I was recently reflecting on how my career path could have been so much different than it was. For some reason, I never developed good study habits. Looking back, I don’t even recall doing much homework in high school. Sadly, my grades reflected just that. As I recall, I barely got into college. These days, I would have probably started my college career at the community college just a few minutes from our home, rather than going to the local university that I did.
My lack of good study habits hurt me at the university. Although I worked hard, I achieved just barely average grades. And then when I met Tammy, who would become my wife, well, let’s just say my grade point average just went lower and lower.
My brother Mike and I have some very talented nieces, who all highly achieved academically. A 4.0 grade point average was not unusual for them. We have joked that was no big deal, that if you added our two GPAs together, we would have the same 4.0. Sadly, for me, that was not really much of a joke.
So, although I had a few interviews as I was finishing college, I didn’t get any job offers. I applied with State Farm, the largest employer in town, because my Mom had worked there. But I received a rejection letter from State Farm, turning me down for the position I had applied for, and wishing me well in my career pursuits. I didn’t have a job and it was getting very close to the date of our wedding.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9
While going to college I had started working for a contract cleaning company that cleaned the State Farm facilities. It was a part-time job paying minimum wage. I made so little that I was constantly borrowing money from my brother to pay for dates with Tammy (money that he swears I have never fully paid back)!
Eventually, I would move from a general cleaner to a building supervisor, and then to an area manager, even being named the organization’s area manager of the year. It was hard work, with long and late nights. But I learned so much during this time (how to hire, coach, meet the customer’s expectations, etc.), that the time was invaluable for me. And a strong work ethic had been modeled for me by my parents, so I knew to do my best no matter what the work was.
Through my work with the cleaning company, I got to know leaders in the Administrative Services departments at State Farm. One of them agreed to write a letter of recommendation for me, and later would eventually interview me, and hire me for a Trainee position in the department. I would start my career at State Farm, which would last nearly 38 years, on a Monday and get married the following Saturday.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that the works of God’s providence “are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.” John Piper writes that providence is “God’s seeing to everything. Absolutely everything that needs to be done to bring about his purposes, God sees to it that it happens.”
It is amazing to me to look back and see that God had His sovereign hand on my career from the very beginning, many years before I would know Him as my Savior and Lord. Little did I realize when I was cleaning toilets, emptying ashtrays and trash cans for minimum wage that God would one day use those experiences for His purposes.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Have you ever looked back at your life and reflected on how God has used experiences of your life for His purposes?