I’ve mentioned before about a hundred some-odd times that I love my job. There’s something about that place that makes it very hard to imagine myself anywhere else. I really liked my job at Earth Fare, and to be honest, I feel like it’s the only job I ever really excelled at. My job now, I’m not particularly great at. But I love it. Most of the time, everything goes pretty smoothly. Any snags in the system get dealt with easily.
There are days when I’m kicking orders and taking names. I don’t mix orders up, I don’t get confused about who ordered what, I can talk to guests about the game last Saturday and who we played, and the world is in perfect harmony. And then, as steady and easy as things are going, they can go all the way to left field. Then I have guests coming back to the window because they got the wrong food, or didn’t get food at all, and the worst part of it is, it’s very rarely anyone’s fault but mine. So I have to own it.
I love my guests. I love my managers. I love my team mates. I love the business and what it stands for. But I don’t love the times I screw up, and those times seem to happen a lot. I don’t love when I disappoint a guest or I let my team down. I don’t love when I make other people’s jobs harder by making a mistake they have to go behind me and fix. I don’t love when I fail.
I go home most days realizing I’ve fallen in love with something I’m terrible at. And that’s bad for business.
And if I’m so terrible at something that matters so deeply, how terrible am I at the things that matter even more?
Sandi Fatow tells the story about going to a prison one time for a church service, and a young woman there who came to Christ. The next time she was in that prison, a guard made the comment, “Do you hear how that inmate is cussing and ranting? I guess she didn’t really become a Christian.”
Sandi replies to the guard, “She’s still a Christian. She’s just a pissed off Christian.”
No matter how long we have on this earth, we will chronically fail. It’s what we do. Without failure, there’d be no need for grace. Without mistakes, what meaning would mercy have? And with perfection, why would Jesus have ever come?
Today, a new employee comes to my window to bring me an ice cream cone for a guest. And it was the most disproportionate, crooked heap of a mess you’d ever seen on top of a cone. After my line was clear of guests, I brought her and another new girl over to the ice cream machine to show them the art. (Because it really is an art.) What I didn’t tell them was how many cones I’d thrown away, how many I’d sheepishly handed to a customer with a lame excuse about the ice cream machine being a loose cannon, or how many I’d simply had to dump back into the machine and try again. I didn’t tell them about the first time I made a large cone, going through enough attempts that I was almost in tears by the time someone else stepped in to make it for me. They didn’t see the ugly cones and tilted ice cream and missing ridges, and they certainly didn’t know about the frustration or the anger or the failures. All they saw was a delicate swirl with the perfect ‘Q’ on the top.
I think the problem with looking at “perfect” people is that we don’t see what they went through to get there. I think if we were to ask them how many ice cream cones they had to throw away, we’d be surprised. I think if we went deeper and asked about their scars and sweat and tears, we’d find out how terrible we all really are at what we do.
The good news for us is, there’s grace.
We may not know what Paul’s actual thorn was. But in II Corinthians, he admits that he begged the Lord three times to take it away. And God’s answer was so simple. He just said, “My grace is sufficient. My power works best in weakness.”
Rejoice in where you are right now, even if you suck at it. Because you’re going to get better. Forget about where you’re going, and celebrate where you no longer are. Be glad right now in what you’ve accomplished, even if all you’ve done is started praying two minutes a day, or you’ve just stopped smoking, or stopped cussing, or you’ve just learned to cuss less. Be overjoyed if all you’ve done is take one step forward, even after taking ten steps back. Celebrate, even if all you’ve managed to do is make a stupid ice cream cone that doesn’t look like crap.
Rejoice that the grace is there for you to keep moving forward. And remember, even though “perfection” isn’t something you’ll ever accomplish, God’s ultimate mission is to manifest His fullness in Your life, and that is an art He has definitely mastered.