I’d like to be able to tell you that, since taking The First Step, we’ve been leisurely strolling along on The Sunlit Path—basking in a warm halo-ish glow, feeling oh-so-satisfied with ourselves for making the “right” choices, secure in the knowledge that God has stamped His seal of approval on our lives, and will, therefore, clear the path from all potential obstacles we might encounter.
But that would be a bunch of bullshit.
(Excuse my language.)
It’s really been something more like this:
Take a step. Trip on a huge, sharp rock. Stumble. Fall. Look down at the blood streaming from the cut caused by the sharp rock’s jagged edge. Curse. Look back at the path behind us. Wonder what the hell we were thinking, following this particular branch in the path. Wonder if we misread the “signs” we were so sure were “God’s will.” Curse again. Become too frustrated to pray about it. Then wonder again what could possibly be going on when the sun slips behind an enormous rain cloud and the rumbles of thunder begin…
Even the Sunlit Path is not without its troubles.
We aren’t guaranteed even, stumble-free ground to walk on.
We aren’t promised perpetually pleasant weather during our journey.
Injuries may happen along the way. Also? Wrong turns.
Low points where flooding might occur.
You get the idea.
Since resigning from my job and Drew accepting a new job, we’ve encountered some of these rough patches.
Drew has dealt with some difficulties and disappointments in his new job that have made us wonder if it was the right decision.
Drew’s Dad, Don, was recently diagnosed with lung cancer (and is now at home under hospice care) after battling esophageal cancer the last three years.
And—the cherry on top!—I was laid off.
(Disclaimer: The second cancer diagnosis for Drew’s Dad is much more significant than the other rough patches I listed above regarding Drew’s and my jobs, but to respect his privacy, I won’t be discussing it at length here. Or Drew’s job, for that matter.)
Last you knew, I had just resigned from the localization position, right? You see, after I resigned, I was asked if I was interested in a different position: part-time, less responsibility, with the ability to do most of the work from home.
(Here’s where you ask, “So, what’s the problem? Isn’t that the perfect thing for you, to have more flexibility, less stress, and the ability to spend more time with your daughters?”)
I’m glad you asked! Because, YES! That was my thought EXACTLY. I mean, on paper, a better situation couldn’t have presented itself to me. And so I said yes to the part-time gig. No praying or asking for God’s guidance necessary! This decision was as straight-forward as they come. Thanks, Lord, for lobbing me an easy pitch this time!
::Sigh:: I should’ve known better. Because nothing is ever quite as good in reality as it is on paper. Sure, I was able to work fewer hours on projects that were less deadline-driven, but there were a whole host of different issues to deal with, not to mention that when they hired a replacement for me in the localization lead position, I was called in again and again to help give guidance on issues that I thought I’d left behind for good. Issues that really shouldn’t have been my problem anymore, but, when you have a certain amount of history on a topic/project, it is hard not to be sucked in over and over again. How do you say “No” when they make you feel so needed?
But I was miserable for it. I had RESIGNED, damnit! That meant I DIDN’T WANT TO DO THAT SHIT ANYMORE.
But I continued to suck it up because I was worried about money, about what we’d do if we lost the bit of extra income I brought in, that “buffer” that gave me some peace of mind and kept me from obsessing over the account balances in our bank accounts on a daily basis.
Truth: When money is ruling all of your decisions, there is no room for God to reign over your life.
I knew this to be true, even though I didn’t have the courage to do anything about it. It turns out I wasn’t as brave as I thought I’d been when I originally resigned. If I really was brave, I wouldn’t have felt the need to latch onto this other opportunity almost as quickly as it was presented to me. I was admittedly afraid of what completely giving up my income meant for my family—even though I knew that I didn’t really want to be doing this work.
And so I faltered. It was my opportunity to re-think my resignation and hold on to some semblance of security, if at the cost of my mental and emotional well-being.
When would I ever learn? I seemed to know in theory how to make heart-driven—rather than head-driven—decisions. I knew what I wanted to do to feed my soul rather than just my pocket book. But I was too afraid to actually make that leap, when push came to shove.
Luckily, God knows me, especially my weaknesses. He knows that I often have to learn things the hard way—that I’m not always so good at letting go of the things not meant for me. He knows of my need to try to make things work, even when the walls are crumbling around me.
So He finally intervened for me.
Exactly three weeks ago today, on the day before we were supposed to leave on vacation, I got laid off.
By someone I DON’T KNOW.
I called Kate, laughing maniacally, and burst out, “You’ll never believe what just happened to me!”
Even though the reality of being laid-off did indeed sting a little, I was mostly amused. I felt like I was looking at God from across the room, shaking my head slowly, smiling, gesturing, and mouthing, “Ha! Good one, God! You knew I didn’t have the strength to quit on my own, so you cut the tie for me. You’re one funny guy, God!” (Raise the glass. Cheers!)
The fact of the matter is, He knows what we need in our lives…most often waaaaay before we do. We just need to pay attention and be able to recognize His hand at work. It does not always come in the form of straight-forward, happy little blessings wrapped in a pretty ribbon or bow. No, His work can be disguised in numerous different ways (even in situations that seem entirely negative on the surface), and it’s easy to miss it if we’re not looking closely.
I could’ve let the lay-off get to me…to send me into a shame spiral of self-pity and “woe is me” thinking. Luckily, this time I was able to recognize His work in a seemingly negative circumstance almost immediately. (Disclaimer: I don’t always succeed at that. I think I probably just got lucky this time.)
Meditating on Jeremiah 29:11 always helps me. It reminds me that our God is a loving God, and that even when we’re in the lowest spots in our lives, He has a plan that promises to bless us and keep us safe.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
In this life, God doesn’t guarantee a lack of hardships. But He does promise to walk beside us…leading us through the darkness…into the light.
Even if we take the hard way.