Ages ago, I worked in a boutique. I got this job through a family in our then-church, whom I dogsat for. It seemed a small leap from dogsitting to selling clothes, I guess. I hadn’t ever worked in a boutique, and this one was upscale. My tasks? I tried to direct the young and old to styles that would flatter them. I hung clothes on shiny rounders. I steamed said clothes. I rang up sales. I guided customers find the perfect sequined dress, or suit, or to special order something from a glossy catalog. If I sold dresses during prom season, I earned spiff, which meant a couple of extra dollars in my paycheck. Special ordering incurred a unique torture. Special ordering meant cramming myself into a fitting room with a near-naked customer. I wrapped the measuring tape around their most private parts and wrote down the numbers.
To say I wasn’t good at this job would be an understatement. I stank at upselling. I hated to pressure people. The posh black-and-white brocade frock I ordered for a gal looking for an extra special prom dress didn’t fit her. Too big in the waist and too small in the hips. I got in trouble for that.
Again, while grateful for the job, I didn’t have enough to do. My shifts dragged by like time got lost in the molasses swamp.
“What should I work on?” I’d ask the shift manager.
“Polish the mirrors and the counter,” they would say. “Vacuum the store.”
In other words, look busy. Don’t just stand around and chew gum or gossip with the other employees. Make the store look appealing, yourself included. And for Pete’s sake, smile!
I didn’t like this aspect. I had plenty of chores to do at home. Good thing I only managed to last there a few months. I had to take time off that summer for several friend weddings we felt we couldn’t miss. Upon my return, my name didn’t appear on the schedule anymore. I asked a few key questions and I got the hint. I mourned the loss of income but breathed a sigh of relief. The pressure to fill time killed the job for me.
I wonder sometimes if us Christians do the same thing. Fill our days with Bible studies. Go to church gatherings – softball games, potlucks, and the like. Do church every Wednesday and every Sunday. Attend special services. Keep tabs on our families. Tidy our houses, both physical and personal. Work five days a week. Kill this time thing until we go home to heaven or Jesus returns. Busy, busy, busy. Above all, keep on smiling. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Right?
Jesus has nothing against the activities listed above. And by all means, get encouraged by regularly spending time with other believers and worshipping God. The only problem is the lack of room. We’ve filled our time wall-to-wall. I have, too. The overcoming life – the inheritance of all believers – means transparency *and* freedom. It’s struggle and victory. It’s pain and joy. It’s all those things. It’s messy and beautiful and wonderful and tragic. It hurts. It delights. The key for Christians is our hope in Christ keeps us moving forward, despite the circumstances.
Frankly, denying the reality of life’s harshness is dishonest. Busyness doesn’t impress Jesus. Plus, our lack of time renders us unapproachable. People have always been God’s #1. We share this time on Earth with unbelievers, and they need to know with God they can make it through anything. We don’t have time to love people with all our bustle. Will we look up and reach out?