I was in full blown anger and bitterness mode. I felt increasingly like I was treated with a great lack of compassion when I needed my former employers the most. At my lowest point, I even consulted a lawyer who was willing to take them to court if I gave the word, but I knew in my heart it wasn't a solution to any part of the problem.
Then last weekend I helped out at a women's retreat at Forest Home and was able to hear a great speaker Becky White, whose life--I have to say--is much more messy than mine. (God bless her.) And I believe it was a divine appointment, because frankly I couldn't have listened to someone whose life read like a Joel Osteen book. And to give you a glimpse into how I was feeling at the time, I'll share with you a bit of what I wrote down over that weekend:
Our friend Spencer uses a wonderful and unforgettable object lesson to help us understand how two truths can be opposed to each other and yet both still be true. It's this idea of a rubber band, and it perfectly describes my predicament.This is a very abbreviated version of what I was feeling last Saturday night. I was very torn up inside and very frustrated that God would allow us to go through another trial, but most of all I was angry with those I felt were responsible for our pain.
On one side of the rubber band, pulling away, is this truth that in this life hardships are going to happen and thus it's good to be intimate with a God who offers comfort and wisdom and who invites us to take refuge under His wings. AND YET, tugging on the other side of that same band in an entirely different direction but with equal force is the truth that sometimes it is, in fact, harder to endure life's hardships when you have an intimate relationship with a powerful God because then we know as we sit there aching, with every part of our being, in sorrow and physical agony, that our God--if he so desired--could remove all our burdens and wipe away every tear, and yet ... so many times ... He does not.
That is tension.
I believe God prepared me for cancer. But I was not prepared to lose my job in December. I did not see it coming and it took days to sink in and months to work out in my head. The full force of the devastation only recently hit me. I felt cheated, I felt betrayed, I felt humiliated ... You can be the "best writer" on staff, you can stay when everyone else leaves, but it won't save you when someone is forced to fumble with a scalpel in a budgetary straight jacket in order to meet an impossible bottom line.
I hadn't been around in 7 months. I was expendable.
We, the millions of laid off workers in this country were not worth keeping and there's just no getting around it and it feels terrible, but what's even worse is the financial devastation. However, amid all this inner hurt and pain, is the terrible knowledge that God could have prevented it all.
And then the next morning at the retreat, our speaker Becky--who had been talking a lot about Naomi from the book of Ruth, whose bitterness I was totally identifying with--began to use an illustration extremely similar to one I had used myself when speaking somewhere in the fall. It was about Legos.
Becky talked about building beautiful Lego sets, just like the ones on the boxes, and how sometimes the beautiful creations fall off the shelves and begin to come apart. She talked about how you can try to put them back together with super glue, but then they'll just come apart in BIGGER chunks.
She also talked about something that really hit me. (And, by the way, nothing says "listen up, Tam" like someone using the same illustration God gave to me!) Becky said that some of the Lego pieces break when they hit the ground, and it's these broken Lego pieces that make the best ammunition to throw at our perceived monsters when we are hurting. She actually said: "Broken Legos make great ammunition."
Ouch. I knew she was talking to me.
As Becky went on to explain, instead of throwing these broken pieces, we need to give them to God and leave it to him to rebuild our masterpieces.
Stockpiling the broken pieces for ammunition was exactly what I was doing. I had broken, sharp pieces and I wanted nothing more than to throw them at the people who hurt me.
So I took a step back, and though I was still really hurting, I tried to figure out how to come to terms with life as it was and stop wishing it were how I thought it should be. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I begged God to show up. I felt He'd forgotten us and while I wanted to let the bitterness go, I just begged God to stop letting our lives fall apart and give us some hope again, because as willing as I was to set the Legos down I still didn't have any HOPE.
Then, just five days later, I got a special phone call and 8 hours after that I was sitting in the CNN studio in Los Angeles telling America and wherever else CNN broadcasts around the world, that I got laid off after fighting breast cancer and was having a really hard time finding a new job.
What an unbelievable chance to express my frustration in a positive way and to be heard.
It's pretty hard to describe the way that I felt on Friday night, which is why I had to give you some background into the weeks that led up to it so you would understand what it meant to Nate and I. It was much more than a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it was the rebirth of hope.
You can't appreciate the miracle without seeing first the pain.
I believe this was God's way of telling me that following Him is not all pain and misery and suffering as I was beginning to think it was. The rubber band is still taut, but I'm comfortable with it right now. The Legos are still broken, but I'm not going to carry them around anymore.
Why I had to reach the bottom to see the sunlight, I don't know. But I do know that I appreciate it so much more.
Sincerely, Tam of Many Strange and Interesting Job Offers
[Lego Photo courtesy of Darren Hester.]