The day before our wedding I got a call from a school in the Lake District, England, to say that my application for a long-term supply teaching post had been successful. Murray and I wanted to travel, and we’d decided to go wherever one of us was offered a job. So after a month of marriage we landed at Heathrow and headed north, to Kendal and certain adventure.
Without writing the UK optometry conversion exams, Murray’s job options were limited. He waited tables for a week or two at an Italian restaurant, then landed the sweet deal of flipping burgers beneath the golden arches.
He made things up as he went along. Someone would yell, ‘Mooooorry!’ into the kitchen, followed by a string of orders in thick, unintelligible Geordie. He would nod and smile, then splodge generous dollops of McSauce onto whatever he was slapping together. In those cold weeks of January 2005, the citizens of Kendal were a happy, well-fed bunch, mostly because of the new guy at McDonalds.
But he’s a quick learner, my man. He soon worked out that McDonalds burgers the world over are supposed to taste the same, hence the calibrated dispensers. He underwent gruelling special-forces training and within weeks could make four Big Macs, from frozen to boxed, in 54 seconds. (This is a skill he hasn’t really used since, but still.)
He learned how to clean out vomit from the plastic tunnel thingies in the play area. He got to practise not punching kids who looked him in the eye, grinned, poured their milkshakes on the floor, then watched him mop up the mess.
Being from a developing country, he was excited to learn how to pick up a box. Because there were helpful Health And Safety Posters all over the kitchen, explaining. How. To. Pick. Up. A. Box. (Basically, you bend down, and you pick up the box. Then, you don’t sue anyone.)
He learned, from some of his colleagues, how to turn an apartment into a greenhouse for weed without the police knowing. (Again, this is something he’s never actually tried at home.)
He thought a lot. About business processes. Life. People. Contentment. And calling.
You’d think he might have been embarrassed, wearing a cap and apron to work every day. I mean, he had two degrees. We could’ve gone somewhere else and found him a real job. But during that time, and since, we learned that –
Nothing is beneath you
Murray worked hard. He got thinner, despite free daily McMeals. He learned to respect the minimum wage labourer. Washing feet, after all, was for the lowliest of the unskilled. The King who commands the atoms of the cosmos did it, with joy.
Delayed gratification for the win
We ate beans on toast and lived off that McDonald’s salary for six months. I didn’t exactly love my job – on account of having chairs thrown at me, and stuff – but I was earning four times what he was, and we pretty much saved it all. Which meant we could trundle through bits of the UK on weekends, backpack across Europe and Morocco for two months, and pay off Murray’s student loan.
It’s so obvious and so old-school yet we forget: when God says wait, we can trust there’s a reason. What we sacrifice in the waiting will be worth it, Earth-side or eternally.
We had roughly two and a half friends in Kendal and we treasured the anonymity. We would go to Asda in our slippers to buy chocolate at midnight. Two kids and a truckload of responsibility later, we feed off those insouciant memories. Because sure, life is short, but life is also long. There’s plenty of time to be a grownup. Who knows what a season of unserious adventure might birth, or nurture, in the future? (I’m lovin’ it.)
Excellence is a position of the heart, not a prize or a handshake
A week ago over dinner with friends we threw around the question, When is it ok not to be excellent? Because we can’t be excellent in every area of our lives, all the time, and something’s gotta give and which balls do you drop? (It’s not an excellent career move, for example, for an excellent optometrist to flip burgers. But it did make for an excellent first year of marriage.) And Ross said how excellence is more about righteousness than skill, and righteousness is simply how we best position ourselves to reflect God’s glory.
So maybe excellence isn’t always doing your best to do all the things you know how to do. It isn’t necessarily stepping forward to be the shiniest person in the room, even if – especially if? – you know you could do the job better (and shinier) than someone else. It’s possible that sometimes God gets more glory – and we are our most excellent selves – when we joyfully, gently, shut up – step back – and let others shine. Maybe we’re our most excellent selves when our identity is so secure in Christ that we forget about supersizing us and simply position ourselves, in season, to magnify our great God.
More on some books and free stuff over here.