Caution: Men at Work
One of the life lessons that I feel the Lord has taught me has to do with work… Men and their work. Men are so closely tied to their work (their job), and too often it becomes not only what they do to make a living; it becomes (sort of) who they are. Have you noticed how often we even introduce others as, “This is Larry, he’s a doctor (or lawyer or farmer or whatever).” Or it is often the first topic of conversation when we meet someone new; “So, Larry, what do you do?” Maybe it’s just a conversation starter, but, none the less, it seems to place some importance on what we “do” meaning “what’s our job.” Sometimes we deviate from these typical conversation starters with something like, “This is Larry, he’s Lucy’s husband,” or “he’s Freddy’s dad,” or something like that. I think I would prefer being introduced as, “Hey, meet Mike, he’s a child of the King.”
Work is a good thing… When God created man he said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26). God gave man a job. Sounds kind of like being a wildlife biologist. After the fall, God still gave man a job, he was to become (in addition to the above) a farmer and to make it challenging, God made weeds (thorns and thistles) for the man to deal with. Even after the fall, work is still a good thing. Paul exhorted the Colossians to work “as unto the Lord” (Col. 3:23.) So, again, work is a good thing. We should take some sense of pride in our work. But it becomes a little dangerous for us when we let what we do (job) become who we are. Many of us (especially men) can be guilty of this.
I was a year ahead of Kathie in college. We had been married a year when I graduated. I was working for the City of Plainview at the time, and they offered me a full-time position upon graduation. I took the job, but I was not really very happy in it. It was not related at all to what I had studied and to what I hoped to do. Kathie and I had a desire to travel, to live somewhere else and to have an adventure. We had always been sort of drawn to Australia—perhaps because we were both biology majors in college. The interesting animals of Australia had always fascinated us, and maybe that was the source of the strange allure we felt in wanting to travel there. So (I’ll shorten this story a little) we began working toward that goal, making contacts there, applying for jobs, etc. I quit the job I was in and Kathie’s dad offered to let me work for him during the interim period while Kathie finished up school and we prepared to make the leap to Australia. As it ended up, Kathie was employed by the Western Australian Department of Education as a teacher in a high school in a suburb of Perth, Western Australia. I landed a job with the Museum of Western Australia working as a wildlife biologist as a part of a survey crew that was to do a study of reserves scattered through the wheat belt of WA. As it turns out, this was every bit the adventure we had hoped for. We made many friends and grew in our faith through our involvement in the South Perth Baptist Church.
It was always our intention to return to the US. Kathie’s parents traveled to see us after our first year in Australia. During that visit, her dad asked me what my plan was for a job when we returned. I didn’t really have a plan. As I indicated, I had worked with him on the farm and we found that we seemed to work well together. I really enjoyed the work. He knew he was planning to retire in a few years, so he asked if I would like to come home and farm. No one else in the family had a desire to do that, so it was a good opportunity for us. We returned to the US about 6 months later and bought the farm house that Kathie had grown up in and started farming. In that community farmers were well respected. It was honorable work. We did pretty well for a few years. But things changed. Kathie was injured in a farm accident resulting in the loss of her hand. As you can imagine, this part of the story is a story in and of itself. However, the accident along with financial challenges we faced as production costs went up and prices for farm commodities went down, forced a decision to think about doing something else. There was a science teaching position at the High School that became available and I applied and was hired. As they say, the rest is history. I spent 26 years in public education… But what I really want to share about is that experience of quitting farming. You see, as I said, farmers were well thought of in our community. They were the “movers and shakers” in that town, and I was an ex-farmer. I had failed at farming. My ego was tied to what I did – my job. In retrospect, being a teacher is pretty cool, but in Hale Center, Texas, I saw myself as a failed, ex-farmer. I started looking for a teaching job that would take us out of that town and to a place where I would not be seen as a failure.
I was offered and accepted a teaching position in Perryton and we moved away from Hale Center. But somewhere along the way (and this is the point of the story) God began to show me who I really am; I’m His child. It isn’t about what we do for a living. It isn’t about how much money we make. It isn’t about the office we hold with some civic club… It is about who we are in Christ. Paul writes in Romans 8:16 & 17, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
I encourage you to make every effort to not be identified by your job, or by your office in the club, or by the money you have in a bank, or whatever it is that you let “define” who you are. Those kinds of identifications can be taken. Jobs are lost. Money can be lost. If those things are what define us, then we begin to feel lost if we let them define us. Be defined by who you are in an everlasting relationship with the God of the universe.
Mike grew up in a Christian home in Amarillo. He came to faith in Christ as a 12 year old boy at South Lawn Baptist Church in Amarillo. He attended college at Wayland Baptist University where he met and married his wife, Kathie. As a young couple, they dedicated their home to Christ early in their marriage. On graduation from Wayland, they traveled to Perth, Western Australia. Kathie taught high school science in a Perth suburb; Mike worked as a wildlife biologist for the Museum of Western Australia. They lived in Australia just short of two years. During that time they attended South Perth Baptist Church. To this day, they still communicate with several Christian people whom they knew in the church in Australia including the pastor of the church.
On returning to the US, they made their new home for almost 10 years at Hale Center, Texas, Kathie’s home town. Mike’s first teaching job was at Hale Center High School where he taught science. Mike also taught at Perryton High School. He has served as school principal at Lefors ISD and at Canadian High School. He served as superintendent of schools at Olton ISD and retired from the superintendent’s position at Perryton ISD in 2010 when they moved to a home southwest of Amarillo and began attending and joined First Baptist Church of Canyon. During all of those years in all of the places they lived, they were active members of their churches.
Mike and Kathie have three children; Matt, A and Rebekah, all of whom are active, growing Christians and who are married to active, growing Christians. All of their children and their spouses are engaged in Christian ministry in some way. They have ten grandchildren who are the joy of their lives.