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The Next Chapter

August 2013
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For saleThe house where my cute, little (actually, not-so-little) one-room furnished apartment in the upstairs of the house is located is for sale again. It’s been for sale since April but there haven’t been any bites on it until this past week. When I inquired as to what happened to bring in the interest now, I was told the price had dropped. Well, my bags have been packed for a while so I guess I’ll just keep them packed.

I never dreamed when I moved into this cute little furnished “seasonal rental” as it was called under the owners who owned it at the time I moved in in late December 2009 that I would still be living here almost four years later (well, four years if I’m still here at the end of December). I remember telling the woman who managed this house at that time that I would most likely be here at the max six months. At the time I moved in I had been unemployed eight months from the time I lost my job in Houston in April 2009 and I just could not believe the God would leave me unemployed for longer than a year after that unfortunate experience. But, He did. . . even after I had applied for what felt like a zillion jobs during that time.

As time marched on and that first anniversary of when I lost my job in Houston came and went (April 2010) I was still living here and still applying for jobs at a frantic pace. None of it seemed to make any difference as nothing came from any of those hundreds of applications in 2010, or 2011, or 2012, right on up through today. At the beginning of 2012 and my second anniversary in this house, the woman who managed it and I had a good laugh over the fact that I thought I’d never be here this long. Surely, I thought at that point, it wouldn’t be long before God would move on my behalf and I’d have a life again as a gainfully employed person and move on from this limbo-land existence.

Well, shortly after my second anniversary in this house at the beginning of 2012, there was a major shift that occurred, but it had nothing to do with me finally finding a job. After more than 30 years, the owner of this house sold it to an investment company who took over on March 1, 2012. The transition was a bit rocky and I started looking for another place to live (not an easy thing to find as nobody wants to rent to an unemployed person and I have no furniture or appliances as I lost them all when I left Houston); however, as the dust settled the new owners were in no hurry to bid me adieu and I remained onboard. It was also that year (2012) that I made two trips to different cities seeking employment: Atlanta in May for three days to check out some jobs at universities that I had applied for there (nothing came from that trip); and Houston at this same time last year (late August/early September) for 1 1/2 weeks as I just couldn’t seem to get Houston out of my mind and I was hoping for a second chance there (NOT . . .). Well, at least I finally got Houston out of my system.

By the beginning of 2013 (and my third anniversary living in this house), I was so antsy to get on with my life that I just wanted to move somewhere else–anywhere else–where I might be able to find work. Finances being very tight, I didn’t have the option to just up and move, but I did take another road trip this past April to the New Orleans area for a week as I had applied for several jobs at universities there, but again, nothing came from it. It was also at this time that I learned that the investment company that had purchased this house in March 2012 was putting it up for sale. Sigh . . . however, until this past week there has been no interest in it that I was aware of until the price had been dropped. Oh God, where are You? Have You forgotten me in the midst of running this world? The answer, of course, is no, but the waiting seems like forever.

Now I know full well that we cannot force God’s hand. We can try to move ahead on our own but that usually just gets us into trouble somewhere down the road (sometimes I wonder if I did that when I accepted that job in Houston that has lead to this very, very, very long time of unemployment). I don’t know . . . but if it really was a mistake (and I don’t think it was), the punishment of four plus years of unemployment seems a bit stiff after losing a job I was barely in for a scant seven months. Sort of like that saying, “the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.”

Now I can hear some folks out there saying, “God doesn’t punish His children.” Well, according to Hebrews 12:1-13, He definitely disciplines His children, just as parents discipline their children when they get out of line, and they, along with God, do it out of love (it’s that “tough love” nobody really wants to hear about or receive). Let’s read those verses before I go on:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

God Disciplines His Children

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

We don’t hear a lot about that kind of discipline today yet it’s a vital part of our spiritual growth. As stated in verses 10-11: “. . . God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” When was the last time any of us heard a sermon on those verses?

The Next ChapterNow I don’t for a minute think that this almost four and a half years of ongoing unemployment (as well as the challenges, financial and otherwise, that come from long term unemployment) has to do only with discipline or even with just myself as God always has a bigger picture in mind, but it is clear from that Scripture that we are called to “endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all” (Heb.  12:7-8). And long term unemployment is certainly a hardship. It has also been about developing endurance and “running with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:1-3). And after almost four and a half years of unemployment it takes a great amount of endurance and perseverance to endure opposition and not grow weary and lose heart.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, what I have learned during this very long trial of mine has been written across the pages in this blog site. And I’m still learning. In fact, just yesterday as I was thinking back on some things that happened this past week that were not particularly pleasant to have to deal with I realized just how much I still struggle with the desire to take matters into my own hands when I encounter mean-spirited people by trying to make the correction in my own power. And it usually backfires. Fortunately, I stopped dead in my tracks when I realized what I was doing and I “turned the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38-42). While the “getting even” part of me was desperately trying to take control (because I was enormously frustrated by an ongoing and what seems like a never ending situation), something happened that stopped me cold and my actual response ended up being the opposite of what I expected–instead, I found I was compassionate, caring more for the mean-spirited folks then for my own frustration and felt need to get back at them. That, of course, happens when we allow God to take control (through the Holy Spirit) and remove that ever-present tendency to strike back.

I can’t even begin to count the ways that the Lord has made Himself real to me during these past four and a half years (actually five years in September as this whole saga started when I started that fateful job in Houston in late September 2008). That does not take away from the fact that I am so ready to move on with my life and out of this trial of mine that some days I can hardly stand the sheer boredom of my life (and the accompanying financial constraints that keep me from moving forward on my own) after enduring such a long period of time of being unemployed with no end in sight.

I have no idea anymore what the hold up is after all of this time . . . and now that this house is for sale again, I just want to move on. Depending on who buys it I may or may not be able to stay, but to be honest I am so ready to move on that I don’t want to stay any longer, but God hasn’t opened that next door yet. Maybe He’s just down the street and heading my way . . . .

I am so ready for the next chapter of my life to begin. For those of us who believe, Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, and He’s the one who writes our story from beginning to end . . .

. . . and it is my hope He will publish that next chapter very, very soon.

YouTube Video: “Rockin’ Down the Highway” by the Doobie Brothers:

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