I’m a job hopper. I didn’t choose to be. It just worked out that way. I have a degree in civil structural engineering and worked in that field full time for about 10 years. Then I became a stay-at-home mom and a super volunteer for many years. When the kids were older I decided to get a part-time job at Best Buy selling music and game systems and then cell phones. I got tired of working weekends and quit that job. Stayed at home a couple more years and then got my real estate license. For almost 5 years I worked for several individuals and teams as their licensed assistant (so I didn’t have to work evenings and weekends). I lost my job when the market took a downturn and then I got a job at a Christian bookstore. It ended up going out of business. Geez. Stayed at home again. Then I was offered my present job as an assistant to a real estate team. [Shout out to my sweet hard-working husband who supported me all of these years!]
I didn’t plan on being a job hopper, though I am very thankful for the way it all happened. Between jobs I had lots of time to spend reading and studying God’s Word, to read many Christian books and research and develop class curriculums.
Working at a Christian bookstore had a huge impact on my spiritual journey.
Oh what I learned!
1. I was just beginning to teach classes on the Bible. Since I sold Bibles I had to know about them – the various versions and features. It was during this time I learned about the changes in the NIV (I’ve blogged about those – gender neutral language, Including the Women/ the word “saints” removed, Will You Be in that Number?/ the not-really-missing verses, You are NOT Missing Verses.) I was exposed to King James Only (KJO) people who are people who believe the King James Version is the only true Word of God and anyone reading from any other version is not reading God’s Word. I did not know those people existed! And there are a lot of them. Their claim led me to research the subject and to more deeply understand the different Bible versions. But it also served another purpose. The best way to describe the KJO people is they had a chip on their shoulder. They would enter the Bible section of the store and start making comments like, "I would never read from that version of the Bible because _____________." I didn't agree with them. Fine if they wanted to read from the KJV, but don't be telling other people their version isn't the Word of God.
I had spent a lot of time researching their claims. Read books about the KJV debate. I could refute what they were saying, but it wasn't appropriate since they were customers. It angered me people were perpetuating lies. (Once I had a guy rant about the children's books should all be in the King James Version. Really?) I was not very kind to the KJO customers. Actually I was very abrupt with them. I would try to pawn them off on other employees. Later God really spoke to me about my behavior toward the KJO people and I was convicted my attitude had not served Him well. If I had a do-over I would act differently - kinder and gentler.
2. One of my fellow employees was the wife of a Pentecostal minister. Once when she prayed at a team meeting she broke out in tongues! This was the first time I had ever heard anyone pray in tongues. I’m not going to lie, it freaked me out. Having been raised in a very traditional church; when I first encountered people raising their hands; saying “Amen” when the preacher made a good point; and even clapping in church; it used to make me a bit uncomfortable. So praying in tongues was over the top on my comfort scale. But at the bookstore I experienced very demonstrative Christians! I had lived in my own little conservative Christian bubble. Although I’m still a reserved Christian in my estimation (I’m sure some would disagree), I grew to appreciate Christians who express their faith in ways different than mine. The bar on my comfort scale has moved.
3. The manager told me when I opened to pray over the store – walk the isles and pray over the books and to even anoint the doors with oil if I felt comfortable doing that. I did not feel comfortable with the anointing. (I think I would be now though.) But I did regularly pray over the books and for the store and its employees. We all did. When we worked together we prayed before work. It was a wonderful practice to put God in charge of things. The other employees modeled prayer for me on a whole new level. They would stop and pray with customers in need. I would regularly witness another employee selling a Bible to a customer and taking their hand and praying with them over the Bible. I never really felt comfortable praying out loud, but I’ve grown in this area and that had a lot to do with watching and witnessing them. Seriously, it was just awesome.
4. I learned about reference books and Christian living books! What I soon realized at the bookstore is that most customers gravitated to the Christian fiction and devotional sections. I call it fast food Christianity. (I wrote a blog on this. called Getting a Fast Food Fix) I’m not bashing Christian fiction. There are a lot of sweet fun-to-read books, if you have time. And devotionals have a place as long as they don't replace actual Bible reading. However, there are a lot of fluffy books out there which lack any real substance. I have a limited amount of time to read and I try to make the most of it. I have been very purposeful to feed my mind with worthwhile authors who wrote about worthwhile subjects. I like to read Christian classics and biographies of Christians. I tried to encourage customers to check out the other areas of the store and towards books that would really impact their situation and spiritual growth. There are some incredible reference books that go largely ignored! When the bookstore was going out of business I literally went around the store and bought dozens of books. My reference library at home is incredible! And since I teach, these books are very useful.
5. God really wanted me to witness all kinds of Christians. I encountered seminary students and ministers and missionaries. I met Mennonite women, struggling single moms, KJO people, people grieving, people struggling, two women who tried to explain to me that you could pray away genetic diseases (I found this sketchy), people who were into charismatic books, people who talked about fighting demons, people obsessed with the end times, etc.… So many of the customers were memorable. When you work in a Christian bookstore you encounter people with amazing stories to tell! People would confide their challenges and difficult situations. New Christians who are on fire for the Lord! People shared miracles which had occurred in their lives. Hurting people I could pray with. And even some judgmental sort of whack-o people. All kinds.
One couple in their mid 20’s came in when we weren’t busy. They were dressed in all black and had tattoos and piercings all over. We ended up talking quite awhile and they were fascinating. The guy told me a teenager had been kicked out of his house and this guy and his roommates had taken him in. The kid had never been to church or knew anything about Jesus. So every night he and the kid read the Bible. And that was why he had come in the store. He wanted to purchase the kid a pocket Bible like his and he pulled his Bible out of his back pocket. It was held together with duct tape! The guy opened it up and inside it was written all over! It was obviously a well-used Bible. God was sending me a clear message to stop being so judgmental of others.
At the bookstore I not only learned a tremendous amount about Bibles and Christian books that came in very useful for my classes, but God did a number on my whole way of thinking. The secular world has a perception (often not positive) of what Christians are, what they believe, and how they should act. But I realized that I also had a lot of negative misconceptions of what a Christian is. The world often mocks us, but we do it to each other too. I was being very judgmental of other Christians - their actions, the way they looked and their beliefs. God challenged me on that.
I encountered a few Christian customers with some pretty funky beliefs during my time at the bookstore. Sadly my reaction to them revealed a lot about me. I began to contemplate “What is essential to being a Christian?” Now I try to filter things through that thought process. If I don’t agree with someone about their belief, I ask myself, “Is this an essential?” If it isn’t, I give them grace. It has radically changed my mind, my heart, and my actions to be more loving towards other Christians and other people. The body of Christ should be unified on the essentials. To quibble over things that aren’t essential to the Christian faith dishonors God and harms the gospel message. It was a valuable lesson to learn.
The timing of the Christian bookstore job was perfect in my spiritual journey. God had so much He wanted to teach me in preparation of where He was leading me. His timing is always perfect. Can I get an “Amen”? (Smile.)