Years ago, my husband Dan and I were attending my girlfriend's wedding. We had been seated with four other couples we didn't know for the reception. Dan and I quickly realized that we didn't have much in common with these eight people. They had lots of post-graduate degrees and impressive jobs. We, on the other hand, had just made a major career change into the food industry. Fast food, to be more specific.
We listened while everyone took turns bragging about recent accomplishments. Suddenly, the focus turned to us. "So, what do you do?" one Ph.D. probed at Dan. "I make sandwiches," he responded. Did he have to be so loud, I wondered, as all eight pairs of eyes fell on us. No one spoke for what seemed like a very long time. "Oh, interesting," was all we heard in response.
I knew then with absolute clarity that the business we were launching would not put us on any professional "Who's Who" lists. I'll admit it took me a while to see how owning a sandwich shop could prove to be significant work. But truly, no job taught me the meaning of finding purpose at work more than this one.
For starters, most of our employees were between ages 16 and 25. Many of these young men and women had come from extraordinarily dysfunctional homes. Dan and I quickly realized that we were their first picture of a working (both figuratively and literally) marriage. To the best of our ability, we treated these individuals with respect and dignity. We worked hard to care for their souls.
Our little sandwich shop was a church of sorts, a place where these ragamuffins we called employees could come and be loved exactly as they were. With God's help, we tried to live the gospel and present a compelling picture of what it meant to be a Christ-follower.
Baking bread and slicing meat to create tasty sandwiches took a certain amount of skill and intentionality. But relying on the lunch counter as a means to serve up salvation gave me a whole different reason to show up for work.
Recently, I interviewed Amy Sherman, author of Kingdom Calling, about how even mundane jobs can have significant value and purpose. Depending on how we approach our work and the mindset and heart we bring to the marketplace, God can redeem all that we do, even making sandwiches.
Also in this issue, Diane Paddison, a TCW featured contributor, offers three keys for finding your calling. A big part of knowing whether you're in the right line of work is tapping other people who know you for their insights and perspective on your life. Diane gives some practical tips on how to do this in the article, "3 Keys for Finding Your Calling."