Note: This is post #4 of My Journey into the Rubble series.
In the previous post of My Journey series, Wilderness Wanderings, I promised to tell you next about my brief career in the Cosmetology field and a second breaking point that redirected the course of my life. We left off with the topic of my hair and nine months of instruction at Loraines Academy.
Straight out of beauty school, I applied for a hairstylist position in a brand new salon. During my interview, the owners, who lived out of state, asked if I would be interested in managing the salon. I thought, That was easy! Within six months I was managing two of their salons, each with six employees.
My new career was off to a great start. I enjoyed working with hair, and even more, liked the one-on-one interaction with people. Something magical happens in those 20 to 30 minutes as you’re running your hands through a client’s hair—they spill their life stories and entrust you with all kinds of secrets and concerns. Regular clients quickly become friends.
The Problem with Egypt
Now, I still felt called to ministry and thought somehow the Lord might want to use me in this path I was carving out for myself. But a problem began to develop, and it seemed to spring from nowhere.
As a child I was quite active and athletic. I played volleyball and basketball competitively, and was a cheerleader. My sisters and I owned a horse, Jake, and spent our free time exploring the woods, ponds, and fields around our house on horseback. During the summers we practically lived in our pool, inventing new dives and synchronized swimming moves. In my late teens and early twenties, I became hooked on tennis, eventually getting good enough to play (and occasionally win) against guys. And if I do say so myself, I had a wicked serve, for a girl.
Later, in my mid-twenties, not long into my Cosmetology career, I began to experience an uncomfortable tingling down my leg joints and into my feet. The pain progressively worsened, concentrating in my low back. My work as a hairstylist grew nearly unbearable. I purchased a special cutting chair that provided some relief, and I would stretch my low back and sit often, but the ache always returned. Eventually, I could not stand for more than five minutes without severe pain and a burning sensation down my legs.
I went through a series of medical exams, x-rays and scans, to discover that I had a fracture in my low back. My orthopedic doctor explained that I was probably born with it, meaning the bones simply didn’t form properly to provide the connection between L5 and my sacrum. He suggested strengthening my core through exercise and a career change.
Final Exodus from Egypt
As I struggled through the pain, I sought God constantly, begging for mercy and healing. But rather than healing me, God was re-directing me. I didn’t realize it then, but I see clearly now that the Lord used this physical trial to lead me—first, to a desperate dependence on him, and second, to the path of purpose and destiny he had planned, where I would be most productive and fulfilled serving him.
The Lord was routing me out of Egypt and straight toward the rubble. In case you’re confused about the references to “Egypt” and “rubble” here, I’m likening Egypt to a place of sin and rebellion against God. At that time in my life, it represented “my way” or “my path,” rather than the one God had chosen for me. The rubble represented the Lord’s path.
The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
(Proverbs 16:9, ESV)
Right around this time, when my doctor recommended finding a new career, my church announced the launch of its Christian training center, offering intensive biblical and practical preparation for ministry. Three program tracks were offered: Biblical Studies, Missions, and Paul-Timothy (a course for pastoral training).
Since I was certain God did not want me to be a missionary (ha!) or a pastor, I signed up for the inaugural class in pursuit of a biblical studies degree.
I was still working part time in my friend’s salon, trying to take on more nail clients, when I started Bible school. About two weeks into the first semester, the dean of the training center asked me if I would be interested in a position as his assistant. What? No interview? Again, That was easy! Too easy, it seemed.
I thought the job might be a distraction from God’s call to ministry, but then Rev. C (as the dean preferred to be called) assured me I could continue with Bible school, which let out at noon, and work for him in the afternoons. Then he asked, “Wouldn’t this actually accelerate the process, catapulting you into ministry immediately?” He had a point.
I was nervous about working for Rev. C. He was a perfectionist and highly organized. I had never been a secretary, let alone assistant to a dean. I didn’t think my knowledge of trichology (the scientific study of hair and scalp health), chemical relaxers, and permanent wave solutions would help me much in the dean’s office. But I knew how to type, answer a phone, and write, and he promised they would train me for the rest (whatever that might entail, I didn’t know.)
His current assistant, RaeAnna, would be sailing off in two weeks on the Good Samaritan, one of the Mercy Ships then of Youth With a Mission. Two weeks! That did not sound like mercy to me, but RaeAnna and Rev. C were confident it would be enough time.
I’ll never forget the sheer panic I felt the day RaeAnna set sail. There would be no way to speak with her by telephone for weeks. And she had been a skilled legal assistant for years. I was barely more than a shampoo assistant. Yikes, I wondered, What have I gotten myself into?
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.
(1 Corinthians 1:26-29, NLT)
In the end, it all worked out. Rev. C was a fantastic boss, who turned out to be lots of fun to work for. I completed the biblical studies course and graduated with the first class of students, thrilled to receive with them the diplomas I had printed myself.
I continued working for Rev. C in the church’s Christian training center for three years while simultaneously being prepared for the next phase of my journey. Did you catch it earlier? That’s right, “Mary the missionary” was soon to emerge. I received this nickname mainly for the extreme unlikeliness of the calling.
Coming up, I’ll explain how it all came about. You’ll also hear about “Mary’s Missionary Line of Products,” my grand plan to market and sell fully portable, battery operated styling aids, as well as disposable cosmetics and hair care products. Who said missionaries can’t be well-groomed? So, stay tuned. The story is about to get more humorous as, in the next post, we take a short-term mission trip to Jamaica mon!