The $30 Phone Bill That Forever Changed How I Handled Conflict

The $30 Phone Bill That Forever Changed How I Handled Conflict

After a few weeks of training I was finally transitioning to the “floor.” Oh yes, … the floor.

The floor was where we made money. As a “sales consultant” for one the largest technological companies, my job was simple in theory. All I had to do was push products on the sales floor and make the company money (which in turn makes me money).

I grabbed my iPad from the back and swung open the door. I glanced up at our T.V. screen which had a list of people waiting for a representative. I approached the next customer who we’ll call Bob for this story.

I approached Bob. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous – this was my first customer interaction on the clock after a few weeks.

“Hey Bob, my name’s Matt – how can I help you today?”

“You idiots went up on my phone bill from $29.43 to $30.02.”

“Okay! Let me check that out for you.”

“Hurry up. I’ve been here for 10 minutes. You people are always so slow.”

The next 30 minutes was eventful. His increased charges were due to a government telecommunication tax that effected everyone who owns a cell phone.

I explained this to him in detail, but he wasn’t satisfied. My patience quickly wore off as I glanced over his account and noticed he had $125 of bill credits every month because he was an “accelerated customer” (he complained a lot).

I looked at Bob and said, “You know, most people pay $150-200 a month for a plan like yours. You should be grateful to pay $30! That’s not normal today.”

Apparently, I misspoke. Bob cussed me out for being arrogant and rude. He proceeded to tell me he saw a phone online he can pay $10 a month for and have unlimited data. Being facetious and knowing he had no idea what he was talking about, I fake smiled and said in a condescending tone – “Man, that sounds great. You should totally do it!

Bob caused a scene, left our store, and despite much chuckling coming from my peers who heard the whole exchange I quickly found myself in a meeting with our manager.

At this point in my life, I had recently transitioned from a full-time ministry job. I wasn’t all that likeable as a person and, in fact, I hated people (for the most part). I handled this situation of conflict just like I would at my previous job.

I arrogantly told an individual they were wrong and waited for them to get over it. Yeah, that’s not ideal in life – or you know, in a church setting. I chalked up my conflict resolution skills from my upbringing – “I’m from Boston. We’re all rude.”

Let’s be transparent here. I still do believe I was right most of the time, but my approach was off. My pastor frequently says this – “You can tell me anything, you just have to approach it the right way.”

On the first day on the floor, I was brought down to the reality that the way I handled conflict was deeply flawed.

Hey Church Leader - That Team Member Might Be the Next Pastor

Hey Church Leader - That Team Member Might Be the Next Pastor

During college, my husband and I served in children’s ministry within a large church in Baton Rouge. In the middle of finishing upper-level classes and an upcoming graduation, we found ourselves also teaching Bible stories to fifth graders alongside blowing up watermelons and playing a life-size version of Angry Birds (you know, typical kids’ church fun)

During the season that we began serving, our intent was not to become children’s pastors. Our motives weren’t to make this a life-long career. In fact, it all truly started because the pastor was wrapping up a series on serving and challenged the congregation to get involved.

One year later, it was in the midst of that same position that we answered God’s call into ministry and devoted our lives to leading in the local church.

Like most busy transitions, the moments to follow happened fast. Graduation came and went. We phased out of kids’ ministry, packed up our lives, and moved to the church where we would serve for the next three years.

It all passed so quickly, in fact, that we failed to mention anything about our new vocation to the children’s ministry team who still believed we were following different career paths. Like most updates now-a-days, they came to learn about all the new changes through social media.

It only took a few Instagram pictures for the messages to start pouring in.

Overflowing encouragement was the best way to describe each conversation. From the head children’s pastor to our team members, many congratulated, affirmed and talked vision with us during the next couple of months.

At the time, I felt special. We considered ourselves exceptional and distinct. Our story even seemed unique! But, the more I’ve mulled over this story in my head, the more I realize how remarkably common it is than seemed at first glance.

National leader in the Assemblies of God and pastor in Chicago – Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesus – started off by serving in his local church as a teenager.

Marty Hoey, tenured Children’s Pastor at Crossroads Church, began his ministry story by mowing the church’s lawn and overseeing maintenance.

My own pastor, Den Hussey of Crossing Place Church, took on his first role by straitening chairs in the sanctuary between weekly services.

These three examples all popped in my head within a mere few seconds. The list is probably longer than we could even compile.

Put plainly, not all pastors started as pastors. Not all pastors started even knowing they would one day be pastors. I would argue just from observation that a significant percentage began just like you – serving within and leading a team or ministry in the local church.

Now, I’m certain the anointing or call on many of these people was very evident to their leaders, and because of this, leadership was pulled out of them. Divine encounters set them on the pathway to pastor.

Still, what if it’s not always so obvious? What if, people in your own church and on your own team, have that supernatural skillset or self-esteem buried deep within and require extra training and devotion?

Sign Me Up to Drive the Golf Cart

Sign Me Up to Drive the Golf Cart

“Let’s activate what God’s called us do!”

As our pastor championed this statement, he stepped over to a large display of the words “ACTIVATE” and flipped a switch. In a moment, the words lit up – radiating the entire auditorium. The hype in the building was elevated.

It felt like the moment a head coach stirs up his team before the Super Bowl. After his words, thousands of people were eager to partner together in unity and make the greatest team possible.

Kayla and I were in that crowd. We were ready to join a team and start serving in the church – after all, teamwork makes the dream work … right?

We quickly walked to the lobby to select a team to join and after talking to one of their team members, we made our way to the car. We were both excited – almost giddy – to be joining a team. While walking back, we asked each other what teams the other selected.

“I picked the parking team because I want to drive the golf cart in the parking lot.”

“I joined the hospitality team so I can talk to new guests!”

Getting in my car, an awkward pause soon ensued. We looked at each and both agreed that those weren’t the two teams we were supposed to join. I progressed with a sigh because I knew what God was doing next.

“On the count of three,” I said, “Let’s blurt out the team we both think God wants us to join.” We did this count off – and still do to this day – to avoid bias. If God is talking to us individually, we rationed in our mind that the 1-2-3 game is the correct way to make sure we don’t influence the other person.

1 … 2 … 3 … K I D S!

Before the S rattled off our tongue, I yelled, “NOOOO!” (I may have been inspired by Michael Scott). To condense a long story, we joined the kids team because we felt that’s where God wanted us to be.

The big picture was evident. Jesus was taking us on a process to be more like Him.

Months prior to this moment we were wondering if God is even around on Monday – we loved God on Sunday, but didn’t’ care to know Him any other day of the week. But, in typical God fashion, He showed Himself in my ’96 Saturn Sedan to shift our perspective.

He challenged us to pursue Him more. It worked! As we loved Him more and spent time with Him on a deeper level, simply attending church was the bare minimum. It was now time to do what Jesus did the best – serve others around us.

So, what made us move from attending church to serving others? It may have taken us a while, but we understood that while change can be uncomfortable, it is essential for us to keep moving in our faith journey.

Encountering God in a '96 Saturn Sedan

Encountering God in a '96 Saturn Sedan

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep living like this.

Etched into my memory, these were the first words that broke the unsettling silence within our car when sitting at a red-light that felt like an eternity.

Matt and I had just left Wednesday Night service and was met with typical traffic in Baton Rouge that night. The service itself wasn’t necessarily memorable. I don’t recall what songs were sung or the topic of the message. It was unusual anyway for us to attend church in the middle of the week because of our schedules, but even that isn’t the reason for recollection.

Instead, what I will never forget is the heavy presence that met us not during bible study but rather in the car ride home.

Described perfectly by my husband last week, our life at the time was fused together by a slew of productive activities but void of purpose. The day of the week decided where our attention was placed – whether on God, school, work, leisure or rest. This scheduled cycle went on for almost two years of our college career.

It was a pattern built on good works and best intentions in the life of believer. For anyone who has experienced this repetitive lifestyle, you can guess what happened next. Unfulfilled and drained, our breaking point had come sitting in a 1996 Saturn Sedan on Siegen Lane.

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep living like this. This isn’t the life God intended for us, and we need to do something about it.

For the next hour, Matt and I peeled back the layers of our hearts. Vulnerable and honest, we poured over our drained lives that were void of God’s constant presence.

We were simply unsatisfied with only knowing His presence on Sundays. Like desert-bound wanderers in search for water, our dry souls were thirsty. Change happens when we are unwilling to allow life to continue in its current state.

I wish I could tell you that after an intense sob session we got on our knees at home, called out to God and changed our apathetic ways. Man, that would make for one great, intense turnaround story. It’s the Hallmark classic moment of Christian testimonies. That’s not what happened though.

In fact, there were no tears. There weren’t any prayers. An altar call was available to us, and no change happened to our schedules. On paper, nothing at all seemed to shift, yet within our hearts – we were different.

In an effort to work toward freedom together and not ‘on-paper’ perfection, here are the overnight changes that happened in our belief (and not our behavior) that led to this defining moment.

Where is God on Monday?

Where is God on Monday?

(Insert dramatic typography to transition to a flashback)

2011

As my eyes slowly open, the once joyfully received LSU Fight Song quickly turns into my worst enemy. I fling my arm toward my dresser to stop my alarm to no avail.

Duh, Duh, Duh, Duh – repeatedly blares until I reluctantly get out of bed.

Eyes still drowsy, I find my way to the coffee pot. Then the casual check of social media follows before I jump in the shower to get ready and conquer the day.

After all its Monday and Mondays just – sometimes – aren’t fun. I get in my car for my long three minute commute to campus. After a full day of classes, I quickly hustle back to my car. You know that person who walks awkwardly fast without running? Yes. That was me.

I get in my car and quickly jolt over to my job. Before you know it, I’m home. I eat, hang out with Kayla, watch some Monday Night Football and call it a night.

It was a normal Monday. As a matter of fact, this was a normal routine for six days of the week. However this particular Monday was a sharp contrast to the previous day.

See, the day before my routine was different. After sleeping in I drank a full cup of coffee while watching ESPN’s NFL Countdown. I even had time to iron a shirt. I got in my car and drove 25-minutes (not the normal three-minute commute) to our church.

At church, I saw faces I didn’t see throughout the week. I drank fancy coffee I didn’t normally drink. I sang songs I didn’t know that well. I encountered a God I didn’t know any other day of the week.

But, it wasn’t just me. My wife (girlfriend at the time) Kayla – who grew up in church – felt the same way.

At this point, I openly called myself a Christian. I experienced Jesus before. I even got over some of my bad habits and changed for the better. We honestly loved Jesus, but we didn’t see him – or care to know him deeper – on any day that wasn’t Sunday.

There wasn’t one moment that led to this apathy toward God. It was behaviors and patterns that ultimately led to a disconnect. Have you ever bought something new – let’s say a phone, or even car – and in the beginning, you’re captivated by it?

It has all our attention. We check out every feature and use it an exorbitant amount. After a while though it just becomes another phone or car. You still use it, but it’s not what it once was to you.

That’s pretty much how you could have defined our relationship with God. As we all get 2018 started, I’m willing to bet that God is a high priority in your life. If we all want to pursue God deeper in the new year, it requires reflection and self-awareness.

We’re going to re-live some behaviors we demonstrated in our lives that led us to ask the question – where is God on Monday? As you begin to revitalize or take a next step in your relationship with God, let’s identify together if there’s any of these behaviors in our lives.