Lasting Lessons From My First Job

Gary Clayton shares the spiritual insights gleaned whilst dealing with life’s little problems at work

Although it was many years ago, some of the lessons I learned during my first year at my first job have stood me in good stead.

One is the need for creativity and innovation. There’s no point persisting with something if it doesn’t work.

Our offices were above a large London church, so getting into the building meant pressing the buzzer and listening to our instructions. When the buzzer went, my boss answered the intercom and assured his customer he’d reached the right place.

Then, trying to make himself heard above the traffic’s roar, he shouted: “

I’m going to press the buzzer. When you hear it sound, pull the door towards you. Then, when you get inside, you’ll see a staircase to your left. Take the stairs to the fourth floor or use the lift.

He pressed the buzzer, and I heard the visitor’s muffled cry. “Hello, anybody there?” So my boss grabbed the phone, yelling: “Pull the door!”

The man did so, but before my boss pressed the buzzer. Then, when the buzzer finally sounded, we heard the man pushing the door. “No!” my boss bawled, “Pull – the – door!”

The visitor did so and entered the building.

Then, after a long pause, the buzzer went. “It’s me again! What floor did you say you were on?”

“The fourth!” my boss shrieked, then repeated the process of trying to get the visitor to pull the door. This, after several unsuccessful attempts, he eventually managed.

I’ve no idea how much time was wasted, but anyone new to our Christian film hire company invariably arrived frustrated and stressed.

Being young, I assumed that the problem lay with my boss, but when I tried letting someone in, the result was exactly the same, though accessing the building hardly qualified for one of Hercules’ 12 Labours.

So, the next time the buzzer rang – having prayed for inspiration – I gave the company’s name, adding: “There is a lift, we’re on the fourth floor. When you hear the buzzer, pull the door!”

Believe it or not, it worked!

It still makes me think of the need to put new wine into new wineskins and the fact that you can’t keep doing things the same way and expect different results.

It also reminds me of Isaiah 55:11 which says that when God’s Word goes out, it won’t return empty but will accomplish its purpose. Words, I realise, are supremely important, as is the way in which they’re communicated.

The second lesson was less positive. There was a large window above my desk and every time I pushed it open to alleviate the heat, it closed again.  

One day, I rolled some cardboard into a tube and wedged the heavy window open. All was fine until its weight concertinaed the cardboard and the window swung shut again.

Now, because the films we supplied often came on uncrushable metal spools, I decided to use one to keep the window open…

Sometime later, when I went to get some sandwiches, I looked up to see the room where I worked and, in doing so, noticed the large silver spool glinting in the sunlight.

And then it came to me! The spool was metal, the window high up and – this being London – the people passing below extremely numerous. Were the spool to be displaced, it would plummet down, probably embedding itself in someone’s skull or taking their ear off!

Having no wish to be like Simon Peter in John 18:10, I shot across the road, pressed the buzzer, leapt up the stairs, rushed into my room and – heart pounding furiously – retrieved the heavy metal spool before disaster struck.

Later, it occurred to me that life is like that. We go about our normal activities with no idea that death or destruction can overwhelm us at any moment. Did the people living in Ukraine expect to be invaded by Russia, or those in Israel and Gaza anticipate conflict breaking out?

The metal spool was a literal sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of those passing below – any of the passers-by being a potential victim.

The Bible tells us ‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death’ (Proverbs 14:12). Fortunately, people escaped the threat of the spool, but we have no idea what dangers await us through malice, misfortune, the foolishness of man, or our own deliberate fault.

It doesn’t matter how oblivious we might be – without God, everyone is lost and in mortal danger.

Gary Clayton is married to Julie, the father of Christopher (20) and Emma (17), and works for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). To learn how MAF planes save lives and share Christ in some of Africa’s most isolated areas, visit www.maf-uk.org

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