By Jim Mettenbrink
How you prepare for life is supremely important, having lifelong consequences. The most important decision you make is whether to become a Christian. The second is your choice of a lifelong mate in marriage. What you do with your life is the third. Once food is on the table, it is important that you are happy in your work. But…how to get food on the table is crucial.
When God gave Moses the instructions to build all things for the tabernacle, He selected an artisan and declared, “And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship…” (Exodus 31:43). Like employers today, God wanted the best-qualified man for the job. In every respect His craftsman excelled. Grandpa says, “Be the best you can be!”
It is true that some folks are just plainly lazy and will not work. God says, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10), and “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing…” (Proverbs 13:4). Then there are those who sometimes work and will work simply to satisfy some pleasure or temporary need, but they often become the driftwood in the river of life. Oh…God has something to say about that too. “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). However, most folks want to live a normal life providing as best they can for their families. In chatting with teens, it is clear that many do not know what they want to pursue as a lifelong ambition.
When I graduated from high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Two of my friends went to the university. One became an architect and the other who loved planes went into R.O.T.C. and became an air force pilot for a few years. In his late 20s, he discovered his lifelong goal. He opened a music store, serving Denver for the next 30 years. I worked over a year for a furnace and a/c wholesaler, worked in every department (metal working [nearly cut off my thumb], shipping, inventory, catalog layout, sales, and heating and a/c cost estimates for dealers). Earned little, learned much, and gained valuable experience!
When my other friend finished high school, we joined the U.S.A.F. We simply did not know what we wanted to do in life, but we had ambition. Both of us sought, and became, U.S.A.F. communications-electronics technicians. I was happy in that work, but only after I had served 12 years, at age 31, and had been a Christian for two years, did I really “know.” I wanted to preach and teach the Bible the rest of my life. It was not a job. It was a passion!
Today there is tremendous pressure to go to college immediately after high school. The facts tell us this is not wise for many, if not most, young people. Nearly half of college students drop out without finishing a degree and then have the burden to pay student loans. A few years ago, a report revealed that within five years of graduation, 80% were working in a field other than their college degree specialty. Recent interviews revealed that some who had graduated could not find work with adequate pay (albatross of student loans too), so they went back to a technical school for a year or two to simply earn a liveable wage…and pay the student loans. Hmmm!
For about 10 years Grandpa has said, “If you don’t know what you want to do, work a couple years so at least you know what you do not want to do.” You will also have real life experience to fall back upon if necessary. And perhaps you’ll discover that intriguing field that will capture your interest and passion. A young man who is studying graphic design also serves in the National Guard via which he received his CDL so he can be a truck driver. He has driven cement, fertilizer, and freight delivery trucks during summer breaks. And in tough times, he can always go back to driving to put food on the table.
Grandpa also advises, “If you do not have a specialty, for example, engineer, medical doctor, teacher, or scientist, which requires a university education and advanced degrees, and are happy doing technical work, then study at a technical school.” Recently, Grandpa asked a medical technician who was conducting artery tests about his education. He had attended a two-year technical school, then had 90 days of classroom and on-the-job training to qualify to use the various pieces of equipment used by the company conducting the tests. He liked his work.
My high school friend who is an architect owned a successful firm of 60 employees. In the recession of the early 1980s, the firm collapsed from 60 to 2 in six months. As we lunched in 1989, he was working out of his apartment as the lone architect. One certainty about life is uncertainty. The idealism of youth rarely faces that fact, yet it is paramount that you prepare to ease the bumps and potholes in the road of life. As a teen and young person, a variety of work experiences will help you discover your interests and abilities, so that you can be happy while being the family provider and a responsible citizen. God implies that we must work, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Grandpa says, “Plan and prepare for life.” No sluggards or driftwood allowed.
Whatcha Gonna Do with Your Life?
By Jim Mettenbrink