In the fourth of five posts in our series Heart, Work & World? Telling First-Hand Accounts of the Gospel in our Work, we visit a construction site in Denver.
Paraphrasing C.S. Lewis, God is not just making nice people, but new men. And that’s what the doctrine of regeneration is about: through the Holy Spirit we go from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, from in utero to being born again, from darkness to light. And sometimes we get hints of this new life bubbling up from our hearts – even when we’re slighted by a co-worker and want to put him in his place!
This story begins with painting walls at the age of 10…
I’ve always worked in construction. I started painting walls when I was ten years old. For a while I worked for an airline on Saturdays, chucking bags for free plane tickets. Even tried Starbucks for a while. But then a couple of guys told me about this job. Good pay and benefits, a company vehicle and an employer that actually cared for you. Sounded too good to be true. Like a scam. But a friend put in a good word for me. I started two weeks later.
I work in the construction field analyzing concrete slabs and soils to determine reinforcement types and, basically, what’s underground. My company sends me to construction sites across the state. We usually get called in when somebody messed up - the concrete slab didn't get poured right or they missed a sleeve for a plumbing pipe. Most days I’m crawling on my hands and knees, with a cart, computer and radar. If guys don’t do a good job, I’ll be able to see it.
When I arrive, some are glad to see us, but most of the time they’re either a little embarrassed or it’s going to cost them extra. One time, I had a company call me because they had an issue with their slab. They needed to have a third party come out to analyze certain areas and send in a report. The whole time I'm out there, I'm scanning away, and the guy who poured the slab was there. He said, "Oh yeah, the slab is fine; it's fine here, it's fine there." And it wasn’t. And just he kept pushing me.
I wanted to put him in his place. Often times, we’re some of the highest paid people on a site, you know? He kept walking around, looking over my shoulder, telling me that everything was fine. I was just thinking “Hey, get lost. Leave me alone. Let me do my job. You obviously didn't do your job right, so I'm out here and I have to tell people what I find.” Not tough to let my sinful nature flair up on the job.
When I get on a site, I try to show guys - from the day-laborer to the superintendent - the same grace God has shown me. Who knows what that guy was feeling that day? He screwed up and probably wasn’t in top shape.
But to be honest, that day I’m not sure grace came through. I just flipped my computer to him and said, "Ok, you tell me what's here. You tell me if it's ok.” It's just a mumbled bunch of lines until you learn how to interpret it. That kind of shut him up a bit. Felt good, but not exactly grace.
But slowly God’s renewing my heart, mostly through my co-workers. We have several believers at my company. Every other Friday we’ll do a “ministry call” where we share about our week, like if we were a total jerk to somebody, or if we just rushed out of a job. We don’t sugarcoat it.
Somewhere in the confessing, something changes inside of me. On Monday, I feel like I have more patience for the guys I work with — a softer heart.
Jeff Haanen is a writer and entrepreneur. He founded Denver Institute for Faith & Work, a community of conveners, teachers and learners offering experiences and educational resources on the gospel, work, and community renewal. He is the author of An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life and an upcoming two-book series on spiritual formation, vocation, and the working class for Intervarsity Press. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Denver and attends Wellspring Church in Englewood, Colorado.