Observations from a Teenage Jerk

Did I ever tell you I was a teenage jerk? It’s true. For several summers during those youthful years, I worked at a local establishment, Proffitt’s Drive-In (“Home of the Goldenburger”). My job was to pour malts, shakes, and soft drinks, and to place them on trays destined to hang from customer car windows. One day, I saw a form listing my actual job title: it read, “soda jerk.” (It’s a thing; you can Google it.) Now, many had been called “jerk” before, but I had found documentation to prove it—I was official! Like so many summer gigs, soda jerk was a mild form of what we might call, “school appreciation jobs”—laborious or routine tasks that incentivize young people to continue their education. These are the realities that fix our focus on the pursuit of something better.

Sometimes in life’s “school of hard knocks,” we find ourselves wandering into much harsher realities, as when tuning in to the wrong influencers, for instance. “Walk with the wise and become wise,” warned Solomon, “for a companion of fools suffers harm.” 1 And it’s not as though we need any help from “fools,” for we’re quite capable of making short-sighted decisions on our own. Jesus illustrated this well in His masterful short story of a son who took an early inheritance distribution from his father and immediately squandered it on lavish living. 2 With nothing left of his fortune, the son hired himself out as a farm hand, feeding swine, a “school appreciation job” for the ages. Then when this happens to us—when we begin to reap the consequences of our lesser actions or words—we have another choice to make. On one hand, we can bitterly blame God for the results of our free-will decisions, for as Solomon observed, “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.” 3 Or like the young man in Jesus’ story, we can “come to our senses” and return to the Father who longingly watches and lovingly waits for us.

The apostle Paul taught us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 4 This is one more gift of grace—making even our harsh realities work for our favor, and fixing our focus on the pursuit of something better: God himself.

Father, fill us with wisdom, that we would align ourselves with Your Word and submit ourselves entirely to You. Grace us to hear the voice of Your Spirit and to follow His lead today. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Proverbs 13:20
2 Read the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.
3 Proverbs 19:3 NLT
4 Romans 8:28