It’s been awhile since I’ve written here. Last Wednesday I started a part-time job at FedEx Ground in Rogers, just to bring in some money while I pursue writing work. It is a young man’s game: 3:45 to 7 a.m., Tuesday through Saturday, sorting packages for daily delivery. I rise, stretch in the darkness, dress, eat a light breakfast, drink a little coffee followed by lots of water, and pray on the way into town. I work on a conveyor belt, loading trucks for their daily routes, and my manager and I are perhaps the only people over 30 working on our line. I am stiff and achy, but getting in shape and losing weight.
I am also losing sleep, in part because it’s tough to adjust to going to bed when the sun and the kids are still up, and in part because of the dreams.
Saturday night I dreamed I was on the line, watching the conveyor for packages assigned to my trucks…but the numbers I needed to see were blurred out like they do with personal information on television. I woke in a mild panic, realized it was only a dream, said a quick prayer, and fell back to sleep, only to find myself on the line again. This time the conveyor belt led out of the truck I was supposed to load, undoing the work as fast as I could get it done!
Nearly every time I see someone I know, they ask how am I doing, followed by what am I doing. Here’s the scoop: I’m still looking for work, praying a lot, and trying to write. I don’t regret the choice to leave my church job, but it’s hard not to know how we’re going to make ends meet this fall if something doesn’t come together soon.
I confessed my anxiety and lack of trust a couple of weeks ago, and my confessor advised me to reflect on two things:
- First, when Moses told the Israelites he was going to lead them out of Egypt, they, too, wanted to follow. Only when they got to the desert and were thirsty, hungry, and tired, did they begin to complain and second-guess their decision. I am in the desert now. It makes sense that I’m thirsty, hungry, and tired. If I were to complain, I’m in good company—at least I’m not yet second-guessing the decision to follow.
- Second, when we pray the Our Father, one petition stands out as redundant: “Give us this day our daily bread.” We don’t pray the God give us this day our weekly or monthly bread, or let us have enough food for the year. We repeat the words “day” and “daily” to underscore that we rely on God moment by moment to sustain us. “It’s not easy,” he said, “to ask for just what you need today and trust God to take care of it. But if you can live that way, it’s the path to sanctity.”
At the silent retreat now more than a week ago, I spent some time reflecting on why, now that I’ve stepped out of the boat, I doubt and begin to sink beneath the waves. Several things came to mind, but two reasons stick out because they present a paradox.
- I doubt because I know I’m not capable on my own.
- At the same time, I doubt because I’m not in control.
Do you see the conundrum? I don’t want to yield control to the only One capable of directing my life to the good.
My whole life I’ve been blessed with work and new opportunities when I’ve needed them. I’ve had great confidence in my ability to find work and do the job well, to learn and grow and deliver. Now here I am at age 42, trying to learn a new trick: to trust God completely. And I have to, because for the past few months I’ve done nearly everything I can think of to drum up work and have come up empty.
I cannot make this happen. I can only do what I can do, and pray that God comes through in the end.
And then it occurs to me: nothing has changed except my perspective. All those years of having steady work and good pay were never guaranteed, and my best efforts could not ensure that any particular job, my career, or even my life wouldn’t end tomorrow.
I have been completely dependent on God from birth. I’ve always been in the dark, treading an uncertain sea. I just never noticed before.
Lord, be patient with me as I learn to trust you. And if it pleases you, give me this day one clear step forward toward steady work. Amen.