The Whole (Foods) Experience, Pt 1

Insanity is the only word that comes to mind when I reflect on how powerfully God has been moving recently. I could write a book with the testimonies of His faithfulness and love he’s built in my life just in this year alone, but for the sake of time I’ll only be sharing, as colloquial and straightforward as possible, how God is literally transforming my workplace, Whole Foods Market. But first things first: I am a janitor.

There I said it, and I say it with pride. Not the selfish breed of pride, but the kind that stems from God’s ability to redeem any man in any position for His glory and reign victorious in any situation. And contrary to my prior beliefs, money, power, and degrees aren’t essential to radically transform your workplace, compared to full submission to God and faith in His power.

Rewinding back to last year, I had committed to staying in Ann Arbor an extra year to continue riding the spiritual skyrocket that had sparked my senior year in college and also to reflect and pray about the direction he wanted me to take. My undergraduate experience with academia was meager at best and I was desperately clawing to graduate on time or else accept my fate and finish school elsewhere. Because graduation was highly improbable, according to the general consensus of my advisors, job applications were not a viable option for me. Despite being utterly uncertain of my demise, I took off for the India missions trip that summer and upon returning, I found out that I had received my diploma (praise God!) and now I would have to focus all my attention on trying to find work to sustain myself in Ann Arbor.

I started applying to any and every job I could find. I was literally applying for jobs that started in September…IN SEPTEMBER. My situation looked grim and the graduation money I’d been living on was growing thin. Then BAM! I landed a janitorial position at Whole Foods Market aptly labeled as “Sanitation Team Member”. The chance to start living out everything I had learned and experience on the mission field and in college had finally come. I was eager to see how “being a light in the workplace” was going to play out and immediately started taking steps to shine as brightly as I could. 1 Cor 15:58 and Col 3:23-24 were my daily mantras before I started work each morning. I tried to befriend as many co workers as I could and even started reading and memorizing Scripture at work. Everything seemed to be going well, until the harsh realities of financial independence and the pressures of social expectations began to overwhelm the naive glee of working for the first time.

My parents were appalled when I first described to them what I was doing for a living.

"We paid that ridiculous tuition price for your degree and your sweeping floors and cleaning toilets?!?"

These kinds of interjections were common between me and my parents, and when adamantly suggesting other career alternatives failed they resorted to mockery. As strong as I like to think I am these words cut me pretty deep and it began to affect my work and shook my trust in God. As time passed and I was no longer considered a new employee my bosses started cracking the proverbial whip. Complaints seemed to be the only thing I was hearing, complaints from managers, coworkers, customers, and parents. There was no acknowledgement for extra effort and if the smallest thing went wrong, fire rained down from the skies. However, I was positive God wanted me to stay an extra year and so I didn’t understand why everything was working against me. On top of it all I was financially strained. I felt that I had thrown an immense burden on my parents, and trying to help them pay off debts while sustaining myself proved arduous to say the least. As more and more doubt welled up in me, the misery of my circumstance began to seep out and show not only in my work performance but also in how I lived my life.

I didn’t understand where I had gone wrong, but I knew that somewhere along the line I forgot what I was working for, who I was living for. I would like to say that I believed I was working for God with everything I was doing thus far, but that message didn’t register in my heart. No matter how much I tried to force that mentality in me I couldn’t do it. If there was ever a job that made me think, “How the heck is THIS serving God and building up His kingdom?” this was it. As much as I knew the Sunday School answers, I couldn’t see the ministry behind sweeping faster or wiping harder. I wanted to live a life where I could honestly say that EVERY SINGLE thing I did to the smallest detail was purely out of obedience and love for God, but I had no idea how this could be achieved or if this kind of loving obedience was even possible. However, with no other options left at that point, I decided to lift the entire situation up to God and really seek Him out with everything that was in me.

To be continued...

This is part one of a two-part post.