I couldn’t even get a job a Target.
Back about six months ago when Bethany and I started talking about me looking for a job outside of pastoral ministry, I was optimistic. After all, I had a master’s degree. I have some facility with about five languages outside of English. I have a book deal. I have prior experience in a number of fields. My learning had depth and breadth. So I was optimistic about the job search. Turns out, unduly so.
The only responses I got from my inquiries and submitted resumés were rejections. Over and over and over. Often just silence. My over-confidence was careening against the stone-cold immovable reality of a stagnant economy having little use for what I knew and had done.
Every now and again there were reasons for optimism. A lead here. A promised good word there. But the positive feelings would wane faster than they waxed. And I would be back on job sites broadening my search again.
About four and half months in and up to my chin in rising despair, I got an email from Target telling me I had not been chosen for a job. I was sure I would be miserable but knew the pay would feed us. I thought that with a little luck, I might get to oversee the music and books section or frozen foods. I was obviously more desperate than they were. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with such a job. I just knew I would be miserable. But I also knew I needed something.
I didn’t tell Bethany about this. You see, the plan was to wait till the end of August and then panic and send my resumé to retail places like Target. Just to do what we have to do. But I got that email about 10 days before the deadline.
A few days before I was at a concert and ran into an old friend. We had worked together before I went to Seminary and had even graduated from Bible College. He and his wife were part of Bethany and I’s history. Anyway, as we talked before the show I told him about my job search, he offered to help me out. He had the kind of job that might actually make something happen.
I think it was just a couple of days later that I sent his wife a message on facebook and asked for his email. Within a few hours we had planned lunch in a couple of days. That lunch was one part interview and one part reunion. Fifteen minutes after lunch, I was interviewing with someone else. An hour later I was communicating with HR.
I had a job a week later.
There is another layer in this story I need to share. With every week of looking I was growing further down into the soft soil of humiliation. There grows wild thoughts and poisonous regrets. But also can be found there fragrant recognitions of need. So I let go. I let go of my resumé and all the attendant demands and beliefs of what is due.
I literally wrote God and said, “I obviously will not get a job on what I have done. Will you help me in the same way you have me so many times before? With mercy?” That was the morning of the concert and the “chance” encounter with an old friend, who would show me extraordinary kindness.
Fast forward to this day – the day I write this. Today was a humiliating day. It was my first day post-training. I had to ask everyone a dozen questions because of how little I know and understand. I had to ask customers over and over to hold on while I got help. The air felt thick with embarrassment and my heart beat to rhythms of humiliation.
But as I’ve sat here thinking about it, I’m ready for it in a way I could never have been before. And to know God has been going before me in this time of humiliation is comforting. Painful, yes. But comforting all the same.