And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? -Romans 8:28-31
The past couple of months I've been acclimating to my new job. I can't say that I'm crazy about it, frankly. I find that it has a lot of rather esoteric policies which, while I completely understand why they are in place, kinda rub me the wrong way. I have always held the opinion that procedures laid out by administration are there to do your thinking for you. They're usually written by someone far above who may or may not remember what it is to do your job. Whether they're effective or not, the principle remains that they exist to remove your individual judgment from a situation. I think this does bad things for individual employees, since it simultaneously expects more and less from them than it should. They require more in that an employee must defer to a boss who may or may not be right and remember all the steps in a process which may or may not be helpful (lest they be reprimanded for an ultimately inconsequential mistake). They require less in that they assume the individual worker isn't better off figuring things out for himself. Thus the policy may be more efficient, but that may not be better for the excellence of the employee in a holistic sense. Yeah, I know, "Companies exist to make money, not good people!" Hence, I won't be in this job forever.
Not long ago I was reminiscing with a friend about our college days. He noted that a few years back my self-deprecating sense of humor betrayed an underlying bitterness. I was honestly a bit surprised to find three years later that anyone had noticed. Granted, my immediate family knew my insecurities and that sometimes (okay, often) I masked them with jokes. I knew that about myself and hoped nobody else figured it out. Imagine my surprise upon discovering that it was a topic of discussion among some of my friends--a topic concerning my emotional well-being.
It has really only been in the past few months that this bitterness has been uprooted. Over the past year or so I was convicted that my attitude didn't really match my theology. I believe and publicly espouse a very strong view of God's Providence and oversight in all things. I also believe that God is good and is out for my benefit as His child--even that he is working all these sundry things for my good--no matter what happens. So why did I harbor this nasty self-pity, lurking deep within? More aptly, why did I take all of these failures (mainly relational and ministerial) so personally? I can no more control the actions of another than I can the weather. Sometimes things don't work out, even when you've done everything in your power to fix them. I realized that I was taking as my failure things that only God could control. Only God and other people can control how they made their decisions. Those people I would counsel are accountable for their choices, not me. And if God has already promised that all these confusing, frustrating things work together for my good, how could I blame myself?
It was pride, plain and simple, to take on as mine what God had ordained. I saw how decisions I didn't like were being handed down to me from leaders I was under or from friends who rejected my counsel. I grew to hate the former because they pretended such wisdom when the solution seemed obvious to me. Seeing how those leaders in my organization handled controversies at that time, even now I still think they were wrong. Nevertheless it was God who appointed those people over me and indirectly their decisions came from him. It was mine to honor without begrudging and I failed miserably, if only in my heart. Some of my friends made choices which grieved me to see from afar. It hurt doubly so because I had been sought out for help and counsel. When I saw them do things that I warned against, I felt a foretaste of pain I feared would befall them. Praise God these fears were sometimes unfounded, but often enough they were not. I am still hurt to think about how some bashed their hearts against the craggy shoals of ill-advised solutions. Still, the Scriptures tell us that each must carry his own load. I am not responsible for the spiritual and emotional well-being of every person I meet. To think so is a short road to burnout, pride, and ultimately bitterness. The healing from all this is ongoing and I pray that the lessons I've learned will stick. I have faith now where I didn't before--that all this has somehow built me in Christ's likeness--and I thank him for the joyful and the tough lessons.
None of this to say that I won't stop making self-deprecating jokes. And what's a bigger joke than the quality of my written corpus? Ba-zinga!