When I began working in the food service industry in 2005 I had no idea what I was doing. The restaurant owner saw something in me that could make management material, so he made sure I learned every single thing about the business, from mopping the floors to calculating labor percentage, from flipping burgers to weekly inventory, from running a cash register to running a shift. There were many, many times when I doubted I could ever be good enough for management. There were so many things to learn that I oftentimes felt overwhelmed, and I usually believed the job was just too much for me to handle. Every new task seemed a workshop in how many ways I could find to do it wrong. My trainers were usually patient with me, but when I made the same mistakes over and over again I was chastised for not paying attention. I discovered throughout my training that the details I had the hardest time learning were the ones I disliked the most. For whatever reason, I had set it in my mind that certain tasks were just too hard for me, and in believing I would make it so. Still, if I was to be an effective manager I had to be proficient in every aspect of the restaurant, so with the determination that comes with refusing to fail, I made it through my training and was eventually given the responsibilities of shift manager.
I should add that another crucial element of being a manager is to lead others, and that was an entirely different challenge. It had been twenty years since I had been in a position of leadership, and that was as a Sergeant in the Army. Here I was suppose to manage up to a dozen crew members, most of which were high school and college age kids who were only there for the paychecks and had little sense of loyalty to the business. My instincts were to get them to like me and hope they would work to please me. Boy, was I wrong! I had to learn to be firm and assertive and not be afraid to discipline an employee who would not carry their weight. It took me a long time before I felt comfortable telling others what to do, and longer still to master it. It seemed at times that I was always on the upside of the learning curve.
Over time, and with much trial and error, I slowly became proficient as a restaurant manager. The things that once seemed nearly impossible to do eventually became easy. In retrospect, I could say I grew into the job, because as I learned what was expected of me, coupled with my desire to be the best I could be, I came to expand my vision, learning even to anticipate roadblocks and prevent them before they even happened.
I am just now beginning to understand that my work experiences were a living parable to my life as a Christian. I’m ashamed to admit it, but even though I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in 2005, there was a big part of me that thought being saved was like checking off a list of job duties. I mean, I had experienced a spiritual conversion, but I actually believed all I had to do was go to church, pray daily and read my Bible. How little I knew! God, in His infinite wisdom, sees the potential in me, and has placed my feet upon the path of leadership – of stewardship, literally – and has given me the ultimate Teacher in Jesus Christ, whose ministry and authority sets the example for me to live. I am ever so slowly beginning to understand that showing up to work (church, worship) just isn’t enough. There’s much more to it than putting in my time. I have a responsibility, being in the body of Christ, to learn how to maximize my spiritual life. I need to learn to help my fellow Christians, and just as importantly, I need to learn how to help my fellow man by living the Golden Rule. I can’t be satisfied with just learning how to pray. I need to be an active participant because God literally wants to talk with me, He wants me to ask (Matthew 7:7 – Ask, and it shall be given you) and He wants me to listen. It is not enough to just read words in the Bible. I must seek to understand them so I can allow God’s Word to expand my vision. The Holy Bible is the ultimate employee’s handbook, and is designed to help me gain and maintain my salvation.
I still often feel as if I am on the upside of the learning curve, but I couldn’t ask for a better place to work, or a better employer!