Friday, December 19, 2008

It was my normal scheduled weekend to work day shift. Due to the effects of the suffering economy on the steel industry, my plant, at first, reduced the running time of the operations by only running three of the four crews by dividing a shift among the others. Then they reduced the hours of the hourly employees from 48 to 44 on our 48-hour weeks to average out to 40 hours a week (the other week is 36-hours). Then, they reduced all hourly employees to 36 hours a week. This was a progression that happened over time.

Friday morning, I made it to work and I found that my relief man was working on the 25 ton crane (I hate crane calls). I was in a pretty good mood because of the plans I had for the weekend, so the crane call didn’t bother me all that much. As I was walking to the crane with my harness and tools, I saw my boss. He told me that I had a mandatory meeting in the lunchroom at 7am. He didn’t tell me what it was about. My shift starts at 6:30, and it was probably 6:25 when he told me. So, I went to meet my relief man to see what was going on and assess the situation to see if I had time to fix the crane before the meeting or not. I realized I didn’t, so I went ahead to the lunchroom for the meeting.

In the lunch room, I sat toward the back. No one seemed to know what the meeting was about. Not even supervisors, which was odd. So, 7am came, and our General Manager took the mic. He started talking about the economy and the effects it has had on the steel industry and on our plant specifically. He told us that more actions would have to be taken. He informed us that they needed to reduce the workforce, for we were not making enough money to support the employees we have now. He said they planned on offering a voluntary early retirement package to those who would be interested and told us also to seriously consider taking positions in different locations through the Steel Group (there was a new plant in Arizona starting up toward the end of the next year).

There are a couple of things to consider about this scenario. First of all, my company employs about 413 people at this one facility. In this meeting, there are somewhere between 200 and 250 people in this lunchroom, by my guess. I am an hourly employee. Though my position seems to have a little “prestige” among other hourly employees, in the big scheme of things, I am still just an hourly employee. Nearly all of the bosses, front line supervisors, and managers were in attendance of this meeting. The majority of them know of me, for I have worked there over 5 years, but a lot of them probably don’t really know who I am.

The General Manager then starts saying that if we do not reduce the workforce enough by voluntary early retirement, or relocation throughout the steel group, then there would have to be some involuntary lay-offs. After telling us all these things, he opened it up for questions. People started asking questions and what not and I started thinking about if I needed to ask something.

Then, all of a sudden, God dropped in my spirit that I needed to do something. He told me that He wanted me to get up and pray. As soon as He revealed that to me, I was overwhelmed with fear. I thought, “There is no way I can get up in front of all these people and start praying.” Then the Holy Spirit started convicting me.

In Jeremiah 20:9, the writer said that he would not longer do what he was called to do. But then, something inside of him started to burn, like a fire shut up in his bones, and though he tried to hold it back, he could not. He had to do it. Right then, I started feeling that same thing. It was like a fire inside of me. I felt extremely uncomfortable and the more I tried to justify not doing it, or doing it other than the way He wanted me to, the more uncomfortable I felt. I literally started feeling sick because I refused to obey.

At this point in time, there had been no more questions, so he was talking again, likely doing a recap. I could tell the meeting was drawing toward an end. My opportunity was fading. The only thing I could thing of was, “Yay, another opportunity for obedience that I’ve failed.” I did not want to be a failure, but I didn’t want to do the thing He asked me to do either, because I was too scared.

Finally, he said, “Are there any more questions? Well, probably not.” The mood was very somber in the room. There was a great heaviness everyone could sense. “What about comments? Anyone have any comments?” It was like the Holy Spirit smacked me and said, “This is your chance! GO!”

Before I realized what was happening, I saw my hand go up and I stood up and said “I do,” and started making my way up front without even thinking about it. As soon as I spoke, all eyes in the room turned to regard me. I could feel their eyes burning into my very being. The fear resurfaced, but it was too late. I had already stood up. I had already said I would do it. I had already made the decision to be obedient, and the repercussions of my actions no longer mattered.

So, here I am, all dressed in my work uniform, all my tools on me, probably already had some dust and dirt on me. I get to the front and he asks me if I have a comment to make. I look at him, cover the mic, and ask, “Can I pray?” He looks down and pauses, as if considering the request. I immediately think, “Oh no, I came all the way up here and made myself look dumb for no reason. He’s not going to let me.” Then he said, “Yeah, go ahead.”

I took my hand away from the mic and turned to address the crowd. I said, “I am going to pray. If you could, just bow your head and close your eyes.” Then I started praying. I’m not sure exactly everything I said, for it wasn’t me praying. But when I first opened my mouth, my voice was almost broken and I was nearing the point of tears due to the fear I was experiencing. But I did it anyways.

I started thanking God for a place to work and for all the blessings we as employees have experienced. I thanked Him for leadership that has been doing the best they could and for them making wise decisions. I prayed for provision and a continuation of His blessings and mercy. I made the statement that our trust and faith were not in the economy or the stock market or the government, or even in CMC, but that our faith was in Him, our true source. I prayed that He would be with us all during this time of need.

When I was done, I said, “Amen,” and I heard nearly everyone say amen too. I didn’t even turn to acknowledge the General Manager; I just focused on going back to my seat and started walking. I did hear Mike say, “thank you,” when I was finished. It wasn’t long after that Mike dismissed the meeting. A bunch of people, some I don’t even know that well, came up to me and thanked me for what I did—most of them supervisors and managers.

As I looked around, I was reminded that I was not alone in my faith there in that room. I remembered that there are a lot of Christians and Christian leaders that work where I do. There are Pastors, Youth Pastors, Associate Pastors and laymen. A lot of them, too—not just a couple. And I thought, “How odd that God would call me to do that. All these men seem a lot more qualify to do something like that, yet God used me.”

Then God showed me two things. One, I needed to stop looking at myself as less than He made me to be. And two, I may not have been the only one He asked to do it. It could have been that I was merely the one who obeyed.

In retrospect, I am confused as to why I was so apprehensive about the whole request. I’ve preached, I’ve sang, I’ve acted—I’ve done a lot of things in front of a lot of people. Why was I afraid at all? I took my College and Career class to Pizza Hut one Wednesday night and had church there. I’ve preached a sermon in a bar. I’m no stranger to administrating the Word of God and displaying my faith openly. Even more odd is that everyone at work that does know me, knows that I am a Christian, and not because I had to tell them. So why was it such a difficult thing to do something as simple as pray for my company, my co-workers, and my job? I do it all the time by myself.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” These words are found in 2 Timothy 1:7. If God has not given me the spirit of fear, and I definitely had a spirit of fear, then where did it come from?

We need to keep in remembrance that we have an adversary that is very crafty and knows our weaknesses. He will attack us in a fashion in which we thought we were immune. Regardless, nothing Satan tells us can negate the truth. God calls us and we obey. Do not put your trust in your feelings, because they are subject to Satan’s deception. We need to trust that God would not ask us to do something that we can’t do and that He is not going to tell us to do something that serves no purpose. I’m not sure the extent of the effectiveness of that simple prayer, but I know that it had significance.

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