This morning in Sunday school we talked about jobs. And this got me thinking about the idea of "paying your dues." On the one hand, paying your dues and earning what you’ve got makes perfect sense. But in light of both Matthew 20 and my own experience I know that sometimes good stuff is handed to some people for no good reason.
I am who I am today, and where I am today, largely because I paid my dues while being patient and diligent. The other day I was thinking about my senior year of high school and how during the last weeks of school the newspaper published where each senior was headed off to for college. I remember seeing tiny Moody Bible Institute surrounded by places like UC Berkeley, Penn, Notre Dame, Northwestern, DePaul, Cornell, MIT, Rose-Holman, Columbia, UNC, and of course IU, and Purdue. As my friends saw my declaration and my selected major of youth ministry instead of something "prestigious" like engineering or medicine or journalism. I looked at that list and felt really small. I felt like I was a loser among some great people. Yes, our class was extraordinary academically even though we’ll only ever be remembered as a great athletic class.
More importantly, I was well aware I was entering a world I didn’t know. The world of "church."
As I thought back last week, I wondered about that list and really how many of those seniors finished at their schools and how many are as doing what they intended to do back then? It really is pretty remarkable that I am doing now what I set out to do 12 years ago. I am proud of what God has done in fulfilling that punky kids dream.
I paid my dues in a lot of ways. I took crap jobs and just did what I had to do. Academically, I paid by catching up and competing with Bible Nerds who had done church their whole lives and seemed to know everything about the Bible while I knew very little, to my itty bitty view of the church and even my intended career. I did hard classes, I found a place to fit in, I worked hard to prove myself "worthy" among both my peers and those I worked for and with.
Then in class today I thought about all the crap I did to get here and it just made me look back on what I have in a whole new way. I know I had to do more than most of my peers. My parents didn’t have a college fund to pave the way. My daddy wasn’t a big shot pastor who could get me a "first job" and I didn’t know anyone. No one was "looking out for me" or making my path easier. I don’t say that to belittle those who did or to take any credit away from God… it’s just that I know that I had to endure those lumps to get somewhere.
Lumps? Yeah, as I like to joke… being a past (pastor is a shepherding term) has taught me over and over again that sheep bite! But I’ve also endured lumps from family and friends along the way. Most importantly I’ve had to sit through, work around, and scratch my way to the point that if something is easy I wonder "What’s going wrong?"
Paying my dues, while painful, has made me appreciate the journey. I know I’ve not "arrived" in youth ministry (How do you do that anyway) nor do I think one day people will think highly of me, but I am appreciated, in the end paying my dues has reaped rewards. I’ve got a long way to go, I know some of my "big goals" and I’ve put a lot of those goals in motion… now it’s just more of the same as I’ve always done… pay dues, accept lumps, endure, press on, be diligent, and a fair amount of stubbornness along the way.
At the end of the day, I just want to be labeled "Good kid, lot of problems… but a good kid."