We work our fingers down to dust And we wait for Kingdom Come – Brian Fallon
One year ago today I put on a blue suit. My parents bought me that blue suit back in 2003. I picked out the suit from a department store at the St. Louis Galleria on the occasion of my graduation from Covenant Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. More than 8 years later I put it on to walk away from the world of vocational ministry and to enter the world of business. I knew so very little of this world it felt as if the blue suit was the only thing covering my naked nerves.
I thought I was pretty world-wise. And I was to a point. But I was a babe in the woods. Naive to what this new world was all about.
That first day in orientation is still a vivid memory. Focus was difficult. Everything was surreal. There was a “This is really happening” thread through all my emotions and thoughts. When the orientation was over, my most natural reaction was to notice how awkward it was no one closed in prayer. That’s how strange it was to me. The room was a little warm for my taste but I kept the coat of the blue suit on anyway. The only other person wearing a suit was the speaker at the front of the room, for someone reason this reassured me. That may have been arrogance or wishful thinking.
He went through all the values of the company, the vision and the mission, etc. And here is where my naivete shone forth like a Fourth of July fireworks display. I soaked it in and was encouraged, believing it like a little kid watching commercials. This is not to suggest there are not more than few who really believe in these values, I just assumed they would be something of a daily guide.
For the life of me I cannot remember what I ate for lunch that day. It’s possible I went home since it was really only a half day. Usually, I can remember food in all it’s glorious detail. But that day, meals escape me.
My wife asked me how it went and I am certain I said it went well and was impressed with what I was told. But heck, I wanted to be impressed. I wanted to like my new company and where I was casting my line for sustenance. The need to be positive and optimistic was overwhelming because I’d been looking for a job for a while.
Almost six months, I think. No company would even talk to me. I received no responses. Nothing. I even had help from people and I could get no traction. I never knew what the obstacle was. My resumés as seeds could find no purchase. Regardless, it killed all the hope I had put in my abilities and drove me to prayer in a very new way.
Along with anxiety about doing something wholly new, there was a sense of victory. It wasn’t pride or anything like that. Just victory…I don’t know how else to describe the way I felt. I’d finally found a position, thanks to a friend I ran into at a Gilian Welch and Dave Rawlings concert. Finally, a job. Victory!
A year later it feels like defeat. I would love to say that when I still put on the blue suit, the nerves have steadied and the victory has only been confirmed. But that would not be the truth. The truth is it feels like plain old fashioned defeat.
I’ve been reading a lot of baseball books lately. For some reason, I cannot get enough of them. One in particular reminded me of a game I played in when just a young teenager. I was probably 13 or 14 years old and I was pitching. It might have been an All Star game because I think it was in the summer. Can’t remember all of the details but some remain in High Definition. I was horrible to the point of feeling completely out of control. I remember crying and wishing I would get pulled out. And I remember Jan Jones was there watching it all unfold.
Other defeats have been worse. But this one sums it up this best. Lack of control of the situation, wishing someone would rescue me, and not doing well in full view of those whose opinion matters.
While I appreciate your sympathy, that is not why I tell the truth about this. I tell the truth because I have learned things I could have never learned otherwise.
The most important thing I’ve learned is the reality of the situation I find myself in. Even if I had never experienced it, the defeat is felt by people every where. Those without jobs and those in jobs they hate and feel trapped in. They have to work because they need to take care of their family but they wade into defeat everyday. And it creeps up to their chin, week in and week out, threatening to drown them in soul-sucking monotony and dignity-stealing dead-ends.
My wife and I were having a discussion as I approached the anniversary of my first year at this job. She asked me how I felt about that. I told her it kinda depressed me. Her first response was very wise – “Can you imagine how it feels for those who have worked 30 years in a job feeling like you do?”
I can’t imagine. Those who have, have a character and an emotional fortitude far beyond my own. They are the faceless heroes, providing for their loved ones at the expense of their pride and all the dreams they dream under star-pocked nights.
Before this past year I would have listened to their troubles and had one of two reactions… depending on my mood that day. There is a good chance I would have dealt with their pain by getting to them see how much they are whining. I would shame them into acknowledging they should stop and just realize so many have it worse. Or I might have just told them they are not believing the gospel at this time in their life and they need a fresh vision of what Christ has done. They just need to preach the gospel to themselves.
But now that I find myself numbered among them, all that sounds hollow and inconsiderate. It doesn’t sound like the patience and kindness of the Holy Spirit. It sounds like the Pharisees who thought people with problems were placed before them to only be fixed.
So maybe it’s not only defeat. Maybe there is something mixed in making it a little more than just that. I wouldn’t call it victory but something altogether different. It’s the hope in God that can come served only with a hearty helping of defeat.
This hope includes a new job with better pay and more dignity, yes. But it also includes the knowledge of a God who has never made us homeless or hungry. Heck, we’ve never gone without wifi. (Although we did suffer through AT&T for awhile.)
It’s a hope with eternity and all it’s promises spread out like a clear cobalt-blue sky before me. Bluer even than the suit I’m wearing. I know this all sounds sad, but, I mean, all those promises sound a little tinny without at least a little defeat now and then.
So this is some of what I’m learning. But not nearly all of it. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking more about what I’ve what learned in moving from vocational ministry to the business world. I hope it won’t be boring but if it is, I’ll try to throw in some extra little posts here and there…
Matt, thank you.
I walked away from a job in March 2007 – unbeknownst to me I’d still be without a job 5 1/2 years later. Some days I feel like I’m on top of the world. Other days I feel like I’m at the bottom of the heap where God can’t hear my screams. Today would be such a day. Thanks for your candor.