Editorial note: This post has been modified. It was originally written using a bit of literary embellishment to drive home the point more forcefully and with greater impact. However, my literary genre raised some concerns, so I have made some changes. I have attempted to convey much of the message, but I think the post loses a bit of its rhetorical punch. I have also removed a paragraph that could have been construed as a personal attack on others. It was not my intent to attack any individual, rather my concern has to do with mindset and values.
I may regret this post. I have wrestled with whether to write my thoughts and feelings since about 9 a.m. this morning. Once I put this “out there,” it is “out there” forever. That always causes me pause when I write. Yet, when I undertook this blog project a couple of months ago, it was with a specific intent. The intent to work through “out loud” what it means to be a man and a follower of Christ. To ask the questions about how we as men should live in community with others and with each other. To ask what our roles and responsibilities are before God and others. If that is the case, then doesn’t it follow that I have a responsibility to some level of transparency and honesty regarding my own life?
I was officially severed from my company early this year. When the event occurred, I was shocked, but initially I was positive about the occurrence. While a layoff is sure to bring some challenges, it also brings opportunity. A chance for a new start, a chance to explore new vistas and opportunities. To pursue those gifts that one has that may have gone largely unused in the former capacity. I took that optimistic route. I began to pursue areas that I knew I was gifted in, but had not been formally employed in. And I got smacked down by a rotten economy. Transferable skills mean nothing in an economy where 15% of people are unemployed. Yes, I know the “official” number is lower, but it conveniently does not account for those who have lost hope and checked out.
To ensure that our financial needs were met without an undue raiding of our rainy day fund, my dear wife changed her status from part time to full time. She became the sole bread winner and I collected the government (unemployment) check – and became the house husband. Still I remained optimistic. God has always taken care of us, even though it hasn’t always been easy. But as my wife’s “full time” status morphed to 60 hour weeks plus the commute, we faced new challenges. Funny thing is, a mom wants to see her kids, keep a nice home, cook nice meals, get some exercise, maybe enjoy a hobby or two. And when you are gone from 5 am to 5 pm (or later) that just isn’t possible. I do my best to pickup the load around the house, but let’s be real – I’m way out of my depth here! And even if I can complete many of the household tasks, I can do nothing to replace the time that my wife has had to sacrifice because of my job loss. Time with our kids, time for other relationships, time with God, time for her own personal health.
I think if you really love your wife, a time comes when you have to say “screw the new vistas, screw the new opportunities” and you do what needs to be done. Isn’t that perhaps a bit of what “for better of for worse” really means? Our society tells us to love ourselves, to put ourselves first, blah, blah, blah. Jesus tells us to put others first. My wife put me first, now it is time for me to return the blessing.
So I have jumped back into the career pool I was swimming in before. And I really thought I had a position coming. I was one of the last two, I fit the job perfectly. But I kept getting strung out. I’m pretty sure now I was being played by the manager. That he was stringing me along as backup while he worked out the details with the other candidate. And then he dumped me. Frankly, I’m kinda pissed about it. That is not how people should treat one another.
I’ve got 12 years in sales. I’m used to hearing “no.” I am used to rejection. But I’m getting really sick of the rejection that comes with unemployment. And I’m getting sick of what each rejection does to the ones that I love. And to be quite honest, I’m getting really sick of waiting on God.
Have you noticed that many times, if there is stress, frustration or difficulties in one area of life, another area will compensate — a life giving well of sorts? Unfortunately, what I would have hoped would be a life giving well at this point in time feels like a dry well. Am I too optimistic when I think that a body of believers – a church – should be a life giving well? Maybe it is my fault. Maybe I’m too old fashioned in that I don’t “toot my own horn.” Or employ marketing techniques at church to “drive my own brand.” Perhaps I’m silly to believe that my mission as a Christ follower can be simply summed up as the following: to be faithful to God, to love him and to love others.
The totality of the events I have endured over the course of this year have led me to begin thinking that nobody really cares about anyone else. Not in the church and not outside the church. Nobody anywhere cares about anybody but themselves. The “me first” culture has won the day. That’s how we choose our church, our small group at church, our circle of friends, where we work and who we associate with. It’s not about what we can give, what we can share, how we can help others to love God and love others. No. It’s about what we can get, what benefit we can gain, what status we can advance.
I guess I’m raging against the machine of pop christianity. Against the market driven, consumer culture christianity of modern America. But I’m tired of it. I’m tired of trying to point people towards Christ, when they don’t really care. I’m tired of trying to motivate Christlike thinking amongst those who are inoculated against it by the religious culture itself. I’m tired of a christianity that cares more about personal success and self esteem than it does about others. I’m tired of a christianity that cares more about the next world than the one in which we live. I’m tired.
And as tired, frustrated, disappointed, disheartened and disillusioned as I am, I just can’t close this out on such a hopeless and negative note. Maybe, just maybe, by the grace of God, I can find a few men who do care. Who can help me care too. And together we can begin the process of “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” Isn’t that really why Christ came? Not to take us away to heaven some day and sit on a cloud, not for some type of religious escapism accomplished through a secret rapture, but to inaugurate his kingdom here on earth. “To proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The dangerous journey continues. God help me.