Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Eight Years

Eight long years.

That's how long my 58-year-old husband has been underemployed. Anyone over fifty years old who loses a job faces an uphill battle. Sometimes, these people end up working a few part-time jobs to make ends meet--never again obtaining full-time work. They're overworked, under-paid, with no paid vacation, holidays, or sick time, precious little leisure time, and little to no money going into retirement accounts. What's more, their Social Security will ultimately be reduced by the underemployment, because your disbursement is mostly based on what you earn in the final years.

In all this time, I have persevered, believing my role is clearly defined by the Lord. My children and the home are my primary work. What's more, I believe marriage is for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, no matter how hard those predicaments are. If my husband suddenly became brain-injured, I wouldn't be looking for another husband.

Just more grace.

Our children are growing, needing more and more food, so last April I started babysitting. Still, we were barely making it to the next payday, despite visiting the local food pantry once a month.

Suddenly, change teased from the horizon.

My husband got a first and second interview for a very good job and I began to hope, feeling that surely now the Lord would bless us. Eight years is long enough to endure priceless lessons in humility, gratitude, and reliance on God.

Surely, right? It must finally be our time.

Despite fasting and relentless praying, they chose someone else.

I was so devastated, you know? I have another family member desperately searching for full-time work after fifty, and I feel her pain keenly. She's been searching for over three years, going on many interviews, working very hard to prepare each time. And still nothing. They always choose someone else.

How do you keep hope alive? How do you keep on keeping on, searching for work and fetching expired cans and rotten lettuce and stinky potatoes from the food pantry, without completely losing it? How do you smile for the children and quote uplifting scriptures? (We are not hungry. Do not gift us...just let me share my path and how I attempt to navigate it for His glory...okay?)

The truth is, the Christian life is like this. Couples pray for babies and remain barren. Sick and mentally-challenged people pray for healing that never comes. Workers pray for jobs that don't materialize. Pastors pray for a large flock...one that never arrives.

Some no answers are temporary, and some for a lifetime.

That's not to say that prayer is a waste of time. Prayer--communing with the Holy Spirit--reminds us of His power and our humble state. Communing with the Spirit is a gift in and of itself.

Jesus didn't die to become our bottled Genie. The Bible tells us that God gives his children good gifts, but a fat bank account isn't necessarily a good gift. We are what we focus on and most of us focus on material needs. We spend a lot of time acquiring and planning to acquire, because to have nothing or not enough seems inconceivable.

When we focus on the material, we'll never have enough.

But when we focus on spiritual gifts? We find a goldmine within our own souls.

I have a choice. I can adjust my gaze, either squarely on my self and my perceived lack, or on Him and his spiritual brilliance and abundance.

The fleshly me sometimes exits the grocery store wishing for a different husband. One who can provide all the food we want, handily. The highest quality available, no less. These are fleeting thoughts that I hold captive quickly, having decided a long time ago that I wouldn't hold my husband accountable for my happiness. Happiness--or joy, rather--is between me and my God, not between me and my husband. My husband has his own battle for joy, and yours does too. We can't add to that burden.

Life, and marriage, are unspeakably hard. Life has always been hard, for every generation, at every historical point. The reasons it's hard may change over time, but no human ever had an easy life.

In the past people died often and young from disease; loss was commonplace for everyone. In the past people depended on good weather for an adequate harvest, and going hungry or eating only the same couple foods over and over was expected at times. War and injustice have ravaged hearts and lands for generations.

Adam and Eve are the only humans who had it easy....until they got cocky and wanted more. Gratitude is the cure for a perceived lack.

But it's not enough to give thanks for your home and family, for your food and clothes. That's shallow gratitude. To feel really full, give thanks for Him. Give thanks for who you are in Christ Jesus.

Take time to dwell there, in His presence. He is your prize. He is the gift. He is the answer. He is the yes you were waiting for. Wrap yourself in His eternal promises. Be quieted by His love.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!