“Once bitten, twice shy” is an idiom that means “when something or someone has hurt you once, you tend to avoid that thing or person.” I’ve been there several times, and most likely so have you. It can be as innocent as when I attended a barbecue in Dallas, TX, many years ago and discovered for the first time that a jalapeño pepper is not just another mild green pepper and drinking three gallons of ice cold beer (okay, a slight exaggeration) won’t put out the fire. Did I mention I hate beer? It was the only beverage close to me at the time. And, I’ve never intentionally eaten another jalapeño pepper since then, and that was 38 years ago.
There are, of course, more serious examples of being “once bitten, twice shy.” Many romances sour, marriages go bad, and friendships come and go. When things go awry within the family unit (not just in a marriage, but also with siblings, elders, children, and let’s not forget all the other relatives), it’s a little harder to give up and just walk away, but some do. Most of our lives are scattered with both major and minor “once bitten, twice shy” experiences.
I must confess that the worst case of “once bitten, twice shy” came much later in life disguised in a horrible job situation that lead to the past two and a half years of unemployment in the worst economy of our lifetime. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know the story. But I have to tell you that after a lifetime of working (even during my college years as an adult student), this last experience has left me loathing the thought of ever working again which is not an option as I have no substantial money to keep me afloat until I die. Don’t you just hate details like that? They so get in the way.
I wish I could just say it was only the job that has left me feeling this way. Unfortunately, it was also something else that happened while I was there mostly unrelated to the unfortunate experience with my former boss and the HR Department. That, too, has caused a fair amount of pain making the “twice shy” part of the idiom take on a double meaning beyond the job loss. I actually lost twice at one time. Of course, the stagnant economy (an understatement, to be sure) has left me unemployed and hanging in mid-air unable to move forward and nothing I’ve tried to do in my own power has been able to put a dent in it. I’m frustrated beyond belief, bored beyond words, and going broke fast. I pray a lot, too, but so far Heaven has been brass.
I feel stuck on hold with no options. I want to pack up my bags and go home, but there is no home to go home to anymore. After applying for over 455 jobs in the past two and a half years nothing seems to be working and my last two interviews netted zero. I feel like I’m standing at a cliff’s edge waiting for someone to shove me off. Well, at least I wouldn’t have to keep looking for that nonexistent job out there anymore. That in itself would be a relief.
Bleak? Sorry, but that’s real life for the long-term unemployed in this country. Remember that very old TV show called “The Naked City” in the early 60’s? “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them” as the announcer stated at the end of each show. That number has quantified substantially since the 60’s. We have now entered “The Twilight Zone.” And have we ever entered the twilight zone (at least when it comes to the job search).
So where does one go after yet another “once bitten, twice shy” episode with major consequences in a horrible economy? I only know one place (and no, it’s not a church): I go to the Book of Psalms. The longest Psalm, Psalm 119, is considered the “Mt. Everest” of the Psalms, and is a treasure-trove of wisdom contained in 176 verses where I have gone for solace many times over the past three plus years. The particular section I’m thinking of right now are verses 25-40 in The Message Bible:
25-32 I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse!
Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?
When I told my story, you responded;
train me well in your deep wisdom.
Help me understand these things inside and out
so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.
My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn;
build me up again by your Word.
Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
grace me with your clear revelation.
I choose the true road to Somewhere,
I post your road signs at every curve and corner.
I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
God, don’t let me down!
I’ll run the course you lay out for me
if you’ll just show me how.
33-40 God, teach me lessons for living
so I can stay the course.
Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—
my whole life one long, obedient response.
Guide me down the road of your commandments;
I love traveling this freeway!
Give me a bent for your words of wisdom,
and not for piling up loot.
Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,
invigorate me on the pilgrim way.
Affirm your promises to me—
promises made to all who fear you.
Deflect the harsh words of my critics—
but what you say is always so good.
See how hungry I am for your counsel;
preserve my life through your righteous ways!
These are but a few of the words I’ve found myself praying from Psalm 119. They lift me back up to the only place where I find solace and guidance: God’s presence. He alone knows what the future holds for me, and for you. So, once again as I find myself “once bitten, twice shy” I come to the only place that is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (119:105).
169-176 Let my cry come right into your presence, God;
provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word.
Give my request your personal attention,
rescue me on the terms of your promise.
Let praise cascade off my lips;
after all, you’ve taught me the truth about life!
And let your promises ring from my tongue;
every order you’ve given is right.
Put your hand out and steady me
since I’ve chosen to live by your counsel.
I’m homesick, God, for your salvation;
I love it when you show yourself!
Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well,
use your decrees to put iron in my soul.
And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me!
I’ll recognize the sound of your voice.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little better, and maybe a tad more hopeful. We cannot force God’s hand in our circumstances, but we can curl up in His arms when life is hard and frustrating. I need to remember to spend more time there, and I hope you remember to spend time there, too. He’s available 24/7.
Here’s the instrumental version of the theme from “The Twilight Zone” on Youtube (perfect music for the job search especially the sound of a closing door at the end of it):
Photo credit here