Grace and Unemployment

Everything is a matter of perspective.

That’s what I find myself thinking this morning as I sit down to prayer with my journal, Bible and a cup of coffee. Everything is a matter of perspective, and God who is infinite beyond our imaginations is in all of it. I see this in the Annunciation.

“How can this be?” Mary asked when the angel Gabriel announced, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Luke 1:34,31). Her first reaction to the angel’s appearance must have been fear because he told her not to be afraid (Luke 1:30), but she opened herself to the possibility that God was at work in her life. That was the perspective she chose, and each of us has a similar opportunity when faced with frightening circumstances.

Currently, I am unemployed. My primary source of income — unemployment compensation — has stopped because my former employers appealed the state’s approval. I experience moments of fear. How will I pay my rent? How will I buy groceries?
However, more often I am saddened to see this situation become unnecessarily adversarial and am filled with trust that God is at work. That is my choice.

That trust does not depend upon what can be grasped with human understanding. Only with His grace can any of us experience an opening of the heart and mind which allows us to see the way God works. However, once He has poured His grace into our lives, we can know His love and can see He shows us this love in ways we couldn’t imagine, ways we can only glimpse with 20/20 hindsight. If God also gives us the grace of remembrance after our hearts and minds have been opened, we can learn to trust Him while we traverse difficult circumstances by remembering what has come before.

So many examples from my life come to mind as I write this, but perhaps the most striking is from 12 years ago when I was unemployed for 10 months. I had foolishly allowed myself to be persuaded to take a job I did not want, and learned within the first week I was more unsuited for it than I had known. However, I had accepted the position, so I rolled up my sleeves and went to work. Fifteen months later, I was escorted from the building.

Although I was eventually vindicated, the experience was devastatingly humiliating. The story and my picture in the next day’s paper only increased my shame. I didn’t want to live. Fortunately, God sent me good friends who stood loyally by my side.

But He did more. He drew me to himself in a new way. My practice of beginning each day with prayer and meditation has its roots in that bleak period in my life. Too, my association with a religious order grew out of that time, and through that association, I learned to live my faith more fully.

Having experienced this and many more blessings from that time, I can see the decision to terminate my employment was right for all concerned, though it certainly didn’t feel that way at the time. At the time, my eyes were blind to the win-win aspect because I could only see I was out of work and the situation had been handled in a way which made it difficult for me to get another job. I could not see until much later that God had been working to give me something sweet and precious beyond measure, a heartfelt experience of His love.

Having seen that God’s win-win doesn’t necessarily look win-win in terms by which we commonly measure our life experiences, I find it easier to abandon myself to His will. I can say like Mary in more situations than previously, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) — or, for those of us not gifted with an angel’s presence, “May it be done to me according to your will.”

I am grateful each and every time God gives me the grace to abandon myself to His will in this way, grateful beyond measure. However, I have to admit it wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit if He would choose a different teaching tool than unemployment.

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