Odd man out.

Do you ever feel like the odd man out?  You ever feel like you can’t fit in with the people around you?  Like you don’t understand or agree with their jokes or topics for conversation but almost feel obligated to laugh or join in in order to fit in?  I do.  All the time.  There’s always pressure from all around to conform and compromise.  I just keep trying to remind myself of what it is that I’m not fitting into.  With a world so full of sin, shame, guilt and pain you’d think everyone would be trying to get out rather than fit in.

With the crisis in Japan, things have gotten pretty crazy at my workplace.  As you might already know, I work for a Honda supplier.  Naturally, we were devastated – albeit not in a physical sense – by the recent catastrophe in Japan.  As a result of the reduction in production that came shortly after the devastating events overseas, our company was forced to get rid of all of our temporary work force as well as temporarily lay off some of our full time production associates.  My department has been shut down for the last week, and there’s still another week of non-production to go.  I haven’t been laid off, though, because my position has granted me the opportunity to go into work on non-production time for maintenance, projects, etc., but it did require me to switch back to 1st shift during the non-production time to work with the other staff associates.

When news started coming about what effect this was going to have on our company, I was at an all time spiritual high.  I had been working third shift since getting bumped off of days in February, and I had been surrounded by a crew of Christians who always helped to encourage me.  I could go into work every night and not worry about the conversation or jokes that I would be subjected to because the majority of the folks around me are Christians, and even the ones that aren’t are very respectful of my beliefs and don’t really tell bad jokes and all that while I’m around.  It’s obviously good for anyone trying to live a Christian life to be among and fellowship with other Christians and to limit exposure to outside influences, so the crew on 3rd was great for me and really helped to bolster my faith.  Switching back to first, however, has been a challenge, to say the least.

Even though 3rd has been such a faith-building experience, I wasn’t always thrilled about the concept of working all night and sleeping all day.  When I first found out that I was getting bumped to nights after spending a year as a 1st shift staff, I was bummed.  My wife was even more so.  She was pregnant with our third child and had grown very accustomed to me being able to sleep next to her every night.  We were all finally on a “normal” schedule.  We slept at night, woke in the morning to rush to work, school, etc., then all gathered together to spend our evenings together.  It was perfect.  Then I found out I was getting bumped.  I knew that I could fight against it by trying to create plans and schemes to switch departments and work the system to get myself back to days, but instead I decided to trust the Lord and just sit back and see what he had in store for me and my family.  I’m very glad I did, as it turned out that 3rd shift worked great for us after the birth of my baby boy.  It made mornings much less hectic since I was coming home and was still awake when Morgan needed to get off to school so I could either a) stay home with the other two kids while Amanda ran her to school or b) take her so she could feed, rest, etc.  This also worked well at night because my wife is frequently feeding our son in our bed during the night, and it is much easier to do if I am also not in the bed (not to mention, it’s much easier to get sleep if I’m not in bed with a crying baby).  And, as I mentioned, it put me smack in the middle of a bunch of folks that helped to build my faith as a born again Christian.  This is one of those scenarios where trusting the Lord, even if it’s not what I wanted, proved incredibly beneficial.  He knows exactly what we need and what is best for us…even when we don’t.

Anyway, given that we had enjoyed me being on 1st so much when I was, we thought that these two weeks would be a breeze.  Not so.  Life at home has become much more difficult during the past week, and my wife has been forced to lug all three kids around to all sorts of things like school, doctors, dentists, tee ball practice, girl scouts, etc. (whew – and it’s only Thursday!).  She’s stressed and I’m tired, and it seems like neither one of us can get anything done.  What’s worse,  I’ve been removed from the faith building atmosphere that I had grown accustomed to over the past few months.  It’s crazy how reliant your relationship with Christ can be on the atmosphere that you are in.  On 3rd, I got to casually talk with a friend regarding spiritual matters between downtime calls, then read scripture quietly on breaks since I often sat alone.  The quiet time to read from my YouVersion Bible app during breaks was great.  I loved having alone time for reading and reflection.  This combination made me feel right at home and was conducive for an excellent personal relationship with Christ.  I was praying more and sensing God’s presence all the time.  The world could barely get a foothold when held against the combination of fellowship, time in the word, and quiet time for reflection and prayer.

Now, however, I get up and rush straight to work.  I might get a little reading time while sitting in the parking lot before donning my uniform, but not nearly as much as I’d like.  I then spend my day with my fellow staff folk (fine gentlemen, mind you) working on maintenance and projects.  This doesn’t allow that quiet time during work to reflect or pray.  Their conversation is similar to most other secular conversation.  They talk about cars, movies, TV, beer, sexual jokes, etc., etc.  Needless to say, I usually don’t have much to say, and if I do happen to start a conversation it always has a religious tone and is quickly snubbed out with a joke or quip about something more ‘entertaining’.  They aren’t comfortable with the things I think about.  It’s pretty apparent that I’ve become the odd man out.  This became most blatantly clear when I heard the gentlemen discussing a shindig that my second shift counterpart was planning with our engineer, 1st shift team leader, 1st shift staff, several production associates – well, everyone except me and other generally not liked people in the department.  I’m no longer worthy of their get togethers…

At first I was kind of offended that I wasn’t invited to this thing.  After all, I used to be one of the ‘cool’ guys.  I used to get invited to all these things, although I hardly ever actually attended.  I felt bad until I really started thinking what I was being excluded from.  These men have known me for a long time.  They knew me before I was a Christian.  They knew me as I used profanity and joined in with their conversations and jokes.  They knew me when I tried to build myself up by bringing others down.  They knew me when I lived a life of pain.  When I had something missing and tried to fill it with cigarettes, alcohol, career, and every imaginable worldly thing.  They knew me when I crumbled under the weight of the world.  They saw me humbled.  They saw me reborn.  They know me now.  They know that I no longer want to partake in these types of activities.  They may have not invited me because I’m too ‘weird’ for them, but maybe there’s a certain respect involved with that.  They know I can be that guy, and they know that through Christ I’m not that guy any more.  If they’ve recognized how drastically different I’ve become, so much so that they no longer feel like I fit into their crowd and no longer bother trying to get me to join in, then I must be doing something right.

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