You Might Clean Bathrooms: The Dignity of Unsexy Work
There I was, almost 25 years old, hugging a toilet bowl in the middle of the day
Why am I here? I want to be on campus, ministering to my students. I want to be seeing people come to Jesus! Healing! Miracles! Life transformation!
Instead, I was scrubbing a toilet in an assisted living home.
In this crucial moment, kneeling on the bathroom floor, resentment swelled in my throat and stung like bile.
This is not what I thought I was signing up for, God!
Working for InterVarsity was my dream job that I never knew existed before my freshman year of college. As I watched my staff workers live their always exciting and eventful lives, I dreamed of the day I would get to spend time on campus but not have to go to class.
And alas, my dream came true. I became a campus minister with InterVarsity.
There is so much beauty in giving your time and energy to seeing people’s lives transformed. I love the range of incredibly fun and incredibly challenging opportunities that I get to experience. On InterVarsity staff, the Holy Spirit leads me into wild interactions, bold risks, and life-changing relationships. And we have dance parties more often than the average American (I’m only guessing here). We also have a culture of fearlessness when it comes to diving into conversations with students concerning some of the most difficult topics in our world today. Needless to say, I am proud to call this my job.
Personally though, there has been a catch to the glamour of staff life. I have needed to have part-time jobs to fill in for the income that I have yet to raise in monthly partnership for my work with InterVarsity. And throughout the last few years, I have had my highs and lows in working these part-time jobs. One high has been God opening opportunities in the education world for me, which has led to me getting to share the gospel with countless school children.
However, this moment next to the toilet was a definite low. I felt low. And alone. And forgotten by God and my community. I was angry that God was making me be a “tentmaker” like the apostle Paul, when I did not feel called to be one at all. And it felt humiliating to have to take on extra jobs because of a lack of support for my exciting ministry job.
So what do you do when you feel like your job is so not sexy?
Talk to Your Father About It
As I crouched there, frustrated about my station in life and openly complaining to God, he responded. “Bridget, I see you,” I sensed him say. “And I’m proud of you. You are indeed such a hard worker.”
Like a loving Father, God melted my heart in that moment on the bathroom floor. Even though I was prideful and ungrateful, God reminded me that I was not alone, that he did not forget me, and that he knows how hard I work for the sake of his kingdom. He had every right to convict me of my sinful attitude, but instead, he met me there.
If you’re working a job that isn’t as glamorous as you wish it was, you should start with having an honest chat with God about it. Are you unhappy? Is the job just not challenging? Is it not life-giving? Or are you like me—feeling too proud, like you’re above cleaning toilets? Let God know. He can handle your pain and frustration. He is known for coming into the middle of those situations all the time.
Life is about relationships. And you likely work with people. As Christians, we are called to the people around us. So look around! Evaluate your relationships with your colleagues.
Do your coworkers need some care and friendship? Have you ever tried having a spiritual conversation with them or offering prayer? What about a lunch break Bible study?
After my bathroom chat with God, my perspective changed. I noticed that one of the older women always came back into her room while I cleaned it so that she could talk with me. She asked me where I got my boots and ordered some herself. With a twinkle in her eye, she asked me if I had a boyfriend, and when I said no she quickly replied that they were overrated anyway. She asked me what else I did with my time, and I got to share about InterVarsity, and eventually the gospel.
God replaced my unloving eyes with his eyes of compassion. I began to feel tenderness toward the people I passed in the halls of the nursing home, realizing how isolated they are in the final years of their lives. For them, it is their last chance at truly knowing God before they meet him.
If you let God come to work with you, things will start to get interesting really quickly.
Remember the Kingdom You Live In
All of this here—it’s temporary. But you’re already part of a wonderfully exciting eternal kingdom. Our jobs will pass away—maybe even in this lifetime. But because we carry the kingdom with us, it is important that we boldly bring it into all the places we inhabit.
It is your call as a child of God to seek the shalom—the peace and wholeness—of your community. So go and seek the shalom of your workplace, no matter how unexciting your job may be.
God reminded me, in his graceful dealings with my bratty heart, that I did sign up for all of this—way back when I decided to leave everything and follow him. I am so lucky that I get to follow him onto campus to do college ministry, into assisted living homes to minister to people decades older than I am, into elementary schools to see what childlike wonder really looks like in the face of the gospel, or even into friendship with a Muslim immigrant who needs me to write for his web development business.
Bridget Gee is a Team Leader with InterVarsity at the University of Arizona. You can find her writing, singing, and playing her ukulele, or cooking, but primarily when other people are involved. And she feels it necessary to share that her favorite color is orange.
Image by twentyonehundred productions team member Matt Kirk.
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