Changing Paper Towels for God

“I don’t get you at all.” The gentleman remarked to me. “You have more joy than you have a right to! Sometimes, it kind of ticks me off because I just don’t get it.”

It sounds like he was being rude to me but I knew he was honestly baffled. I work a part-time job at the Y changing paper towels. OK, it’s more than that but from his perspective, that sums up what I do.

In fact, this particular gentleman once sat across from me in my big glass office when I held a position of some prestige in his eyes as the director of a tutoring agency. I advised him on an effective educational plan for his daughter and he paid me a lot of money to do it.

That was five years ago when I decided to try my hand at homeschooling, caring for my family and working full-time. I rocked at that job. It paid good money. I doubled the income of the agency in one year.

It nearly killed me.

The time commitment, the constant push to make more money, the demands of wealthy parents, the relentless drive of a never-satisfied (and somewhat unbalanced) boss and the endless needs of clients took their toll on me. My family life suffered. Home schooling suffered. My nerves suffered. The only thing that was healthy was my bank account.

So, one day, with my family’s enthusiastic blessing, I resigned.

And started changing paper towels in the workout room at the Y because that’s where God really wanted me.

And something happened.

People with healthy bank accounts, big offices, and titles began to envy me and they couldn’t even figure out why.

I talk with them every day in the course of my job. People with enough money to retire early. People with money that works for them. People traveling, enjoying good health, living the good life, able to spend hours working out each week. My job is to listen to them, to serve them in pursuit of healthier lifestyles, to change paper towels when they run out. (and my assignment from God is to be a light in their midst.)

There are problems in my life. My husband’s health. My anemic bank account. The ups and downs of an older teen and a twenty-something in transition. Unemployed relatives. Plenty of stress.

In the minds of the people I listen to every day, I should be miserable. I should envy them. I should be a mess.

Instead, they see something so foreign to them they can’t even name it.

It is well with my soul.

One woman actually asked me this a few months ago. “Tell me something. I have everything I ever planned to have and I’m retired with time to devote to whatever I want – why do I feel envious of you? What is it you have that I don’t?”

They don’t much like the answer.

“Jesus.” I replied. “Jesus is what you sense is different about me.”

She waved me off, dismissed my answer with a “Pshaw” and a shake of her head. That can’t be it.

But it is.

Because of Christ, because of His presence in my life, I am happier with a life full of trouble changing paper towels at the Y than the people who surround me enjoying all that life has to offer.

I don’t always wear my happiness on my face or in my emotions, believe me. I feel stress. I have carried so much stress for so long I’ve actually done damage to the muscles in my right shoulder and neck. I’m undergoing physical therapy to try to fix it.

And yet, even with that, on a level about soul-depth, all is well – so well, in fact, that it can be detected by everyday mortals.

It is well with my soul.

Psalm 125:1-2 says this: “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”

The Songs of Ascent don’t sugar coat the trouble that pilgrims to the heart of God endure along the way but they recognize that through the trouble, God is with His people. And so it is with me.

Maybe one day, I’ll sit in another big office and my bank account will burst with health. Maybe I will travel and enjoy retirement. My husband’s health has improved and this is good. The Lord leads His people into high places just as surely as He leads them into the lowly ones. There is nothing wrong with titles, good salaries, or high-powered careers. What is key is going where the Lord leads.

But this I know: I would rather change paper towels in the place where the Lord wants me to be serving the people He sends in my direction than sitting in a place of prestige serving only the goals the world says are worth pursuing.

The Lord surrounds me just as surely as the mountains surround Jerusalem. And if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, so He also surrounds you. Wherever you are. In a luxurious office or changing diapers in a duplex, defending clients in court or cleaning other people’s homes. If you are following Jesus, He placed you where you are to serve those you encounter. To be a light. To be salt. To testify that Jesus makes the difference no matter where we are.

I change paper towels for God. It is well with my soul.

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3 Comments

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  1. Amen. (And I can hear your wonderfully infectious laugh as you’re doing it.)

  2. You know what has always convicted me most about 1 Pet. 3:15? It’s Peter’s assumption that unbelievers would naturally come up to believers and ask them about their hope. That has rarely been my experience. But it sounds like you’re living that verse, and I pray that one day I will be living it too!

  3. Karin says:

    What a terrific post! Blooming where you’re planted is the best way to go! God is good!