Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fears, failure and faith

Some days you're the pigeon, other days you're the statue.

The first time I heard this expression, I had to laugh – it's a humorous turn on the glass half-filled or glass half-empty analogy about optimism and skepticism. If you're a human being, chances are, you've had both kinds of days.

It's also reflective of the roller-coaster ride that can accompany stress, although unemployment has been, for the most part, far less stressful than I would have anticipated. Yes, there is that nagging question always hovering overhead – When will I ever find a new job? – but between unemployment and part-time work, there's enough to pay the mortgage and utilities, although some bills go unpaid. And of course that makes creditors unhappy.

My intent when I started writing this blog, at least initially, was to sift through and tap into some of the emotions I was feeling, to make sense of things and share them with the hope that perhaps someone going through something similar might realize he or she is not alone. I've strayed from that at times, but not by much, I think.

Initially I was stung by grief and hurt but soon turned to acceptance and moved on to begin the daunting task of finding a new job in an economy where opportunity is scarce, particularly in what has been a calling or vocation to me. I've tried to be, successfully, I think, tenacious in this regard, and I am particularly grateful to friends and acquaintances who've forwarded me job leads from time to time (thanks for the batch you shipped over last weekend, Steve).

But sometimes you just feel like that statue with a pigeon on its shoulder, where the discouragement slams you pretty hard between the eyes and casts a pall over an otherwise good day. Monday was like that for me.

My Dad and Mom brought me up with a great respect for truth, honesty and keeping your word, among other good and wholesome things. Yet some of my greatest struggles personally have been keeping my word – to my wife or my kids, for example, when I let my dedication to work get in the way of being home at a certain hour or such.

So when the credit card company called to say, hey, you're three months behind and we're 12 days away from deciding whether or not to sue you, I dropped into a funk. As I explained to the caller, I've not been in a situation before in which my only source of income had been taken away. And of course he reminded me, although he used lawyerly language pertaining to contractual agreements and such, that I was not living up to my word to repay it.

And even as I explained to him the mortgage, utilities and groceries have to be my priority until my employment situation changes, inside, I knew that in essence, albeit unwillingly as hell, I was failing to keep my word.

Now don't get me wrong – I'm not sinking into great depths of depression over this. I have no options at the moment to remedy this short of winning the lottery, and that's not going to happen. I can accept that and move on.

But the phone call did knock the wind out of my sails. While the calls from that company have been coming in with a fair degree of regularity, this was the first time the courtesy and apparently feigned understanding took a harder, edgier tone.

And so, as I have done for years and became more focused about when this whole chapter of my life first opened on Dec. 2, I turned to my faith, seeking comfort and understanding.

And, I remind my self as I also tell others, things could be worse. Job, for instance, was a man of many sorrows. And yet he persisted and prevailed.

The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible states repeatedly in its 12 chapters there is nothing new under the sun, and I take comfort in that on many days. Some would refute the premise, touting technological advances that change the way we do things. But consider this: Regardless of how times change, what new technology arises, what methods people employ to communicate, ultimately, at the very base of our existence nothing really changes.

Man has been adopting new technology since the first stick was sharpened and used as a spear, then was fitted with sharpened flint, which was replaced with copper or bronze and later iron, then guns …

In terms of communication, mankind started with language, then written words, then printed words, telegraph, radio, telephone …

And yet people still sleep at night, wake up in the morning, feel joy, depression, exhilaration, anguish, pain, pleasure, energy, exhaustion, surprise, disappointment, bravery, fear. The sun still rises and set and weather forecasters, despite all the advances in satellite imagery and Doppler radar, still make the wrong predictions (in Wyoming, they always said only fools and greenhorns predict the weather).

This is part of our lot in life. And yet, through the past 116 days, that phrase, there is nothing new under the sun, also reminds me that I am not alone, either spiritually or experientially. Some might laugh, but I take great comfort in my faith, in a God who so loved the world, He sent His only son to save us from out own personal and moral shortcomings. And many times, He's there to comfort us when we're tempted to think that we have no options. All we need to do is turn to Him. And be willing to listen.