The First shall be Last

When our lives gets difficult and we are stressed and at wits end, that is when God reveals himself. Like a patient teacher, quietly waiting for us to recognize the lesson, God allows us to try and figure it out on our own. He may have a particular lesson he wants us to learn that day, or allow us to look at our failings and gain some new knowledge through retrospection. When we want nothing but for our lives to be easy and without trouble, God will eventually say “Not Today.” As smooth and as comfortable the easy life is, without hardships and frustrations we won’t be challenged and forced to grow if we aren’t forced to contend with hardship. Today was a reminder of this fact. A reminder that even though I pray and pride myself on my personal relationship with the Lord, I do strive at times for an easy life without hardship. Sometimes, that desire hinders my own personal growth and prevents me from developing into a better person. I was expecting an easy day when I arrived early for delivery at the Port of Seattle this morning. I got there before any of my coworkers and was one of the first trucks inside the gates. However as the morning progressed, the easy day that I expected never arrived. Three hours of frustration later, I was the last truck from our company to hit the exit gate. The irony was not lost on me, and the quiet words echoing in my heart said “… the first shall be last”

Every morning while on my way to Seattle, I say prayers asking God for help. To help me inside the port, to help me avoid delays, and to help me not have issues.

“Dear God, thank you for all the blessings and good things you have provided for me. Thank you for allowing me to wake up and have another day on this Earth. Have mercy on me oh Lord and please help me get through the port this morning without issue. Please help me get an empty container that is free of serious damage, and to avoid any lines if possible. I know God that I can do anything, as long as you are by my side. Amen”

That is basically my morning work prayer. I’ll change up the words every now and then, and I try to really focus on the relationship between God and myself. The words I offer up have meaning and are from my heart. When I put my heart behind my prayers and really offer heart up to God, it’s almost as if I can hear his voice within me.

I’ll say my prayer, and then as I approach the scale I’ll get nervous. There are many things that can go wrong inside the port, and any one delay can cost you several hours. I fear that initial entry sometimes. What if my appointment hasn’t been made? What if my booking number is wrong? What if the lines are crazy long and I have to sit in a line a mile long just to unload? What if my empty container is damaged? What if I do something wrong without realizing it and get kicked out? These are all things I worry about, but through prayer I get through it. Prayer gets me through the worst of any situation. I approach the scale, my stomach getting tight, and I say my prayer again, this time with some worry (and maybe some doubt) in my inflection. Then the soothing soft voice fills my heart… “Do you trust me?” Yes Lord, I trust you! “Then stop worrying, and trust me.” Then I make it through the port with absolutely zero issues and a good empty container for my return trip to Pullman.

When I fail to put effort behind the prayer, and just offer up a repetition of empty words with a lack of focus, nine times out of ten that’ll the start to a rough and frustrating day. It’s only when I’m driving back to pullman later in the day that I finally start to contemplate the events of the morning and try to put my finger on where everything when wrong. That’s when I hear the soft voice inside my heart. “Do you understand my message? Do you understand what I was trying to teach you?” I’ll stay quiet and allow the words in my heart to wash over my soul. The message is important, and if I am being taught a lesson, I should pay attention. Sometimes the message is “Don’t offer up careless prayers that lack depth and heart.” Other times the message is “Do you still see me in others when they offend you?” Sometimes even when I do pray with my heart behind the words, God still allows me to struggle.

The situation this morning started off pretty well. I got in early, and was one of the first trucks in line. The gates opened up and the lines started moving forward. I said my prayer, and kissed my little icon of Christ. The line stopped moving. Thirty minutes went by before we were given instructions. Apparently the scale I was inching closer to had a malfunction and had to be shut down. Now everyone in my lane was forced to merge either to the right or the left and get on a different scale. Turn signal on, I crept my way to the left. Several trucks went by without allowing me in. Finally I just kept creeping forward and forced my way in. That only pissed off the driver behind me, who promptly blew his airhorn, even though he could see the scale closure and I tried to explain with hand motions. Finally I got onto the scale and was processed in. I was given a location for where to drop my loaded container, and a location for where I could pick up an empty container for my return trip.

I expected a line at the drop spot, but I didn’t expect to be cut off and forced to back track down several aisles in order to get in line properly. The driver that cut me off pulled in, in such a way that he ended up blocking part of the lane. Forty minutes later we were finally being unloaded. As I pulled away and headed towards my empty location, I saw a backup of traffic in the main port thoroughfare. Another driver had turned the corner without checking if his trailer was properly attached to his fifth wheel. It wasn’t, and his trailer disconnected while he was pulling it. I finally got my empty container and started my way back towards the exit. I was still praying, and still asking God for mercy. The backup had cleared. I made it to the exit and had no issues exiting the port. My empty container had no damage and there was no barriers between me and my return journey.

I may have had some frustrations this morning, but the lesson I was reminded of was that God will always take care of you. He will always have your back. Things won’t always go the way you expect them to, and when they don’t, it’s because He has a plan. I needed to be reminded that I can’t live everyday expecting the smooth path. If I never have to deal with stress and other types of frustration, then I will never grow into a better person. If I always have it easy, then I’ll never be forced to look at myself and make the necessary changes that help me be a better person.

Look at it this way: a block of iron will never become a sword by just sitting on the work bench. It needs to thrust into a furnace, heated to extreme temperatures, and then beaten with a hammer until it takes on a new and stronger shape. It is through anger, frustration and stress – when handled correctly, that we are forged into something even better than we are currently. If we approach these troubles with a frame of mind established in patience and humility, we will grow as christians and become that much closer to Jesus Christ. If instead we grow harder in an attempt to prevent further anguish, then we will simply close our selves off to our brothers and sisters and the walls around our heart will only get taller.

Allow yourself to be the last. Give your neighbor the extra that you don’t need. Offer a smile and a simple wave when someone slights you. Pray with your heart, and not just your words.

And don’t be afraid to learn and grow, especially when dealing with negative situations.

Until next time my friends,

-Orthodox Trucker

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

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