It’s… complicated

In the last two years I have applied for two jobs—only two. Obviously, I have not been hitting the pavement searching for employment. Nor have I found myself thinking, “I should look for a different job,” while on my way home from my current job.

Last summer I saw a job listing that looked as if it had been written with me in mind. It involved doing the kind of work I am doing now, but on a college campus. This job also included teaching, and it was at a Christian college, so not just anyone with the right training would be considered. The skills, experiences, and attitudes described as the ideal applicant all matched me perfectly. The only discouraging sign was that they preferred a Master’s degree in the field; even so, they were willing to hire someone who would study to earn a Master’s degree while working for them. Best of all, this college is near my childhood home—so close that I had visited the campus often.

I sent them the required information, and they quickly responded. Later they told me that I was on their short list and asked for additional information. In the end, I was not one of the two people they interviewed on campus, but their last word to me was that if the interviews were unsuccessful they would get back to me. Evidently, I missed getting the job by this-much.

This winter my best friend asked me if I had seen a job listing in the publication from Church Headquarters. I had not—most of the mail that comes from Church Headquarters goes straight to the recycling stack. I found the job listing and saw that they wanted someone who could write for the Church Headquarters. The various kinds of writing all appealed to me, so I decided to apply. The process was automated, and after the initial acknowledgement I heard nothing more for a while. I figured that the computer had read my information and disqualified me before a living human being ever knew I had applied. Meanwhile, just in case they were interested, I took the time to familiarize myself with written information coming from Church Headquarters.

Then, months later, I received an email inviting me to interview over the computer. We scheduled the interview—I put on a tie and suitcoat to talk to people on a computer screen. The interview seemed to go well, and they asked me to email samples of my writing. It sounded as though they were hoping to make a decision rather quickly. Weeks went by, and I heard nothing. I asked myself if I had checked the writing samples carefully for grammar and punctuation and spelling. I was tempted to open the email and double-check those things, but I knew it was too late to change anything, so I didn’t really want to know. Last week I finally got a computer-generated email thanking me for my interest and telling me that the job at Headquarters had been filled. (Yes, I am again dropping all publications from Headquarters in the recycling, unread.)

Not long after the interview, while I still had reason to believe I was being considered for the job, I received a phone call. “Hey, J.,” the caller said. (He is someone I have known for a dozen years.) “Would you be willing to let yourself be considered for a full-time church job?” I had held such a job for a while, then dropped back to part-time church work and took a different full time job. Rather than give a quick yes or no, I asked for a day to think about his question. The next day I returned his call and said I was willing to be considered.

A committee interviewed me over the phone the next week. I was one of three they were interviewing for the job. They promised to keep me posted on their decision. They have not done so. At the beginning of this month, I learned from two round-about ways that they had offered the job to another man. That did not mean that the story was over, though, because it was possible that he would decline their offer.

My thoughts dwelt on full-time church work again. I considered how I would tell my present coworkers about the change, and how I would discuss it with my family. I considered creating a Facebook post with a picture of Michael Jordan and the words, “I’m back.” (Sports fans will understand the reference.) Since I am Facebook friends with my present coworkers, I thought that might not be the best thing to do.

In all three possible job offers, I tried my best to pray the words, “Thy will be done.” I tried not to add, “but if you want my opinion, Lord….” Even though I do not have a burning desire to change jobs, any of these three would have been good for me, and I would have been good in any of them. Finally, it was good for me to consider the question, would I be willing to be considered for a full-time job in the church. I am not ready to go looking for such a job, but if one were offered to me, I would very likely accept.

This morning I learned that the other man who was interviewed and who was offered the job has accepted. That door is closed, but I have a suspicion that another door is about to open. J.


On tenterhooks

You see a listing for a job opening. (Perhaps your best friend asks if you’ve seen it, and you hadn’t.) You read the description of the job, and it sounds like something you would enjoy doing and something you would do well. The application process is entirely online, so you answer the questions, attach a resume, and then you wait. The next day an automatic email acknowledges your application, but then you wait some more.

A month passes. Nothing has come from the company since the automatic email. You decide that the system has skipped you. Something in your application must not have matched one of the company’s high priorities for the position. You give up hope and turn your full attention back to your present life.

Then an email arrives. They want to interview you over a distance and select a day and a time they hope will be convenient. You reply quickly that the day and time they suggested is indeed convenient, and you arrange to take that afternoon off from work. You prepare yourself as well as you can, including a list of questions to ask when they invite questions from you.

The day comes. The interview seems to go well. They ask for additional information, and you send it the same day, along with a thank-you note for the interview. Then you wait some more.

A week passes. A second week is over. You are beginning to believe that some other applicant has been more appealing to the company. You know that they wanted to fill the position by the end of the month, and your sense of hope for the job dwindles.

This anticipation, hoping for a good thing but unsure if it will happen, is called being on tenterhooks. When cloth is made from wool or cotton or other natural fibers, it is stretched on a tent-like frame, called a tenter, to dry. Tenterhooks hold the cloth to the tenter so the cloth does not shrink. When you feel pulled in various directions by the tension of a possible change, you are much like the cloth held in place by tenterhooks.

During this time, you are living two lives. You are trying to stay in the present, take care of your house, and do your job. Yet you also are thinking about the new job, wondering about when you can move and what your next house will be like, and even deciding how you will announce to your coworkers that you are living. You are in the painful position of having one foot on each side of the fence. Until you know for sure about the job, it’s hard to keep from thinking about it, wondering about it, and even planning for it.

In a sense, Christians live like that every day. We know Jesus is coming in glory on a future Day to change the world, to make it perfect. We do not know when that Day will be. It could be tomorrow, or even later today. It might not come for a hundred years, or even a thousand years. Jesus said it would be soon, but soon to the eternal and unchanging God is not like your soon.

While we wait for that Day and plan for that Day, we have our lives to live in this sin-stained world. We have work to do: loving God, loving our neighbors, helping those who need help, forgiving those who sin against us. We share the good news of the Kingdom, even as we wait and wonder when the Kingdom will be fully revealed. We are on tenterhooks, stretched tight, anticipating a change for the better but not knowing when it will happen.

The difference is that we know it will happen. We have full confidence that Jesus keeps all his promises. He has promised to reveal his glory, raise the dead, announce his judgment, and welcome into his Kingdom all his people. We know that we are his people, because he has lived perfect righteousness to make us his people. He has sacrificed his life to take us out of the power of the enemy. He has risen to defeat all enemies. He has told us about his righteousness, his sacrifice, and his victory; and through his telling, he has given us faith in him.

We live each day as if it might be the Last Day. We keep ourselves busy doing the things we want to be caught doing when Jesus appears in the sky. At the same time, we plan for the future. We plant trees. We take care of the world and of ourselves and our neighbors, knowing that the Day might not come for a long time yet.

We have a foot on each side of the fence. We do the best we can in this world, but already we are citizens of God’s Kingdom. That citizenship empowers us to live like God’s people today. We may be on tenterhooks, but we know the future, and it is good. J.


Job interview fantasy

Do you create silly scenarios in your head, imagining situations that will never happen? I do.

I imagine myself applying for a job at a Christian company. In the job interview, they ask me some difficult questions: which law in the Bible do you find hardest to obey, and why; and which commandment in the Bible do you find easiest to obey, and why?

How would you answer these questions?

I think the hardest commandment for me to obey is “love your neighbor.” Some of my neighbors are easy to love, especially the ones I don’t see very often. I can love people I never met and donate money to feed them and to send missionaries to them. Other neighbors make obedience to that command much harder for me.

In particular, I find it hard to love Mrs. Dim. The sound of her voice, like the sound of her lawn tools, wracks my nerves. Her negative judgment of me, based on the quality of my lawn care, offends me. Her deliberate insults bother me. Some days, just hearing the sound of her car’s tires on her driveway sets my heart racing with anxiety.

But if I saw her ox or her donkey wandering, I would help bring it back home. If her car was stuck in ice and snow, I would help push it free. If she collapsed in her yard, I would rush to her aid, carrying a cell phone to call 911. If that’s not love, what is?

I find it hard to love Mrs. Dim, in part because she gives me no opportunity to love her. Other people are also hard to love. A message has been traveling around Facebook to the effect that each of us should care as much about the people we see every day as we care about our favorite celebrities. That’s good advice.

Which commandment do I find easiest to obey? I have no trouble not cooking a goat in its mother’s milk. I realize that some legalists have banned all dishes that mix dairy and meat because of the slim chance that one of the animals that provided the meat was the offspring of the cows or goats that were milked. No pizza with both meat and cheese. No cheeseburgers. No casseroles with both meat and dairy. I would struggle to accept those dietary restrictions, if I thought that’s what God intended, but Jesus and the apostles have declared all foods clean.

The original command probably banned a practice of Canaanite religion. The zeal of those who try to observe it in extreme ways today is admirable, but the freedom Christians have is beautiful. We do not have to worry about what we eat or what we drink or what we wear, aside from good stewardship of our bodies. It is easy to follow commandments that have already been fulfilled for us by the righteousness of Christ.

So, do I get the job? J.