November 28, 2005

Factory Life

Nobody was meant to wake up at 4:15 in the morning. End of story. Not for work. Not for vacations. Not for Babies. Not even for Christmas presents. Well, maybe for Christmas presents and maybe for Babies, and I suppose if the vacation were really good, then maybe for that too.

But not for work. Work is something you go to because you have to; at least, it has been (thus far) for me. And when you're not really a morning person, like me, it means that you go to work solely because your survival depends upon it. But how far are you willing to go to survive? Lately, in my case, it has meant giving up the two things I love most dearly next to my wife: my sleep, and my hands. Now, obviously sleep – going to bed at 8pm to get up at 4 is not my idea of acceptable – but why the hands?

My hands are, according to my grandmother, the two most valuable things I have. And today, while at work, her vague warning of "don't mess them up" was wandering through my head as I scraped and gouged them up on chicken wire, burned them on liquid urethane and on xylene alcohol, and glued them together with industrial strength super-glue. My hands are in serious pain right now, cut and bruised in a lot of places.

And I can't help but wonder why I'm there. I mean, I know it's because the temp agency offered me a job there, and silly me, thinking it to be a science lab (with a name like "Graver Technologies," what else could it be?) and told I'd be doing some "small assembly work" (direct quote from the temp agency), I accepted. But having been there for a week, I find nothing small about the work we do (we build industrial filters), and I find myself – daily – almost in tears as I wake up, begging God not to make me go again.

This is the problem with prayer – sometimes it gets answered, but not really the way you wanted, or weirder, you get what you asked for, but there's a catch you forgot to mention when you prayed. I prayed for work. And God gave it to me. I just forgot to mention that I'd rather use my four-year college degree with something I can do, not something that ruins my body.

Not that I find the work beneath me, it can be challenging occasionally. Though I do often find myself wondering why someone "of my talents" (good lord am I arrogant) isn't being used "somewhere more productively" or something like that. During the day, trapped in my plastic prison of protective eyewear, I find myself contemplating just walking out of the factory, away from the pain in my hands and from the junk that goes on around me. I find that the people there are often shallow, their conversation centered around employee gossip and make-believe sexual relationships with one another. Few are married, yet nearly all have children, and none of them see a problem with that. They seem content to go from day to day, looking forward to little else than a break from the tedium to drink and sleep. They don't aspire to anything. They don't feel like working harder than they do, which is, honestly, not that hard, at a leisurely pace.

And yet I've learned something here. I worry that this factory can be more than a tragic part of a fallen world, but a symbol of a problem. The church has become like this factory, its workers blinded by their own desires or lack of direction. The church's purpose has become little else than to intake materials and produce identical products as fast as possible, yet the workers slack off and put out their half-assed work to just get by. I find this disturbing. I'm sickened by it. I see myself often enough as a solution to this problem, yet nothing changes – I’ve become part of the system, and I'm disturbed by that too. Evangelicals, not to mention the rest of Christendom, have corrupted the gospel into a political agenda, into a means to their own profit, the church into a factory meant to produce endless copies of the same product – the self-centered half-hearted mindless drone of a filter that goes on to be used up by the world around it and dumped into heaven, exhausted. We've made the gospel about ourselves, not about everyone else.

I will be returning to the factory twice more, for two more days of work. Unfortunately, the other part of factory life is that they have no respect for the schedule I gave them when I was hired. Since I made other commitments for two weekends (some nearly six months old), ones I can't drop, they said they'd rather me just not come anymore. Which is fine, my hands are already happy about this.

I keep wondering if there's more to be learned there, if I'm giving up on something that was placed in my hands (busted up as they are) for a reason, or if I've already learned all I can, and if I've already been all I can be for them. Should I be sticking it out, for their sakes? There aren't really any other Christians there – have I made it all about my own comfort, all about myself? After all, the sacrifice Jesus made for me - for them - was far greater than just his hands. What are my hands compared to his?

No comments: