No, this is not going to be about the baker in the story of Joseph. Sorry. This is going to be about another baker, one whom I met only once in my life, many years ago, and conversed with for a very brief time. This was a chance, brief encounter, but has left a profound and lasting impact on my life.
I was eighteen and having no idea what I wanted to do with my life I took a job selling vacuum cleaners. It was all about the money, the pie in the sky, the “get rich in sales” pitch I heard at their recruiting meeting. I had other dreams of what I wanted to do with my life, but they seemed impossible. I was discouraged with no self confidence to pursue what I wanted.
By chance, one evening I was on my way to an appointment to sell my “wares.” The appointment was some distance away and there was nothing good to listen to on the radio so I picked up a hitch-hiker for some conversation to pass the time (what can I say, I was 18). He was a young man in his early twenties. All that he owned in this life was in a small duffel bag thrown across his shoulder. He hadn’t shaved or showered in a few days so we rolled the windows down. He didn’t mind.
He was on his way home from Texas. He lived in Northeastern Ohio and had just completed his schooling…. as a baker! A baker??? I thought that was girlie stuff. A chef maybe, but a baker? (Again, what can I say, I was 18) Can you imagine the teasing this guy got from his friends in high school. It was his lifelong dream to become a baker. He loved it. To listen to him describe the things he made in baking school was like listening to a passionate artist.
He received no encouragement from his family or friends. They thought he was crazy. “Go to college and get a business degree or join the union and work in the factory with your dad with its high wages and fringe benefits.” Nothing doing. He worked like a slave earning the tuition. He worked both before he left and while he was in school. He lived on peanut butter sandwiches and ramen noodles. He hitchhiked from Ohio to Texas and back again to save travel expenses. It was hard, but when it was all said and done, he walked across that stage to receive his diploma and baker’s hat. He had little to his name, was unkempt and tired from traveling, but here, next to me, sat one of the wealthiest men alive and I was on my way to sell a vacuum cleaner to someone I didn’t even know.
I had dreams too. Every obstacle I perceived discouraged me. I thought, “my family won’t support me”. His family did not support him. I needed money. So did he and he worked like a dog to get it. I needed transportation. He had feet and his thumb and that was good enough for him. It might be too hard. Perhaps so, but he did it, so could I.
Discouragement is one of Satan’s most powerful tools. With this, he often seduces us into paralysis. Zig Ziglar advocates that one never give into the SNIOP. What is SNIOP? It is the susceptibility to the negative influence of other people. God loves us and wants the very best for us. How many times have we had great dreams to do great things for God and have become discouraged and disheartened because of other people or because we think we can’t afford it, or we think it will be too hard or take too long? Did not Paul say If God be for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31)
We serve a God Who parts the Red Sea, Who emboldens a teenage boy to slays giants with a sling and a stone, Who gives sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and strength to the lame. There will always be obstacles, but these need not be discouragements. God uses obstacles to strengthen us. Obstacles are opportunities to climb higher, not barriers to our progress.
I don’t remember his name. Some of the particulars of his appearance have faded from my memory over time, but I’ll never forget the baker who had dream. Let his experience be a lesson to us to never quit.