Lessons Learned the Hard Way

The following is an excerpt from the book, Real Life Moments, by J. Mark Fox, C4FIC Board member.

Real Life Moments

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men … for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

“I didn’t mean to throw the cat, I really didn’t. It was a reflex, that’s all. I promise!”

I was 16 years old, working at the local veterinarian hospital. My responsibilities after school each day included cleaning up the cages, giving shampoos, holding an animal still while the doctor gave it a shot, and brushing out a cat or dog that was getting ready to go home.

It was that last detail that got me into trouble. I was holding a cat, getting ready to brush its fur because the owner was coming in a few minutes to pick it up. I wasn’t hurting the cat, I wasn’t squeezing the cat too hard, I was just holding the cat. I started to brush it out, as I had done with numerous dogs and cats before, when it bit me. That feline sunk its teeth into the thumb of my right hand, the one that was holding the brush. My left hand, out of reflex (and some sympathy for its partner, I am certain) went into immediate battle mode. It hurled the aforementioned cat across the room. Just as the doctor was walking in.

It may be true that cats have nine lives. But this cat didn’t need them because the life it had was in good shape. It landed on its feet and ran under a table.

It is definitely not true that veterinarian’s assistants have nine lives. My short-lived career in the field of veterinary medicine came to an abrupt end that day.

Now the cat lovers are no longer with us, I know. They stopped reading after my first sentence and went immediately to the computer to send me a nasty e-mail. But the rest of you may even be shocked at the swift, punitive action taken by the doctor. “I would have done the same thing if the cat had bitten me for no good reason,” some of you are thinking, rallying to my defense.

Let me assure you this was simply the proverbial “straw,” and I had already given the good doc plenty of reasons to let me go. My half-hearted work ethic and my less-than-cheerful disposition had already gotten me into trouble. This final cat-hurling episode proved to be my undoing.

I will never forget what the doctor said that day. “Mark, this is just a temporary stopping off place for you as you go through high school. But this is my career. Everything you do reflects on me and my practice. I am going to have to let you go.”

I realized that not only had my poor work habits brought shame to the veterinarian, they had reflected badly on the Lord. The vet and his staff all knew that I was getting ready to preach for “Youth Sunday” at my church. They all knew I went to church every Sunday and yet my actions and my attitude at work preached a terrible sermon.

Getting fired that day was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I learned there can be very serious consequences for my behavior. I learned that my work affects my witness. I learned that no matter what I am doing, whether I am cleaning a kennel or preaching a sermon, it is to be done as though it is for the Lord Himself. I also learned that there is no good reason to ever brush out a cat.

It was a hard lesson, but a necessary one.

Prayer: “Thank You, Lord, that You have used failure in my life to teach me a lesson and to build my character.”

Action: Sit down with your child who has suffered a failure recently and talk to him about what the Lord was teaching through it.

Take me back to C4FIC.org


About C4FIC

The Council for Family-Integrated Churches exists to promote reverence for the gospel in order to reform the church and restore the home as an embassy of the kingdom of God.
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