On Wed., Jan. 16, Jon Acuff, author of Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job and Stuff Christians Like, concluded his four-part “Your Dream Job” series.
Following worship at the Massey Performing Arts Center, Acuff shared his own personal struggle on his journey to “do work that matters.” He once had the opportunity to speak at a Christian conference in Chicago while still working at his first desk job. He remembered how elated he was during the conference and how he cried on the flight back home. “I knew I was going to have to go back to my desk. I did the reverse Superman,” he said. “I put my clothes back on, and went back to work.” He explained that the road to truly fulfilling work is a long one and calls for much patience.
He likened the experience to the Jews release from slavery in Exodus. “God did not lead them directly to the promised land. He took them the long way, through a desert road,” he explained. “It was frustrating, but God can see things we can’t see. He has a reason.”
Acuff explained that often, the need for patience feels like a desert road and can be interpreted as punishment. However, Acuff believes the desert road is a gift. “God may have something he doesn’t want us to return to,” he posited.
He returned to the question “how do we do work that matters?” with the infamous “you complete me” scene from Jerry Maguire. The movie, like much of pop culture, implies that people can, and need to, be fixed, Acuff explained. This impedes the ability to do work that matters. “If we constantly try to fix, God can’t use us because we become obsessed with the fix.”
He then shared his own experience with trying to fix himself. After finishing his first semester in college with a very poor GPA, Acuff resolved to improve his grades. He was able to finish his second semester with a 4.0, but at a significant cost. That summer, he had a breakdown. “I became a robotic me and white-knuckled life,” he explained. “Perfect is exhausting.” Acuff then proceeded to share his most memorable Chuck E. Cheese experience.
The Chuck E. Cheese had a long condiment and ice cream bar which Acuff remembers fondly. “Here, I was in control of the sprinkles,” he reminisced. “I was king of the sprinkles.” He recalled one particular boy who mistakenly poured mustard onto his ice cream after starting at the wrong end of the condiment line. Though an employee offered to get the boy a new bowl of ice cream, the boy insisted on keeping the bowl. “He started stirring in the mustard, turning it into a sad yellow mush. It was like a bowl of Counting Crows’ songs,” Acuff remembered. “He thought if he stirred it enough, he wouldn’t taste it.”
Acuff likened the memory to the way in which people try to fix themselves. “We think if we stir hard enough it will get better, and we end up breaking our bowl,” he said. “I thought faith was just a set of tools to stir with. Jesus came for the broken bowls.” He is here for the sick, not for the healthy, for the ruined, not the righteous, Acuff explained.
Finally, he called for the audience to “be sick, and be loved” and to simply show up. “If we do, we get something we don’t deserve. We get grace.”