I was so stinking n-e-r-v-o-u-s! Between stomach butterflies, percussion knees and aromatic fumes emanating from my soggy shirt sleeves it was a wonder I survived the elevator ride. The dream job I had meticulously pursued for five years had become a reality. I had nabbed the spot as the summer intern for the associate youth pastor at our denomination’s mega church.
This was a plum job and a major notch on my ministerial resume! It was the first rung on my ambitious ladder toward prestigious church leadership.
And I was pumped!
Their summer agenda was chalked full of world-renown pastors, evangelists, teachers, leaders, motivational speakers and Christian musicians. There would be no limit to the networking possibilities I would be able to manipulate. It was going to be great!
The reality of the moment left me terrified. Panic was strangling me, or was it that perfect Windsor knot pushed up just a tad too high on my impeccable knock-off Giorgio Armani? Whatever the cause unless I gained my composure I would blow any chance at a positive first impression.
The electric elevator door sighed open.
“Will you be getting out here?” asked a kindly older gentleman.
“Yes, sir,” my screechy voice croaked.
“I’m Pastor Smith,” he beamed taking my hand his firm grip. “And you are?”
“Bob,” I sputtered, “Bob Green.”
“Ah, our new intern!” he smiled, “Let me show you around.”
Obediently I followed the senior pastor as he wove his way through a honeycomb of office cubicals until we reached the youth wing. I could not believe the number of people who worked here. My home church would break out in revival if the same 150 people showed up for two consecutive Sundays!
New fear leered back at me, had I over sold myself? Was I about to drown in my own puddle of cold sweat?
“Hey, Bob…this is…”
Introductions blurred into days of running infinite errands, answering phones, cleaning toilets, stuffing envelops, packing boxes, setting up sound equipment, carrying ice chests, washing staff cars, cutting, laminating, hammering, gluing and setting up more folding chairs than I ever knew existed. By late Thursday night I was ready to quit. Was God punishing me for my over zealous ambitions? I knew the road to greatness was paved with humility, but this was not the type of blacktop I envisioned on my success interstate.
Friday morning I dragged into work. Stepping out of the elevator, I was greeted by Pastor Smith.
“Hey, Bob, before you head off to work, would you give me your shoes?” he asked.
Puzzled I reluctantly took off my rather foul smelling Doc Martins and handed them over.
Feeling the plush carpet between my toes of my bare feet I headed toward the youth annex. To the side of the elevator I noticed a rather large pile of shoes. Must be some kind of Friday ritual I thought. Maybe they have a foot washing to prepare for the weekend services I mused. But I did not ponder the matter for long, the second I opened the door, the frenzied activity sucked me in.
One o’clock sharp all activity ceased. Robotically, everyone filed out of their offices to the church fellowship hall. Lined up along the hallway were pairs of sparkling freshly polished shoes. I found mine.
Shoving my feet into the familiar leather, I maneuvered my way to an empty seat at the back of the room. The senior pastor stood, everyone else stood and then he asked me to pray. I do not remember if I was coherent enough to bless the meal, but I heard myself mutter an “amen” and the joyful sounds of food, fellowship and fun followed. As plates emptied, the hyper activity slowly deflated to serenity. The senior pastor stood, took prayer requests, led us in intercession and concluded the meeting with the weekend itinerary.
Every Friday was the same. On my last Friday, instead of taking my shoes, Pastor Smith asked me to join him. As he polished shoes, I spread mayonnaise on white bread, set up more folding chairs and listened.
“Bob,” he concluded, “the key to greatness is humility. Jesus washed feet. I polish shoes. Get it?”
That was it. Now twenty years later, I change the oil of the single mom’s cars and mow the grass of the shut-ins.
…if you desire to be great…
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