For as many metaphors I tried to muster up to make more sense of it—the once savannah-stalking king of Pride Rock to a now sedated Simba lying in low-income Georgia Zoo housing; to the formerly tenacious tightrope walker who tripped over a tricycle tire after tip-toeing over Times Square; to the out of work, alliteration obsessed writer struggling to create fortune cookie prophecies—I could really only find two words that aptly described these past two months: “This sucks.”
Losing your job sucks. That can be so writhingly true. Both debilitating and demoralizing, unemployment can paralyze someone into a crippling self-analysis of the past and a nagging worry of the future. By the amazing generosity of God, I was finally given a lift out of my working mire and onto some stable productive ground. In fact, when I first got the job offer, I felt like an Israelite stepping onto the grass of the Promised Land for the first time.
I guess that’s probably the best metaphor I can use to help grapple with the frustration of playing the waiting game. Besides groveling, having golden-calf-themed dance parties and drafting Levitical Laws, do you ever wonder what the Israelites did during those 40 years in the Sinai? After the intense epic rescue they experienced in Egypt, the Israelites found themselves in events that could be barely considered interesting for the likes of daytime TV:
“That idiot cousin of mine. Used my oxen last week, returned it two days late and overworked it to the point where it limps in its back left leg. We don’t have a decent judicial system, let alone a Judge Judy. Once more I’ll have to go to the understaffed and under-qualified Moses to wait in line for weeks to hopefully get 10 minutes of face time.”
At least they had oxen. I recently graduated from college (that’s what my résumé told all my prospective employers). During my three-and-a-half-year university career, I found myself surrounded constantly by a world of creative, intellectual, spiritual and relational stimulation. It was fresh, tough, inspiring, wonderful, lonely, stressful—so many things, so many emotions and experiences. And then, like so many of us, I found myself on the outside of it. And it’s been stale and mundane and frustrating and seemingly purposeless—all boring.
I’d get depressed that my apathetic imagination was starved for adventure, purpose and passion. Was this it, to wait out the gray landscape of twentysomething obscurity, only to find myself in a cubicle waiting again for a paycheck? Immediately, I went to the back of my Raisin Bran box “quotes of the century” looking for inspiration. I had hit rock bottom, and I didn’t even have a lead guitarist wanting to leave my band. I don’t even have a band. And then another hard moment: realizing I’ll never make Behind the Music.
Moving through the Sinai must have at times seemed as exciting as yard sale negotiation with your grandfather. Manna every day certainly was a miraculous blessing, but after so many years, the exhilaration wore off. Tedious to say the least, The Levitical Laws must have grown obnoxious. And the Promised Land was probably questioned as being nothing more than a Utopian retirement community. Life in Sinai was simple: Walk, eat God’s delivered heavenly bread and keep the commands. Life in unemployment is pretty similar: Survive and look for a job. Lacking the proper resources during these times, the Israelites and I had few diversions.
At least I had Internet and TV.
And so in our respective stories, there we were, me and the 12 tribes, waiting. Waiting on what? It’s a question I should have asked more during my time of wandering. Was I waiting just to get off the path of unemployment and onto a greener hill? And what of Moses and the gang? Were they walking all that time just to get to the honey-induced lands of Canaan? Consider this—
“Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God” (Deut. 29:2-6).
God is the God of our circumstances. It’s easy to roll that one off. But God is still our God when we lose our job? In fact, God may have us wait and wander for a time? It’s definitely a struggle to justify yourself to peers who seem well on their way, while you are spinning your wheels. After all my time in school, I wanted some kind of justification for my hard work. And didn’t the Israelites at least deserve a weekend at some hot springs after slaving in mud for 400 years? If only we could get to where we need to be going, now. Enough of the detours and floating clouds; thanks for the laws and tips on living. Get us out of this wild brush and to our Promised Spot before sunset. What is this path You have us walking on, God?
God isn’t worried about staying ahead of the traffic. He hasn’t misplaced his Cosmic Compass and isn’t one of those guys who should stop and ask for directions. He’s the only One who has them. And if we want to get to where we really need to be going, we’re going to have to do a lot of asking and trusting.
It’s pretty amazing that the sandals of the Israelites never wore out. Putting aside the miracle of divinely manufactured Gortex, how does God get praise in walking apparel that needs no lifetime guarantee? Where’s God’s glory in my mundane unemployment situation?
Simply put, our needs bring God glory. Our dependence and helplessness and waiting and wandering and scratching our heads till we touch brain bring our Heavenly Guide honor. “I did this so that you might now that I am the Lord … your God.”
You get to a point where yes, you know when something comes from Him. Thank You, Lord, for giving me this new job. Thank You for the wonderful Canaanite real estate. But you come to realize that He is yours and you are His when He takes you through the crooked pathways. It is one thing to be given a set of directions to a destination; it’s quite another thing to have someone lead you there. I think God’s blessings are demonstrated in His Promised Lands, but I believe His devotion to us is made evident in the pathways He takes us through.
Ultimately, God will never have us settled and completely satisfied in any Promised Land we come across in this life. Any element of the journey—spouse, family, career, etc.—has been designed to get us ready for our true Promised Land: being with God. And until we step onto that eternal patch of grass, we all have to keep waiting and watching for what’s next on the trail.