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Once Bitten Twice Shy

October 2011
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“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).

I would like to end this post with the last seven verses in Psalm 119 (169-176) from The Message Bible:

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



  1. magil777 says:

    Wonderful writing Sara…praying God will indeed…’grace you with clear revelation’. As we continue to hide in the shadow of His wings…and as we seek His Kingdom first…all things will then be added unto us. Resting and trusting,resisting unbelief but staying connected to His peace… taking God at His word…God knows…it’s His turn…as we stand believing together. Yours in Christ ❤


    • Thank you for your kind comment to my blog post and your words of wisdom. I greatly appreciate them. These past three years have been an incredible journey, and one I would not have picked for myself, that’s for sure. That’s why God picks them, and we don’t get to choose. It’s discipline and the Refiner’s fire all wrapped up in one very long trial. But we have a promise that our trials don’t last forever (even though they sure seem like it), so I hang on to that hope. This is where our faith intersects with reality. Do we believe what we don’t yet see? It is indeed a faith-walk. Thanks again for your kind and wise words and I stand believing with you, not just for my own needs but for yours also.

      By the way, I’m not nearly as down as the Psalm’s lament (the sad life part) in my post (or the being at a cliff’s edge–that is mostly the way I feel about the job search and not life as a whole. Life isn’t bad–not at all, in fact life is very, very good–it’s the economy that’s bad. But I just love how David expressed himself from the very lows to the very highs in the Psalms that he wrote and I think that is why so very many people connect with him in such a personal way. And, he was the greatest King in the Old Testament, too, and in the lineage of Jesus–“a man after God’s own heart.” Most days I’m very upbeat but this whole job search thing is just so unbelievable. The tragedy is not just in my case, but in the millions and millions of Americans who are, like me, long-term unemployed and there are just not enough jobs out there for everyone. It’s a very sad state of affairs but God is sovereign over this world and our circumstances and we have to trust Him and lean on Him. Last week was a very hard week as I just had two interviews in the past two plus weeks after not having had an interview for the past ten months and while both interviews went well, I was not the one selected for either job. That was hard to take after applying for 455 jobs in the past 2 1/2 years and that is mainly what got me down for the past week. But I’m over it now. Honestly, I’ve never had a problem finding work until this economy tanked at the same time I lost my job in Houston (actually it started to tank about a year earlier). But I can’t begin to tell you all the really positive lessons I’ve learned during this very hard trial. I think I will start writing about them in my next blog post. See, you’ve inspired me already! Thanks again for your kind comment.


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