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Forced Leisure

March 2013
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Forced Leisure 3-5-13Psalm 46:10 states, “Be still, and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Now I don’t know about you, but I have a very hard time “being still,” even after almost four years of unemployment. And just last week, I was sick on top of it. Not really “bad” sick, but that grouchy, grumpy, listless, no energy type of sick that happens sometimes.

For about a month God has been trying to get my attention with that particular verse. Lately, I’ve seen it posted in graphics on Facebook numerous times, and I’ve run across it in my reading in some of the most unlikely places. However, when I got sick last week, I was laid low for a few days, and God finally got my attention. I’m feeling better now, and from it I’ve become a bit quieter than usual.

I never dreamed I’d be unemployed for this long. Never . . . . I’ve written about the frustration previously so I won’t go into it here. I just want to “get on” with my life, whatever “get on” means at this point in time. I’ve vacillated several times during the past year or so about getting rid of the stuff I still own that won’t fit in my car, and packing up the rest of it that will fit and moving on. That’s how utterly frustrated I am with being in the same place for 3 1/2 years and going nowhere.

God has heard my ranting enough times–Why am I still here? Why am I still unemployed? Why have I been put on this shelf and tucked away from the mainstream for so long? WHY??? What gives?” Some days I think the frustration is almost more than I can bear, but it doesn’t do much good to get frustrated. It doesn’t change anything and nothing has changed. And nothing changed after my trips to Atlanta and Houston last year, either. And even more frustrating is that nothing has changed after applying for over 500 jobs in my field of work (I still apply but I’ve stopped counting).

Yesterday morning I got on my laptop and got into my account. For those of you who are not familiar with, it is the world’s largest professional networking website and I’ve been on it for several years now. I haven’t been using it very much in the past year or so, but yesterday I started searching for people to connect with that I used to work with in Houston and in the job I had in Florida before going to Houston. While I already had 38 “connections,” with people I’ve known in various work settings, I went searching for more to “invite” to connect with me. I spent three hours on the site and sent out 40 “invitations”–20 to folks I worked with in Houston, 12 to folks I worked with at my last job in Florida before I moved to Houston, and 8 folks I knew from various other organizations over the years. Within very short order eleven people had responded and accepted my invitation to “connect” (invitations remain open and a person can “accept” at any point in the future). One even dropped me a note in the message area of the site asking me how I was doing and what type of work I was looking for.

. . . And for the first time in a long time I felt really encouraged. Five of the eleven people who accepted my invitation were folks who knew me at my workplace in Houston (three have moved on and no longer work there and two are still there). Another three were from at my old workplace in Florida, and the last three were from other various places. I felt my world was beginning to open up again after so many, many months of stagnation (not that I wasn’t trying, mind you).

The biggest encouragement came from those five people who accepted my invitation to connect who knew me at the place I worked in Houston–the place where I was fired. Due to the circumstances leading up to the day I was fired, I didn’t know how many people there might respond to my invitation to connect. While there were several people in the 20 invitations I sent out who were directly or indirectly involved in the circumstances that lead to my termination, there were as many who had nothing to do with it that I really enjoyed working around. Of course, I hesitated when I sent the invitations to those who had some responsibility in my termination, but I knew it was something I needed to do.

In many workplaces, when a person is fired the office area beforehand is emptied of all other staff members and the person is brought into an office (usually the supervisor’s office) and given the bad news. This was no different in my case, although the awkwardness of it all was rather appalling, not to mention the shock of being fired. After the news is given and any final paperwork is distributed (relating to the termination), the person is sent back to their work area (in my case it was a small office) to pack up their personal items (the two people involved in my firing that day helped me pack up my office). It’s a fairly routine procedure except for the person being fired.

Once my office was packed up, I was told not to speak to anyone on my way out of the building. My office was on the second floor, so I took the stairs down to the first floor to avoid meeting anyone in the elevator. As I left the Student Affairs suite where my office was located, the front door to suite had been locked, and one of the department chairs–a man I admired because he was aware that my work life had been made difficult and he helped me out of a tight spot I had been placed in the previous week–was standing outside the door waiting for someone to unlock it. When I opened it to walk out, he asked me where everybody was and I told him they were all in a meeting. I didn’t say anything else to him beyond that point as it was all I could do to keep from crying before I got down to the first floor to exit the building.

worth_the_waitThat was the last thing that happened to me at my former workplace in Houston, and, of course, I’ve been unemployed since then. While I will never fully understand why I was fired, since that time I’ve never had a chance to let those involved in my termination know that I was no longer angry at them and did not hold it against them (actually those feelings still come and go at times). It’s not that I think they care one way or the other then or now, but it’s important to me. It wasn’t until I got on yesterday morning and started searching for people to connect with that I realized I could at least let them know by sending them an invitation to connect with me on with a short note as a sort of “peace offering,” and I could connect with the others there, too, who were not involved in my termination as a way for me to touch base with them since my departure was sudden and I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to anyone. I was pleasantly surprised when five of them respond so quickly by accepting my invitation and it meant a great deal to me, too.

This morning I was reading a devotion titled, Forced Leisure,” in Our Daily Bread (click here for link) and it was the perfect title to describe this very long time of unemployment that was forced on me. By the start of 2013 I found myself reminding God with increasing frequency that I was ready to move on–begging Him, actually–to finally open a door for me. I was “begging” well into February when I started to notice all of the Facebook graphics with Psalm 46:10 (e.g., to be still and know that He is God) showing up on an almost daily basis. And my first reaction was frustration, and I refused to consider it as being applicable to my situation. Wasn’t going through four years of unemployment enough? And then I got sick last week which forced me to stay put and “chill out” for a few days, and stop begging, too. And my frustration level lowered. It wasn’t until yesterday when I got on that God showed me a way not to find another job but to resolve the conflict I still had regarding my Houston experience which had been a stalemate until now. He showed me that I needed to deal with and resolve that conflict before I could move on, and provided me the opportunity to do so.

Now, I don’t know how much longer my “exile” from the work world will last. It’s really not up to me to decide (although it is up to me to keep applying for jobs and I’ve stepped up my job search again by applying for four jobs in my field of work in the past three days). As I look back over these past four years the things I’ve learned and the changes I’ve gone through have definitely been worth it, as I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts. But I never knew how to get beyond the pain I experienced in Houston, and once He got me “still” enough to listen, He showed me a way.

Sometimes when we’re looking for really big answers for the questions that might not even be the right questions (although many times we don’t realize the questions are wrong) the answer comes in a quiet but remarkable way that we cannot discern until we get quiet before God (e.g. “be still”). That one step of my “being still” has lead me to a major resolution that was absolutely necessary in order to move closer to the end of my “forced leisure.” And while I’m not out of it yet, I’ve learned another lesson in how God leads us for our own benefit, and not just in the obvious (like needing a job).

So, with all of the being said, I feel like a boulder has been lifted off my shoulders. Good thing, too, as I’ve been carrying it around for a long time. And . . . I’ll continue to wait (it’s an active waiting as I continue to apply for jobs) for God’s leading . . .

 . . . as it’s His timing that counts . . . and not ours.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

~Zephaniah 3:17

YouTube Video: “Hold On, Help Is On The Way,” sung by Whitney Houston in the movie, “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996):

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