Monday, March 31, 2008

The Decadence of Unemployment

As I write to you from Dogtooth--my favorite coffee shop in the Springs--I can't escape the feeling of decadence that consumes one when sitting at a coffee shop on a Monday morning while the rest of the American population commutes to earn the all important dollar. It is the decadence of the unemployed. Other indulging patrons, I notice, are mostly in their late 50s to early 60s (retirees). Maybe one or two full-time moms stopping in after dropping the kids at school. But I am by far the youngest patron, and I hazard a guess the only one in the unemployed ranks who probably shouldn't be in those ranks.

In my arrogance, I often think of the unemployed statistic as the homeless guy who hangs out all day on the bench at Pikes Peak and Tejon. Or the factory-worker who was laid-off because his job was exported overseas. Or the gal who couldn't quite keep up with the technology revolution. But today I make-up a portion of that statistic. I am one of the 7.4 million people in this country listed as unemployed.

Does this frighten me? Yes and no. There is always the terror that I won't find another job or that it will take a significant amount of time for me to find another job. Finances, for better or for worse, contribute to majority of the stress in our lives. I can understand why financial strains are one of the major reasons for divorce in this country. And while I know that I can be a squatter on my parent's couch if absolutely necessary, I've entered that period of life where I would really like to be able to stand on my own two feet--wobbly as they might be.

So then it comes back to how much do I really trust God. The B&N gig was a position that pretty much fell into my lap--a happy coincidence that I fully believe was entirely orchestrated by God. And in the last few months, especially the last month, I am confident that the Lord guided me to the culmination of my B&N employment. So if God gave me the job and God took me out of it, then logical deduction says that God will provide the what that comes next. Of course that's assuming that God is logical--He is, but is not bound by human logic. That also assumes a certain amount of faith on my part.

There are some points about God and life with God to which faith comes naturally for me. For instance, I easily believe in God being divine creator who is still actively involved in creation. The evidence is all around me, and I do not have a scientific brain that feels the need to dissect all of life to either prove or disprove the theory of creation. Not to mention that once you listen to grass farmer Joel Salatin talk about the inner and outer workings of his farm, doubt in a Creator God seems fully implausible. But when Jesus says, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (TNIV, Matthew 6:25,33)--that stretches my faith a little farther than it naturally wants to go.

I think that in quitting my job I was seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness. But I'm not so sure that sitting in today's decadence that I am fully believing in the second part of Jesus' statement: and all these things will be given to you as well. I call it decadence because it feels in complete contradiction to what society would label as wisdom. And trusting God to provide as He provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field requires something of me that is higher than what is required of the birds and the lilies. In God's intelligent design of us, He gave you and me a higher consciousness than the rest of His creation. This produces a conundrum of faith. What is required of the birds to believe in God's provision is much less than what is required of us.

But I guess this is what faith is: "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (TNIV, Hebrews 11:1). I know what I hope for, and it is much more than just a new job. I hope for and believe in God's deliverance of our world from the social injustices that plague it. I believe in the new earth that God has promised. I hope for a world fully reconciled to Him. These are things that cause me to come to God with faith and hope. I seek for surety in His promises. And if I sit in my decadence today, I trust that tomorrow I will sit within the well-spring of His provision. And perhaps today I also cry out with the boy's father in Mark 9, "Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Adulthood. What is it really? And when do we arrive there? Is there a day we wake up and say, "Ah, adulthood, I have arrived" or is it something that in revelry of the past we stop and say, "oh, there was adulthood in that moment"?

When I was a child, I thought that being an adult meant being married and having kids. Adults drove cars, worked 9-5 jobs, served at church or in some other volunteer role. They went to kids' soccer games and watched R-rated movies. But those are not the things that define my adulthood if I am one. And honestly, I'm not sure what does define my adulthood. Maybe I'm just a miniature adult, playing at life. I'm still practicing to be an adult as I would practice playing the piano. The scary thing is that I gave up the piano. My overly-stimulated and short-attention-span child brain got bored and I quit. (Something I now regret.) But you can't quit adulthood the way you quit a musical instrument or a new hobby that doesn't quite spark your interest.

I guess the question that I'm asking is what do you do with us twenty-somethings who supposedly are in the realm of adulthood. What do you do with this new group of people who aren't choosing marriage and kids as early as our parents or even our older siblings? What do you do with the squatters, squatting on their parents' couch or a friend's couch? What do you do with our job-hopping, career-hopping, hoping for the next best thing selves? What do you do with brilliant, post-modern minds that can't seem to settle into what is essentially still a modern world?

We are drifting on the edge of a great something--a great unknown. We are emerging into something new that has never existed before. And some days I feel like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause shouting to his parents and the world "You're tearing me apart!" And some days I believe that we are on the forefront of forever altering the way we all look at the world with eyes of justice and hope.

And then some days I wonder what it was to be Jesus. Did He feel an adult from that moment in the temple at ten-years-old? His baptism? The transfiguration? Was there a moment when He said, "This is real and I'm in this thing"? And in my wildest moments--moments of desperation and desire--I fall into Him. I fall into Jesus knowing that the quandary of adulthood is simply that. Adulthood is a quandary made up meaningless nothings without Him and purposeful, meaningful somethings with Him. When I loose myself in the dizzying meanderings of my post-modern, twenty-something mind, then I loose sight of Jesus. And child or adult, He is the stuff that life is made of.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Admitting to Fear

My biggest fear is to be alone--alone in the sense of relationally alone, not in the sense of being by myself. My second biggest fear is failure. It is this second fear that plagues me currently, and the fear of failure often begets the fear of being alone.

I am afraid that I have failed. I have not shared this on my blog or indeed with some of my closest friends because I am afraid they too will think I have failed. How have I failed? Or how have I possibly failed? I quit my job. I am officially sitting with two weeks left of work at the B&N and no job lined up after those two weeks.

Why did I quit my job? I quit on principle. I quit because my integrity and character were being called into question. I quit because of slander and false rumors that defamed my character and in the defamation of me, defamed God. I quit because I had been put in a threatening and borderline abusive position by upper management.

I do not regret quitting my job for these reasons. I believe that I made the best decision--ethically, morally, and spiritually. But now I am without employment, and I fear that means I have failed and moreover means I am a failure.

Fear is a strange thing. It can be the thing that keeps us motionless or the impetus for change. It can be the thing that holds us to weakness or the thing that encourages strength. Paul told Timothy that "God did not give us a spirit of timidity [fear], but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:10). I've got to be honest that the Spirit of God in me may lead to power, love, and self-discipline, but I'm afraid that my fleshly fear may often hinder that. That fear of waking up one day and finding myself completely alone possibly as a result of my failure is a powerful fear. And days come when I know and believe that the spirit of power, love and self-discipline God has anointed me with is so much stronger than the spirit of fear. But there are other days when my fleshly side wins out.

I know that my mother is reading this thinking that I put too much pressure on myself, and I do. Even here I am afraid of failure. I am afraid of really letting you see the deeper well-spring in me, and I am afraid of not doing justice to my current subject matter. I am my best and often my worst critic. And part of me wants to end this post by telling you that I know, trust, and believe in a God who is bigger than my fear and who can and does cast that fear out of me. And I do. But I'm also a messy human. And thank the Lord that He does provide that perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18). And thank the Lord that He so graciously forgives me when I succumb to fear--even the same fear over and over again. So I won't end with a great profession of faith, but rather I'll tell you this: that I'm afraid that I have failed--which I recognize to be a lie--and I am afraid of what the future holds. So when you think on it, say a prayer for me, and hopefully I'll say a prayer for you sometime soon, too.