During college. I sold and installed prefab fireplaces (a reaction to the oil embargo in 1977), and maintained a chain of gas stations. Since I attended school in Oklahoma, everything was impacted, somehow, by the oil industry.
The small Christian college I attended was funded by oil to a significant degree. By that, I mean that we had an oil well on the college property. When the EPA rules went into effect, Oklahoma’s oil production was reduced. The college oil well stopped operating, which really helped the college’s bottom line. When the OPEC crisis hit in 1976, Oklahoma’s trucking industry faltered. Gasoline rose from 22¢ per gallon in 1975 to 65¢ per gallon by January of 1977. This sudden increase in fuel prices resulted in shortages we hadn’t had since World War II (meat, sugar, etc.), and some ridiculous panics (toilet paper, evaporated milk).
Due to the rise of heating oil and natural gas prices, prefab fireplaces were all the rage. People thought they could heat an entire home with a fireplace. What they learned: unless your doors and windows are sealed, a fireplace pulls cold air into your home through the cracks, making it draftier. My co-workers played a little trick on me once. While I installed pipe cap in a faux chimney, they sealed me up inside the chimney. It was only an hour, though, so the nightmares went away within about three years.
My worst job was cleaning gas stations because my duties included climbing up to change prices on the signs- and in the mid-seventies, gas prices changed daily. One day I climbed up a tower to change a price from 65¢ to 68¢ I took off the five and laid it on the catwalk and then I picked up the eight with the hollow side away form me.
I don’t know if you’ve ever experience an Oklahoma wind in February, but you have to lean forward to make any headway if you’re walking against the wind. The higher up you are, the stronger the wind. A gust hit the hollow side of the eight and literally lifted my feet off the catwalk (I was a lot thinner then). Being a good employee concerned about the company’s profit margin, I threw the eight away, which freed my left hand so I could grab a piece of conduit and pull myself back to the catwalk. Then I called my boss and quit. (And I didn’t go chasing that homicidal eight, either.)
You know, every one of those jobs looked perfect when I applied for it, and money-wise, every one of them were. But the money really didn’t make any difference to my happiness. I wasn’t happy until I got an opportunity to achieve my life’s purpose- singing the National Anthem at cockfights (kidding).
If you’re looking for “perfect,” you won’t find it in “more.” Habitat for Humanity of Fresno County doesn’t reach “perfect” when a home is complete and the family moves in. Our homeowner families do not find “perfect” when they move into their new houses. Perfect isn’t possible for us.
But contentment is. Paul said, “I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am” (Philippians 4:11-13, The Message).
We feel content when we finish a house, in part because we then move on to another house and continue our perfect purpose. But there’s always another family needing a home. That’s why God put Habitat for Humanity in Fresno County. That’s why we’re here. And that’s perfect.