Once again I’ve found myself in a situation where I was obedient and the blessing I expected is nowhere in sight.
After almost two years of being prompted to quit my second job, I’ve finally complied.
You see, I have a little work problem. I have always, since I turned 18, worked compulsively at the expense of everything else. When pregnant, I disobeyed doctor’s orders, hustling through 60 hour work weeks in a physically demanding field, up until the day I gave birth. Later, I sacrificed my relationship with my kid’s dad for a 90 hour work week. For years, a parade of nannies raised my children while I worked 4 am to 4 pm (or 5 or 6 or 7) shifts 7 days a week. Friendships have fallen to the wayside because I had clients to see. I’ve neglected family members in order to pick up more shifts. In the last 5 years I’ve found myself- once the girl involved in a half-dozen ministries- with no time to serve at church, attend bible studies, or volunteer at functions.
Time after time, God has prompted me to slow down, work less, and rely on Him more. I have been very slow to listen. At times He has even put me out of commission and I have still hobbled into work. Literally.
Months into opening my restaurant, despite the fact that my fiance had left, my nannies kept quitting, and I had fallen asleep at the wheel on more than one occasion, I still insisted upon spinning my wheels. I could always justify my compulsion. I had to be in the restaurant every day. They couldn’t handle a rush without me! I had to arrive at 4 a.m. It’s impossible to find a reliable baker! I had to stay later and later each evening. My assistant manager needed help! I had better just sleep on the couch in the coffee shop rather than heading home. I didn’t have two hours to waste on the commute!
When, after all those consequences, I refused to restrain myself, God (in His grace) restrained me.
Here’s how it happened: One Friday afternoon, in a rare bit of time with my daughters, both toddlers at the time, I was horsing around, tickling them and reveling in their giggles. I scooped both girls into my arms and took a victory lap round the house, crowing about winning tickle fights- champion of the world! Upstairs and downstairs I jogged, until finally, I took one little hop of the very last step and…O!, I landed all wrong, and pain jolted through my body. Instinctively I rolled as I fell, cradling my daughters in my arms, and neither girl was hurt but I wasn’t so lucky. Both of my ankles broke simultaneously.
First, orthopedics was closed for the weekend, they couldn’t get me an appointment to be casted until midway through the next week. I was told to stay in bed. I called my boss, “Bring me a laptop so I can still be useful!” I worked on programming our new POS system from bed.
Then, the casts went on. I wasn’t able to drive. I charged one assistant manager with driving the 25 miles to pick me up each morning at 3:15 am, then delivering me into the restaurant so she could do the baking under my supervision.
I was under strict doctor’s orders not to get up out of the wheelchair they’d given me. Casts or no casts, permanent damage would result from bearing weight on my ankles. I didn’t even manage to stay seated for two full shifts before I jumped up and started hobbling around the kitchen. It drove me nuts, verbally directing my assistant manager in baking without helping. Even in casts, I was faster than her! Then I lost my mind when the line started running 20 minute ticket times at lunch. They needed me on the line to keep up! Then a dishwasher called out sick. I had to pick up the slack! Every day I found a reason to haul myself out of that chair and stump around the kitchen.
I walked so much that I walked a hole right through my non-walking cast.
My assistant manager drove me back to the ER. I tried to make my face a blank look of innocence when I told the receptionist, then the nurse, then the doctor that a hole had appeared in my cast.
“Have you been walking on this?” they queried over and over.
It was a bit more difficult to maintain my mask of mild shock and unruffled innocence as they extracted a large piece of potato out of the foot of the sawed open cast and silently presented it as evidence against me.
“Weird. How’d that get there?”
I was re-casted and sent home.
A few weeks later, I could not arrange for a ride to work for one morning. My assistant managers were both unavailable, the owner and his wife off the island, every friend I called on busy. As the day approached I grew desperate. If I could just get the cast off my right foot, I could drive myself.
That was the day that I learned it takes three hours to hack off a cast with a bread knife.
I made it into work. Don’t worry, ya’ll. No one missed out on a muffin that morning. Whew!
Three days later, back in the ER, my doctor was not laughing as I quipped that my cast had miraculously disappeared a few days early to save him the job of removal.
In disgust, he had me wheeled off to x-ray. And, would you believe it? My ankles were not healing properly! Huh. I was put back in a cast for a few more weeks. No surprise, fourteen years later, I still have ankle problems.
I have laid down many precious and beautiful things at the altar of work and watched them go up in flames. And my Daddy keeps telling me to knock it off.
Kate, he has been gently prodding for years, this is an idolatry problem. You are trusting in your own abilities to save you when I have promised to take care of you.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. ~ Psalms 127: 1-2, NIV
Recently, I slipped back into my old pattern. I had begun sacrificing my new marriage for the sake of holding on to my two jobs, leaving the house early, returning home long after my husband must be in bed. Even at home, my work problem took its toll; when irritable and worn out, I am quick to snap at my family.
I went back and forth with the Lord. (“You’re working too much again.”) I have to work two jobs. (“Why?”) We need the money. (“Haven’t I promised to provide for you?”) Jason doesn’t have a job! (“And I lavishly supplied your needs through a hundred generous friends and family members at your wedding.”) Then he found a job, but at only cents above minimum wage. (“Isn’t it just enough to cover every expense?”) But Jason’s student loans are going to need to be repaid starting in April (“Do not worry about tomorrow, for today has enough worries of its own.”)
In the meantime, I’d been praying. Praying and praying and praying for God to provide Jason with a better job. He had a good prospect. A company that he was interested in had interviewed him twice and seemed interested. They were just moving so slowly!
You know what, I finally decided, God is probably waiting to give Jason this job until after I do what I’ve been asked. And so, I finally mustered up my courage a month ago and quit my second job.
O, the freedom! O, the joy of trusting in the Lord! O, the blessed sweetness of getting home before dark!
But no instant job blessing has followed.
Jason never got called back by that job company that interviewed him twice and seemed to like him so much. That connection he made at church with a local engineer has borne no fruit. All those revisions to his resume and cover letter have been met with silence.
This, Daddy, was not was I expected. Honestly, I thought you’d be so pleased with my choice to finally listen that you’d immediately respond with a good paying job at a local engineering field with decent hours and a kindly mentor of a boss. What? That’s totally reasonable.
Once more I find myself in the same position I was in all those years of singleness. I have been obedient. I have (finally?) done what the Lord asked. Yet, the blessing that I expected to follow is nowhere in sight.
I could be an anxious, worried mess right now. I could be bitter and frustrated. Miraculously, I’m not.
Or should I say, I wasn’t, at least up until last night.
You see I had written the majority of this blog, all the way up to “Miraculously, I’m not,” by yesterday morning, trying to get a head start on this week’s writing. All I had left to do was to tie it up, do a final edit and publish in order to be right on time for Sunday morning.
Neat. Tidy. Easy. Lesson learned!
Then, around 9 o’ clock Saturday evening, Jason showed me the email. The one from the accountant. It wasn’t good news.
Our amended tax returns were finally complete, and we weren’t getting the refund we had hoped for. Rather, we owe the Feds $3,500. Thirty-five hundred dollars! All of a sudden all my plans for our tax returns went up in smoke. Tucking money into savings. Paying the credit card bill for that new dryer. Taking care of that outstanding medical bill. All gone. Replaced with panic.
Where are we going to get an extra three grand? Why, this is the month Jason’s student loans start coming due and that’s already got our budget stretched paper thin. We were needing this return to give us some wiggle room in the form of a padded savings account.
I crawled into bed fully dressed and started ugly crying. What am I going to do!? Visions of credit cards started dancing through my head. Maybe I could take out another card, the one with the lower rate the credit union offered, and pay off the dryer, medical bills and taxes with that? Gah, we already have more credit cards than is wise. I started the mental flip through family members who might be able to help us out with a short term loan. No one is in any better financial position than we are. And, as always, I landed back on work.
I could pick up some tutoring clients! I bet Odyssey would take me back as a tutor. I was always the best one they had. It’s only been a month since I left. I know my clients miss me. They’ve called to tell me as much. At x dollars an hour, picking up y hours a week, I could pay off the taxes in z months.
When Jason crawled into bed, grabbed my hands, and started praying aloud, my brain wouldn’t stop spinning. He prayed, “Lord, thank you…” I plotted…”for your provision”…plus 2 or 3 private clients…”we trust you”…just a few more months of crazy hours…”Amen.”
His amen lingered in the air, as I lay there, holding his hands with no words to pray.
Finally I tried, but it came out all wrong, “Lord, this is not how I expected you to behave. I thought I would quit my job and you would reward my act of faith. You were supposed to give Jason a good job. I thought everything would get easier and it’s only getting harder!” And with that I dropped my husband’s hands, mumbled “I can’t,” rolled over to give him my back, and wept.
We stayed like that for awhile as, gently and patiently, the Lord began to reassure me. My sobs abated, my sinuses began to clear, and my racing mind finally stilled.
Slowly, I began to pray again.
“Thank you, Lord. We have never gone without. You have always provided for our every need. Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity to grow our faith. I can’t wait to see how you will move in this situation. We are going to be able to look back on this and proclaim, ‘Look what the Lord has done.’ Not what Kate has done. Not what Jason has done. What the Lord has done.”