Thursday, January 24, 2008

Counting Dimes

I hate dimes.
More to the point, I hate counting dimes.
Part of my responsibilities as a keyholder at the bookstore involves counting the money in the cash registers whenever I open or close the store. It’s a tedious job and it’s a particular pain at closing when I have to balance what is in the drawers with what the daily total says we’re supposed to have. It’s usually the dimes that trip me up. They’re small and don’t take up much space which usually leads to our cashiers thinking they have fewer in the drawer than they actually do, which in turn causes them to open and dump more rolls of dimes into the register. They don’t care. I’m the one who has to count them all at the end of the day. And in my haste to get it done I inevitably end up flinging them into the drawer at too fast a rate and thus miscounting them. Unfortunately I never realize this until my numbers are out of balance and I have to go back and count the drawers all over again.
I hate dimes.

As I was mindlessly counting the change in the register drawers last night I realized that I have been doing this particular task since I was 18-years-old. Apart from a two-year period where I had a corporate job, and the year and a half I took off to finish school, I have been counting cash drawers in one retail establishment or another for almost 24 years. That’s a lot of dimes.

There are things that I like about retail – organizing the inventory, creating displays, meeting different people every day – and there are things that I hate about retail – working weekends and holidays, the low pay, dealing with irrational customers – but I’ve been doing it for so long I know that as bad it can get sometimes, I can handle it - I know the good outweighs the bad. For every bad day I have where I’m the only employee in the store with the phone ringing off the hook, deliveries coming in the back door, the registers breaking down, and a line of impatient customers stretching to the back of the store, I know I’ll have good days when I get to spend hours in the back room by myself opening new shipments and sorting books onto the shelves (yes, that it is a GOOD day in my view…I’m a freak, what can I say).

Retail can be hell at times but it’s a known hell.
I can’t say the same about the career I keep telling myself I’ve been ‘called’ to go into.
The ministry right now is a few knowns and a whole bunch of unknowns, and thinking about those unknowns is what causes me to wonder if I’m making the right move.

When I’m stocking shelves and organizing books I realize how much I love these orderly, solitary tasks and I fear that the ministry may be too messy and people oriented for my introverted self.
But then I start counting dimes.
And I feel stuck in a rut, doing the same thing over and over again because it’s easy and ‘comfortable’…..allowing fear to keep me from stretching beyond my current capabilities, denying the God-given talent that everyone keeps telling me I have and holding onto the things that keep me small.

There’s a constant struggle going on in my head between who I am and who I think I’m supposed to be. A battle between my desire for comfort and my desire for change.

In change I find challenge. The desire to challenge myself led me into bike racing, back to church, through college, into the pulpit.
But the ‘challenges’ I take on usually involve setting a goal, designing a plan to reach that goal and taking the necessary steps to accomplish it.
I had a training plan, a racing schedule, a curriculum to follow, a GPA to maintain, an order of service to design, a sermon to craft.
The challenges I seek out rarely require seat-of-the-pants decision making or unpredictable circumstances. What they do require is a huge amount of self-discipline and adherence to a rigid routine.
Some people jump out of airplanes or hitch-hike around the world because they enjoy the spontaneity of these challenges, they like to leave order behind and revel in chaos for awhile. I am the opposite.
I like to take chaos and put it into order.
Which is probably why I love doing puzzles – word jumbles, number puzzles, logic problems, and good old-fashioned jigsaw. Give me a box of pieces and I’ll happily spend hours trying to assemble it into something that makes sense, something that can be identified and labeled.

Even at work I seek out challenges as a means of implementing order.
I’m happiest when I’m squirreled away in a back room somewhere putting piles of random items into organized categories, taking a cluttered and chaotic environment and putting everything in its place.

But what does this say about how I can expect to perform as a minister?
As a minister I will encounter messes that I can’t put into order.
I will encounter situations and problems that are much more complex then fixing a broken cash register or appeasing an unhappy customer.
I will encounter people who will demand much more of my time than the five-minute interactions I have working retail.

Am I going against my personality type and forcing myself into a career for which I am ill-suited just because everyone else believes that I can do it?
Or am I holding onto what I am, who I am, because I lack the confidence and the vision to see that I can be so much more if I let go of the attitude that keeps me small and comfortable, and instead heed the persistent sense of dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment that makes me long for change.
I’ve spent my life trying to reconcile these conflicting inner desires.
My need for comfort and routine constantly butts up against my craving for new challenges, new routines, and change.

Change is growth inspiring.
Change is inevitable.
Change is God’s way of showing us that despite our feeble attempts to create order out of chaos the pieces don’t always fit where we expect them to.

Change is good.

Except for dimes...
I hate dimes.


Marie said...

Hi there!! Thanks for stopping by my place! We have a lot in common, except for that introvert thing. However, my mentor who is also my best friend and practically my brother is an introvert and by far the best priest I know.

I worked in a book store and I counted dimes for years. I loved sweeping them off the edge of the counter in twos because they added up to $5 so quickly.

Marie said...

Umm, I don't mean to be like a stalker or anything, but we may be twins. I just looked at your profile. Pisces? Me too. 41? Me too. Thought about a Boston seminary? I'm still hoping for Boston. Partnered lesbian? Me too. I'm just sayin'. Drop me an email and let's chat about the journey.