Friday, September 25, 2009

Chipping away the rubbish.

I think I've mentioned it before, but I was at one time on a Gospel Outreach Team (GO Team) back in 1989-90. When the team finished and normal life returned I thought I would walk into a job and life would be pretty much a walk in the park with things falling into place one after another as I needed them. After all, I had just given up a year of my life to serve God, I was due some blessing.
It's not what happened at all though. I spent the first 6 months unemployed, living in a room of a house where I was hated by one of the owners. I eventually gave up my room when I was offered a sofa to sleep on at another house. For weeks I lived there eating potatoes and sleeping on that sofa. My life, instead of getting bigger and better was pruned back again and again. I eventually got a job working in a hotel but soon after had appendicitis and after an operation and recovery period I had to give up work.
All this went on whilst I had no family or friends around me. My days were spent on my own, no one to talk to,traveling to the Jobcenter , usually twice a day to look at the same jobs that I had no qualifications for. I was 22 and life was closing in on me on a daily basis. I'd get back to the sofa, sit down, wonder what on earth I was doing and slowly start to die inside.
I just couldn't understand what God was doing with me. Why was this happening to me. Rather than having life more abundantly I was having life more despairingly. If you've ever experienced the same as me you will also know how soul destroying it is to see those around you achieving everything you want to and at the same time try and encourage you with platitudes like 'everything will be OK', 'God bless you'.

After a while I did manage to finally get a part time Christmas job as a security guard in Toys R Us. Even this was touch and go, as just before I was due to start I had chicken pox and was laid up in bed. I did start on time though 11 days later. I knew that the job would only last for a short while and so was under a huge amount of pressure to get a full time job. My boss there kept promising me if I did well he would see what I could do, but after a while I realised this guy had no real authority in the company and to hope on him would be a big mistake. I was also now married, in the October just gone, and although this was one of the happiest days of my life it's difficult to explain, but being in the position I was there was a deep sadness in me that only God could fix.

A month or so into my security job I got a break with a full time job, again as security, for a clothing store. You might think I start to sound like a spoiled brat now, but 2 days into this job I realised I hated it. It seemed God was just destroying me a bit at a time. I'd gone from desperate, lonely unemployment to desperate married employment. The job was 6 days a week with Sunday off. My boss didn't like me taking Saturdays off as holiday so I couldn't really have any holiday. This meant I went for 14 months working 6 days a week with no break. The wages were poor, so poor that after payday and our bills there were pennies left. I lived on potatoes still, eating a jacket potato with butter every day I worked there. The job itself entailed me walking round the small store for hour after hour after hour. My mind was near snapping with boredom. Conversation was frowned upon, the job was to basically be a menacing threat to shoplifters. I found the only way I could survive mentally was to split the day into blocks of 15mins at a time. Any more than that and I just couldn't cope.

Where is all this leading?
Remember the title, chipping away the rubbish? That's what was happening to me. Everything was being chipped of me. My character, personality, ideas, hopes, dreams, all ere being ruthlessly put through the oven of affliction. I really had no idea if I would survive.
During those 14 months I applied for so many other jobs, sending letters to firms and stores etc. You name it I applied for it. What could be worse that having no replies to these letters? Having your hope destroyed.
Proverbs 13:12 says Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. And that was me. My heart was sick.
I had 2 interviews in those months, one at a jewelers that went very well. I was told I would hear soon favorably, but the next time I walked past the shop it had closed! I put a lot of hope in getting that job. You start to dream that a door is finally opening for your escape, you think what direction your career might take, only to see it shot down at the first move.
The second interview, months later, was with the Co-Op store. That also went well. The manager said to me he would do what he could to get me a position in the company. I waited with hope for my letter, but it never came. I eventually went back to the store to speak to the manager and was told he had left and no one knew anything about my interview. It was another crushing blow. I don't know how I kept going. To have failed yet again, having to go back to work with still no light at the end of the tunnel.
And then came Gethsemane where I died.

It happened after seeing a job advertised in the paper for a trainee in a printers. They wanted a school leaver. I knew I was to old, but I had stopped caring about that, sending applications off for any job that might give me hope, even when I knew I wouldn't get it. This was the same. I applied for the trainee job and actually got a phone call asking me to come in for an interview. Not for the trainee job but for another position, a much better one, that was going to become available. The Printers apparently had my CV already. It was one of the companies I'd blitzed.
I went for the interview and was very pleased. It went very well, seemed a great place to work with a workforce in similar age to me that actually looked pretty happy with their work life. Something which was very foreign to me. The interview ended with the HR Manager promising to ring me later with a result.
That day I let my hopes rise again. I couldn't stop them. I dared to hope what might happen. When I got home I waited for the phone call. And waited. And waited. I was looking at the clock thinking perhaps they work to 5.30, then perhaps he's staying to 7. Then it was a case of wondering if he'd forgotten my number etc at around 7.30.
I couldn't leave it and rang the printers. I was told the HR manager had gone home for the evening.
It's very difficult to describe how I felt. It was the culmination of years of being pressured and disappointed. My wife came and took my hand, and I knelt to the floor crying. The prayer I prayed was one of my heart breaking, knowing yet again I had to go back to that job failed again. I prayed 'Jesus, today I loved you, and tomorrow I will love you'. It was all I had.
It was all that mattered. Everything else in me had gone. The very core of me was all that was left and all I could say was no matter what happened I would love Jesus.
Whilst still on my knees the phone rang. I picked it up. It was the HR Manager, from his car, offering me the job. I said 'Yes please' still with tears in my eyes.
The letter of confirmation came a couple of days later, and I immediately handed in my notice.
When I left I was very surprised to find a huge pay packet containing weeks of extra holiday pay that they'd never let me take.

It's a beautiful story from my life, but a story I almost didn't make it through. It took years to see that happy ending, which was really only another stepping stone in my life to become more like Jesus.

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