this week to welcome the new season. It may only be fall in my house, though, because it's hot as blazes outside still. I'm okay with pretending! How is school going for you? Maybe it's a job you have that you don't get a summer break from!

Adulting needs summer breaks, too, right? I always learn best from others' real life stories, so here is one from fall after seminary. I hope it encourages you today.

"You're gonna have to eat in that room over there," the pastor said as he motioned toward a room down the hall. "We have people coming to church today and you shouldn't be seen." I nodded in disbelief and walked toward the room to hide out during lunch, feeling quite rejected as I noticed the paint stains on my clothes.

Let me back up. It is fall 2010. My husband and I had graduated from Midwestern Seminary in May. We moved from Kansas City to live near family, and to pray and wait for jobs to come available. We prayed for a job in student ministry for my husband and I needed a place to complete counseling hours to be gain my counseling license. We both love students and desire to disciple them so they can leave high school and reach people for Jesus in their realms of influence. We left seminary super pumped for ministry and getting to work with students in a church somewhere. The starry-eyed thrill and expectation quickly turned to real life and wondering how we were going to pay bills to live in our apartment and eat food while we waited for a church to call.

I coached cheerleading and we both went to work painting a church’s preschool hallway. We completed twelve rooms, six kiddie bathrooms, trim, and three coats of paint on each wall. We painted accent walls in each room in colors like "rubber ducky yellow" and "purple grape." We went to paint one Saturday afternoon in order to speed the process to get the hallway done, and just as we were about to pack up for the day, a paint can tipped off the cart and left a glob of paint in a huge spot on the carpet. Like a pair of sillies, we freaked out, wondering how to clean it up, especially since people would be there the next day for church services! For you curious people out there, there is a solution cleaner that takes paint out of carpet and we were able to clean it better later that week. We could (almost) not detect a paint spill at all! I spent many hours on my hands and knees painting around the pipes behind the tiny toilets…yep, pretty glamorous. Hey, it pays, right? Many of us have had less than stellar jobs. I thought since it was at a church, it would be a great environment.

They say you can tell a person’s character by how they treat janitors or as we were labeled “facilities workers.” The same goes for the church and the pastors who work there. And there we were, being told we were not to be seen by visitors to the church, so we were put in a room away from where the visitors would be. While working there an entire semester, I do not remember anyone asking me about me, my family, or if I had a church to attend.

It was really weird when children had events that took place in the preschool hallway. Mothers ushered their kids into rooms to wait for us to pass by while we pushed the paint cart down the hallway and we heard them in whisper warnings to their children to stay away from us because we were “not safe.” I became used to it by the end of the semester but my disbelief people actually acted like that never quit being shocking and repulsive. I wanted to wear a sign that said, “I am a Christian AND I just graduated from seminary for crying out loud!” I wanted to shout, “I have a master’s degree…and for ministry, people!” It was quite the experience living life on that side of church ministry as opposed to the pastoral ministry side of church.

While it was not fun by any stretch of the imagination and I spent many days frustrated by feeling inadequate and invalidated that semester, it taught me a great deal. I think we must realize that God has put us in the positions we are in, and, as great as they may be, He can take them away at any time. A concept I learned through counseling, in seminary, is that we are just one choice away or one tragedy away, from being where someone else is. We are never immune to bad choices or bad circumstances. We are never above anyone else. The moment we think we are is when the enemy moves in attempt to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).

We finished painting that hallway at the end of that semester. Please know that I hold no resentment toward anyone at the church, I simply want to share what I learned through that experience. I noticed later that we were never asked if we attended church anywhere or invited to attend there! What an excellent opportunity to invite those facilities workers we worked with, who make their weekly act of worship cleaning, to worship with the group of believers on Sundays. They spent hours cleaning and preparing for Sundays and Wednesdays, and never enjoyed the result the work.

Every human life deserves dignity and respect, from CEO to janitor, from fast food worker to brain surgeon. I think we become so blinded and introspective that we do not even realize we are missing a main point of Jesus’ ministry example, which is loving people. He says “they will know we are Christians by our love” (John 13:35). If we become so focused on ourselves, we miss people who need the hope of the Lord. The world has enough hatred, cliques, and cruel treatment, that when someone takes the time to take care of someone else or simply be kind, for goodness sake, it is a shock and makes people wonder what is different!

We must first be aware and look for opportunities to really see people, then DO something. After moving to Lexington, Kentucky, I began 10th grade. Turning 15 is difficult enough, but one morning, the zipper broke on my backpack and the pile of books in my bag exploded all over the floor in front of my locker. Super embarrassing, y’all! It would have been great if someone had taken the time to help me as the new kid. If you see someone sitting alone, talk to that person. If someone else does not have a seat, give yours up. Be kind to the person checking customers out in Wal-Mart. Ask them about their day. Talking about people is easy to do and does not get easier to avoid with age. It happens to little ones, gets bad in middle school and high school, and continues throughout adulthood, but it is truly hurtful. Lift others up.

At the end of that semester, we moved to a new state and began work with student ministry at a church. I was never able to share that I am not a creeper covered in paint. I was never able to share that I, in fact, do know Jesus. I was never able to share I worked six jobs at one time to pay to go to school for ministry. I don’t think it really matters.

Have a great week, everyone! Love people. Mean it.



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