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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

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What Disney Teaches Us About Adulting: Getting a Job

This blog series is adapted from my panel at the 2018 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. For those who were unable to make it, here’s what you missed!

Last week, we talked about 7 Markers of Adulthood that society uses to let us know when we’ve achieved the status of “Grown Up.” Today, we’re going to look at the first, Getting a Job!

Part of being a responsible, self-sufficient adult is the ability to provide for your own needs financially. We need food, clothing, and shelter, all of which require money to attain. No longer relying on someone else’s provision, the adult gets a job and works hard for the money they bring in.

There is biblical precedent for this. The first man to be filled with the Spirit, Bezalel (Ex. 31), was so filled so that he could get to work building the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Even though God was caring for His people’s physical needs with rock-water and sky-bread, God thought this work was so important that His Spirit dwelt within a man so it could be done.

The Book of Proverbs has more direct urgings to get a job: “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider his ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares he bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” (Prov. 6:6-8).

What about the New Testament, I hear you crying out. Well, Paul is even more harsh: “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10). Sounds like getting a job and looking after ourselves is pretty important.

Now, early Disney characters rarely bothered with the boring routine of getting jobs. When you’re a princess or prince, you don’t really need one.  However, more recent films have dealt with people finding, keeping, and growing in their jobs. Let’s see what they say:

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Pinocchio

 Here we find the one early Disney protagonist who get’s a job. Which job? Show business!

In Pinocchio we learn that jobs are dangerous. If your boss is anything like Stromboli, he or she will likely try to screw you over, and its best to avoid getting a job altogether.

Now, Pinocchio is a child of sorts and we have laws against child labour for a reason. We don’t want the Strombolis of the world caging our kids and exploiting them for financial gain.

However, we can also pick up on the truth that when it comes to our job, the interpersonal aspects of the job may be just as important as the actual work itself. It may be more important to have a job we don’t particularly like, if our co-workers and supervisors make life more fulfilling.

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Zootopia:

Judy Hopps has one dream: to become a police officer. However, the odds are stacked against her by the accident of her birth as a bunny.

But Judy believes nothing else will make her happy, so she gives it her all to make it through the police academy despite her natural limitations. It’s a wonderful reminder that perseverance in the face of opposition can lead us to grow and overcome the obstacles that are in our way.

And so, Judy Hopps becomes the first bunny police officer – and is quickly bounced down to metre maid. This wasn’t what she was expecting. But does Judy whine or quit? No, she buckles down and becomes the BEST meter maid in Zootopia, outperforming everyone’s expectations. From there, she earns enough of her boss’ trust to climb the police ladder and eventually become a hero.

Sometimes we have dreamy, romantic visions of what our jobs should be that don’t match our realities right away. That’s okay. Sometimes, we just need to put in the work. Paul instructs us in 1 Thess. 4:11-12 “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” If we can follow in Judy’s footsteps, we can learn to work hard wherever we are, no matter our opposition and be the best we can be.

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The Princess and the Frog:

Finally, we have young Tiana who has the aspiration of opening the restaurant that she and her father dreamed of owning one day. In order to do so, she works two jobs and saves every penny she can.

Sounds like the American Dream to me. Work hard, dream big. Wish on stars and put in the elbow grease.

But in The Princess and the Frog, we learn that this kind of work ethic creates people who don’t dance and who aren’t fun. We learn that work and fun are mutually exclusive. This isn’t necessarily true, and it’s not the best message for a youth just about to enter the workforce. We don’t need to give up on having fun just because we have a job. Actually, the financial freedom that a job brings can allow us to have even more fun than if we rely on the generosity of others.

But, eventually, Tiana works long and hard enough to make her dream come true.

There’s only one problem.

The free market strikes when someone outbids Tiana on the property she needs for the restaurant. We aren’t even told who ruins the dream, just that he or she has a lot more money than Tiana. So, we learn that sometimes working hard doesn’t get you what you want. Sometimes the lack of privilege bites you in the backside. A nugget of truth that we need to keep in mind when we set out into the workforce.

In all of this, we need to remember that God is sovereign. He may have a job in mind for you, or He may have a season of utter dependence on Him in mind. Remember, “the heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9)

So, work hard, but allow God to lead you. Even if it’s outside your plan.

Blessings

Another Journey Begins

Well, everyone, I have some good news today. Not the Good News kind of news, but exciting nonetheless (and definitely related to the Good News sort).

As of May 1st, I will be in full-time ministry!

I have been hired as the new formed Director of Art and Story at RockPointe Church, here in Calgary. My main duties will be fostering discipleship amongst our drama, film, and visual art teams, and telling stories of what God is up to in our midst.

It’s terribly exciting.

Even though this is a dream job for me, even more exciting is seeing how God has been working throughout the journey.

God pulled my wife and I out of the arts community and onto a path towards church ministry. However, as the years went by, our heart for the arts community grew. God was slowly drawing us back into the arts. This was confusing, because we felt pulled between church and the arts, and there didn’t seem to be much in the way of the middle. We prayed for guidance, but could only hear one word: “Wait.”

So, we did. We’ve spent three years building a drama ministry, waiting for God to provide a bigger answer. But there was still a lot of “Wait.” Not being particularly good at that, we applied for other jobs all over the place. Pastoral, secular, writing, administration, anything, really. But the doors were always closed. Often, JUST closed, which was even more frustrating at the time.

Finally, about a year ago, I had a frank conversation with God about what was going on. He told me that something was just around the corner and I still had to wait, but I wasn’t totally satisfied. He then reminded me that He had called me to serve the arts community. When I pushed back that I needed Him to provide a job for me to do that, He just asked, “Do you?”

That was a huge change for me.

Our calling does not rely upon a job. That struck me like a tidal wave, and we began to think up ways to get back to serving. We started hosting artists at our house. We got more involved with creatives we know. We started planning for an Arts Chaplaincy and making contacts along the way.

And then, a month or two ago, we started to hear that God was about to “give us the land.” Shortly after, I was offered a new job, one that fits me to a T.

So now, we feel like we’re on the edge of the Jordan River. We have an adventure before us and God has given us the means to really dive into it. The Promised Land wasn’t a paradise when the Israelites showed up. It was full of danger. But they trusted, and God provided.

I have faith that God has big plans for this ministry and for our family.

Thanks for being with us for the journey thus far. Let’s go change the world.

Life Lessons from Community Natural Foods

Sometimes in life, we need to pay for things. Simple, necessary things, like school, a mortgage, food, or a car. In order to pay for these nice things, most of us need jobs. Some are gifted with a job that is right in their chosen career path, while others of us need to work a simple, menial job just to pay the bills. I have been in this situation for the past three years, working for Community Natural Foods, a health food store in Calgary. While there are days that I complain about not having my dream job yet, I am often floored by the incredible blessing that this company has been to me. It has taught me several important lessons that I really want to share with all of you today.

1. The Value of Work

This is going to make me sound really old, but I have found much satisfaction in just going to work each day.This is definitely a lesson I had to learn through experience. I have been working since I was 13, but always thought of it as a necessary evil, something to avoid if at all possible. It has only been in the last year or so that I have been able to enjoy work for its own sake. There is a simple joy in the small tasks that I perform day in and day out. The work itself isn’t particularly satisfying, but bringing home a pay cheque to provide for my family is. While stocking shelves and moving pallets may not be incredibly important in the grand scheme of things, having work to do is a blessing for me and my family. Not everyone is employed (I was unemployed for three months before this job) and having the option for my wife to say home after our son arrives is great.

This seems to be a lesson that many of our generation need to learn. We have been told since we were young that we can do anything and that we should do what we love. However, we have not been taught that sometimes we just need to do what needs to be done until that job we love shows up. Life isn’t going to hand us our dream job right away (even though we worked really hard in university for it), and waiting for it isn’t going to help either. Sometimes, we just need to get ourselves out of bed, make money, and slowly make our way into our perfect career. It takes patience. We need to remember that.

2. The Importance of People

I work with an amazing group of people at Community. We come from all walks of life, from high school and college students to retired teachers and restauranteurs. For those days where the job itself isn’t energizing, the people will most certainly breathe new life into me. I have been able to talk freely about my faith and listen as others articulate their own. We are challenged by each other, encouraged by each other, and loving of each other. We are tolerant of others’ viewpoints (no one has killed anyone else yet…) yet we aren’t afraid to disagree as we dig deep into spiritual, political, and social issues. I am overwhelmed by the love shown to me by so many of my coworkers, many of whom stop me daily to ask how my wife is feeling in late pregnancy. It’s little things like this that make life amazing.

Is it always easy? Of course not. Sometimes it gets a little awkward when we hit a subject that someone is touchy about. But jokes, challenges, and secret missions are always just around the corner. You don’t have to love, or even like the people you work with, but the job becomes so much better when you do. Try making a new friend next week and see what happens!

3. The Stewardship of the Planet

This is really just Christianese for looking after the Earth. I’ve learned so much about the importance of organic, ethical food practices and their impact on our ecosystem and the human population. This may seem obvious, considering it’s a health food store, but it’s more than just hippies and yoga instructors in our store. Our location is in the suburbs, and we cater to more soccer moms and yuppies (young, urban professionals) than you would think. The movement away from cheap and easy food sources towards organic and local has the West more aware of where its food is coming from and how it got to its shopping cart. As someone who has always been interested in the environment, this is a really cool development in our society. I certainly hope that it continues.

4. Faith is Lived Out Everywhere

Finally, I’ve realized that for many of my coworkers, I am one of the most visible Christians in their lives. Sometimes this is obvious: I work with a woman from Israel who has dubbed me her official source of Christian thought and history. Yet other times it is not. I was stopped by one of my coworkers (who is also a Christian) to tell me that her faith has been bolstered because I talk so freely about faith at work. I had no idea, but the affirmation was really cool. Sometimes it’s hard, especially when I realize that my work ethic and how I treat people influence what my coworkers think about my religion.  Sometimes it’s exciting, because people feel free to ask me blunt and difficult questions (probably because I’m training to become a pastor).

We are ambassadors for our faith. I understand Buddhism through the lens of my Buddhist friends. I learn about Islam through my Muslim friends. I examine atheism by examining my atheist friends. This is probably not the most scientific way of going about studying religion, but it’s what we all do. So, how are you showing your faith to those around you? Do they even know what you believe in? If not, why not?

And so, for those of you currently in a job that is not in your career path, what are you gaining from it? If you are currently unhappy with your work situation, I suggest looking for ways to make it better. I don’t suggest leaving, because I don’t think that will necessarily help. But can you look for ways to find joy in your little tasks at work? Can you make good friends with whom you can laugh and struggle together? Can you connect to the mission of your workplace, or realize your position as ambassador for your faith? Try it out, see what happens. Maybe you will make a friend along the way.

Blessings

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