(This is my first post on the Burnside blog. The only parameters I was given when I was asked to be a contributor were these: "There are no real parameters, but we generally want to steer away from anything that's too long (as it's blog writing) and too self-referential." That said, I would like to mention how much I have enjoyed my time with you. I expect a cease and desist message in my inbox within the hour.)
Since November of last year, I have been a man without a title. That was actually a pretty liberating reality for a while. I enjoyed the mystery of “what’s next?” I enjoyed throwing a baseball to my son in the front yard at Two O’clock in the afternoon… on a Tuesday. And I felt very little shame when I was able to answer, “Now, what do you do for a living, again?” with, “a little this… a little that.”
More often than not, folks would furrow their brow or just stare blankly at the casual confidence with which I embraced having no timesheet. No boss. No real responsibility whatsoever. And no… income.
Sometimes people would say they were praying for me. Other times, they would offer encouragement, like, “Hang in there. You’ll find something,” or “Boy, this economy isn’t sparing any of us, is it?” Like I said, I kind of enjoyed my freedom, so I shrugged them off and placed their thoughts and prayers in the same bucket I use for Facebook Friend Requests from people I haven’t seen or thought about since Camp Centrifuge ’87.
I didn’t need them. I was fine.
And then something happened. It wasn’t a quiet nudge from the Holy Spirit or a lightning bolt-sign from the Creator. It was more like, “Holy crap! I’ve been unemployed for over 6 months!” Now, I can’t claim to be the only discoverer of this revelation, mind you. I have a wife. She helped.
But then I started panicking. And the panic turned to fear. And the fear turned to anger. And the anger turned to cheap whores and late night binging with a guy named Pablo in downtown Birmingham. OK, not really. But that would have made this a better story, for sure.
Anyway, the anger I was feeling was brought on because of my ridiculous sense of entitlement. “I’m a good guy… I love my family… I work(ed) hard… I never did anything wrong… I don’t deserve this… I’m closer to God than I have ever been…”
I am closer to God than I ever have been. I made that statement a while back and then followed it with: so that's why I am so frustrated with our situation. You know, I am going to Him all the time. I am in the Word. I am really leaning on His sovereignty to pull us through this... I am closer to Him than I ever have been and things still turn to crap on a daily basis.
The guy I was talking to during this emesis of “me, me, me” made a pretty awesome point (the jackass). He said, “I believe you. I think you probably are closer to Him than you ever have been. But let me ask you something... don't you think He loves that? Don't you think He wants that from you? God is a relational God and He wants nothing more than to be close to you. You believe that, right? (I said, yes). Well then why in the world do you think He would "bless" you and give you everything you think you need? Why do you think He'd risk losing you to all that crap you want so much? You just said you were closer to Him than you ever have been. Let that be enough! He's not done with you yet...”
Kick. To. Groin.
You know why I think I am unemployed? I don't mean to over-spiritualize the plight of "the least of these," but I'm pretty sure He’s not done with me yet. I'm not there yet. My reliance on and trust in Him is not enough for me to be trusted with "prosperity." That’s not to say that I shouldn't go after being the best "me" that I can be... It only means that I need to rest in the fact that the Creator of the Universe loves me enough to want to be close to me.
I don't think God is vengeful or does anything out of spite (frankly, He's got a lot of better things to do than poot around with our emotions), but I do believe that He allows "conflict" to help strengthen us and focus our goals and desires and intentions and ambitions on Him. I gotta tell you, to a guy who is seeing opportunity after opportunity to share my story and tell people about my (growing) family and write blog posts at the kitchen table... and play catch in the front yard with his son on a Tuesday afternoon… That's huge.
Somebody told me recently that I was being brave. I’m not. Bravery, to me, is jumping out of an airplane. I either fell out or got pushed out, and if you offered me a parachute I would absolutely take it. But at least I know I’m not falling alone.