Manufacturing is the essence creating something from nothing. I grew up around equipment, and high speed machinery. I grew up around the hubbub of hitting production numbers and keeping a close watch on waste. I grew up watching the magic of making something meaningful and useful out of something useless and meaningless as parts.
From valueless to valuable in a matter of seconds. The speed at which this is possible, from useless to useful, is what creates the feeling of excitement and energy.
I had high expectations for the equipment. As a continuous improvement leader withing the company I held myself personally responsible for to maintain and deliver against these ever improving standards. Faster, better, constantly striving. The more responsibility I took on within the organization, the more my thinking, and my thought patterns about value, and value creation became broken.
I began to put myself in the same category as the machines, and the products being manufactured. I began to think of myself as only valuable if I was producing. I thought that I too was on the assembly line, being made from something useless to useful. I feared that if I stopped or slowed my value would be lost. And therefore the place at the table that I fought hard to obtain would slip away.
I lived this hyper productive lifestyle for years. I lived and worked crazy hours, at an intense speed until my body began to break down on me. My stress level escalated to an intensity that my body revolted. My hands and my arms lost feeling. One night, standing in my kitchen, I lost complete use of my arm as I stretched to put dishes away. My arm dropped. I couldn't. lift it. Panic set in.
That was my wake up call. God used that moment to grab my attention.
Shortly after this time, I was praying, sobbing actually. I told God, I was done doing business for the sake of business. I was done finding my purpose in things that are temporal. That is when I heard His still small voice speak to my heart and reassure me.
"I am calling you from producer to servant."
Today as I read scripture I understand that He created me with value. I have always - even from conception been of value and worth. I understand now what Peter meant in 1 Peter 4:10, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."
Being a producer meant that I was in it to win it for myself. Yet the more I grasped at climbing the ladder of success and achievement the emptier I felt. I did not understand that the gifts, talents and abilities God had given me were to be employed to help others, to serve others, to demonstrate God's love, and not to demonstrate my value.
What I have come to understand is that productivity, and the work I was doing was not inherently wrong. I did great work. I worked hard. I believe hard work honors God. But the constant striving for more personal value, believing I was not enough, was like venom to my body as it infiltrated my mind and distorted my thinking.
My thoughts were jaded to reflect the state of my heart. I believed my value rested on my ability to solve problems, to meet targets, to improve processes and in working 70 hours a week. My value was based in what I did, not based on who I was.
Where do you place your value? Do you know that you are valuable whether or not you perform to the standards and expectations of others? Do you see the value in others whether or not they meet your expectations and standards? Where do you find yourself today - producing or serving?
Misplacing value is an easy thing to do. Yet, it is a dangerous thing to do because we are not the determiners of value, we are the beholders of value, God-given value. You my friend, striving or not, you are valuable and you are loved beyond measure.