From Pastor to Waiter

Aug 28, 2022

Before I start this post, I want to offer a disclaimer. This transition was my fault. This transition was a product of my decisions. This transition happened because I was selfish; I messed up; it was a consequence of my choices. This transition was also one of the biggest God-things that’s happened in my life.

Three days after I admitted the affair, I found myself at a crossroads. I was unemployed, separated from my wife and had no idea where I was going to work or if I could stay married. My life was a complete mess. My emotional and mental capacity to make wise decisions was very low. I knew I couldn’t make a career decision at this point, but I knew I needed to work.

One afternoon, I walked into P.F. Chang’s and left with an offer to start as a waiter the next day.

Within 48 hours I went from being the founding and senior pastor of a large and growing church; speaking each week; casting vision; leading; pastoring…to…“would you like white or brown rice.”

A week before I set my own schedule. A week before I led a staff. A week before I was the leader of an organization. Now I cleaned up tables. In my new position I was a trainee. As a waiter, I worked the shifts and hours that my manager scheduled me to work.

This transition was life changing for me. God really used this time to mold me and shape me and develop my character in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Here are 3 things God taught me in this vocational transition:

1.     Humility (through humiliation)

It was humiliating waiting on the tables of people that attended the church I started. It was embarrassing to see pastors that I had sat and ate with at P.F. Chang’s sit and watch me wait tables. It was heart changing to be on my hands and knees under a table scooping up rice and fortune cookie crumbs and realize that I very rarely did this at my own house. I was willing to serve people I had never met for a $5 tip, but had not extended the same servant’s heart to my wife and kids. God used that experience to bring humility to my prideful heart.

2.     Empathy

There were so many times in my life that I never thought about the story of the person serving my food. What they may be going through, the burdens they may be carrying. I wanted to be served. I held the server hostage to my expectations and my demands…their tip was at stake. Didn’t matter if they were having a rough night. I didn’t care if they were separated from their spouse. I didn’t consider that they might be in a custody battle for their kids. God really used this transition to help me realize that everybody has hurts. Everyone is broken. Everyone needs healing. I may never know the pain other people may be carrying.

3.     Provision

I remember one night being so stressed out about finances. Trisha and I had started counseling but we were so uncertain about our financial future. The clock was running on the dollar amount in our checking account. One Tuesday night I worked a closing shift. My section had not been busy all night. I had one table left and they just kept talking. They were actually the last people to leave that night. As I began to clean their table, I noticed a note written on their credit card receipt. It said, “God told us to give you this.” Under the note was a $100 bill. I began to cry. That money didn’t pay all of my bills, but it answered all of my questions. God was my provider. Just a few weeks ago, Trisha and I were talking through our 2011 budget and some uncertainty we are facing in that area. I reminded her of the $100 tip at P.F. Chang’s. God is a God that provides.

Maybe you are in a vocational transition right now. Maybe the hardship you are facing is not your choice at all, but the result of a bad economy or someone else’s choice. Maybe you made a foolish mistake like me and placed yourself in transition. Maybe you are experiencing uncertainty in doses that keep you up at night. God longs to use the vocational transition you are in for His glory. Maybe God isn’t doing something TO you, he is doing something IN you. Maybe this transition is a pathway to knowing and experiencing Him in deeper ways in 2011.

How has God used vocational transition in your life or how do you need him to?