Friday, November 16, 2007

Three things I learned as a mailman.

Three things I learned as a mailman.

One summer a friend at church got me a job at the post office. For a few months I was what they call a “casual carrier.” I had a jeep with the steering wheel on the wrong side, a blue visor and pepper spray that I would regularly manage to get on my fingers and then in my eyes.

I learned a lot that sticky summer and wanted to share the three most important things I took from that experience:

1. Never eat a steak and cheese sandwich from a vending machine.
This one is not biblical but I promise my stomach felt ungodly. Call it a rookie rite of passage, but none of my fellow mail carriers stopped me when I approached the frozen vending machine and selected a steak and cheese for lunch. So if you ever find yourself thinking “how bad could it be” in regards to a meat product, just move on. Move on.

2. When you change, people notice.
I was a horrible mailman. Just slow, inefficient, bored, all the words you don’t want in your mailman. By the end of most days, I was sprinting the rest of my route, jumping off of porches and over fences in an attempt to make it back to the station before the outgoing trucks left and also because it made me feel like the A-Team. One day I switched my routes up. I delivered the afternoon people in the morning and the morning people in the afternoon. One old lady came out, shocked to get her mail a few hours early and remarked, “You’re so much better than that other guy. He’s awful.” I smiled and said, “He sure is.” She was talking about me. I was that person. I had changed, perhaps only temporarily, but she had noticed and said something. The same thing is starting to happen when people from my past bump into my blog. The other day a pastor I knew growing up said, “I read your blog and thought the rapture had occurred. Is that really you?” You hate to get compliments like that because it amplifies how broken your past was, but it’s also a great barometer for how your present is.

3. God is not in the ceiling.
Before I became a mailman I had to watch a video about not going on a crazy shooting spree. Honestly, part of our training was watching a news story about some mailmen that had done that. I always wondered why that was. Why was the phrase “going postal” something that had made its way into our vernacular? After a few weeks at the post office I had my answer.

The facility I worked at was a hub for other post offices, with tons and tons of mail filtering through it every day. The layout of the room I worked in was basically just a factory with standing cubes that you hand sorted the mail into. It was all pretty normal, except for the ceiling. Into the ceiling, covered catwalks had been built with black windows that looked down on the mailman. Inside those catwalks were the postal police, that secretive group that keeps mailman from stealing birthday cards or social security checks. The postal police were no joke.

They had their own separate entrance and were like phantoms. I knew guys that had worked there 15 years and only seen a postal police officer once. They were constantly monitoring your every move. The brilliant thing is that because you couldn’t see into the tunnels suspended from the ceiling, you could never tell when they were there, which meant in a way that they were always there.

It sounds dumb, like having someone above your head that was waiting for you to fail would be something you could just brush off, but it was difficult. The sensation of having that hovering presence of condemnation became palpable. I wasn’t stealing mail, but it was still intimidating to have an unseen force watching my every move.

I didn’t know it then but that’s who God was to me. Separate from my daily life, he was floating above, unseen, unspeaking, waiting for me to mess up. He had me on his radar but it was only when I failed that my little light would start flashing and he would descend to punish.

I never saw him, but I could feel him up there. Watching. Watching. Watching.

I still think he does that, still think he watches me, but my understanding of what he is looking for has changed. It was actually a used car dealer that helped me change it. He told me in the midst of a project that when people come into get a loan, he looks for the good things in their credit history. He already knows they have bruised credit. He’s not surprised or shocked by that. But what he wants to do is sit down with the person and find the good in their life.

I think God is much more like that. He expects the failure I stumble through now and then on days that end with “y.” He knew I was capable of that. He doesn’t need to watch me to find that. In fact, he sent his son because he knew how desperate I would be when my mistakes caught up with me.

No, instead, he is standing next to me, watching. Waiting, to show me the good in life. Pointing out the things I’ve missed, the moments of love and happiness and joy. He is not keeping a checklist of my mistakes, he is storing my tears in a bottle and unwrapping love upon love for me.

How are your ceilings? Is there a silent God stalking them? As you head into the weekend, will your neck hurt from craning up to see if he is there? Or will you let him show you the good you might not even know exists?

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