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To Dream The Impossible Dream

1 Corinthians 2:9 “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him. 

We’ve been going through an emotionally difficult couple of months and I’ve refused to discuss or write about it. I’ve had a change of mind. It has to do with a subject that’s hit the 50something generation like a bomb — unemployment. The business community has not been kind to our people. In fact businesses have grown ever greedy, vicious, demanding, unrewarding and ugly in the last 30 or so years. We’ve experienced unemployment 4 times in the past 34 years and it’s never easy.

This last episode was startling, mind boggling and hit us fast and hard. One week things were going well, the next week they called Bruce while on vacation, read him the riot act, and shortly after he returned they introduced his replacement. Kinda of put a damper on the summer. As we sat in stunned silence I said  “I guess we just have to look at a job as a means to an end and all I want is to not change my lifestyle.” I was tired of surviving it, didn’t want to cut financial corners anymore or make sacrifices, pull up roots and start over, or take risks and begin a new business.

Bruce’s response to my declaration surprised me. He felt relieved. It gave him perameters for his next search. It removed some possibilities and opened others. He had an interview the week he returned from vacation that held promise, and a few weeks later they hired him. He’ll start on the 31st of August after being laid off on the 7th. In our experience, it’s a pretty miraculous turn around for his level of employment. The new job offered more benefits, better pay, closer commute and some administrative changes that will keep him sane. He’s going to travel around the Rust Belt for awhile and I can opt to go with him on occassion, maybe even abroad. My lifestyle didn’t change, I’m very thankful.

Unemployment as a lifestyle has erupted in our generation like Mt Vesuvius. We’ve had to become more nimble in our job searches than previous generations. Our parents enjoyed a stability that we will never know, nor will our children, though maybe they will be better equipped. With the exception of education and medicine, job security is a thing of the past and even those institutions are experiencing uncertainty. We were so unprepared for this. We were raised by people who worked 30+ years at their jobs, had home equity and took regular vacations. They had pensions AND Social Security, retiring in relative comfort. We will never know that. At one time I think Bruce’s dad said “Do you think you can make this one stick?” All he knew was one company for life, it was entirely out of his wheelhouse to have a son who didn’t experience the same.

The emotions surrounding this issue are deeply felt and tough to articulate. Shame, embarrassment, failure, defeat, fear, worry, uncertainty, anger, frustration, loss of confidence, weariness and a huge sense of injustice at the business community. How can they let quality people go? And their replacements are horrible! Why? Where is God in all of this? How come he hasn’t given us the same life as our parents? Weren’t we just as faithful? Didn’t we do the same things? Why do we suffer this way and they didn’t? What is wrong with us? What did we do? How can it be fixed? We were so stunned this time that we didn’t want to talk about it, even with our kids. Embarrassment was a given and we were out of words.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard the above verse taught with grandiose emphasis throughout your Christian life. I can’t recount the number of times I’ve been told God has things for me that I never even dreamed were possible. His plans are so much better than mine. I should never doubt him because he’s a good God and he only gives good gifts. I was told this when I longed for a spouse, when I was on bedrest with my children, when I lost relationships, when we looked for a house, when we moved, when we….you get the picture. Paul went to the 3rd level of heaven and saw glories we can’t imagine so his words carry weight, but he didn’t face my world. My unemployed for the 4th time, embarrassed to the limit, too old to deal with this anymore — world!

Every time Bruce accepts a new job he approaches it with the intent that it will be the one he retires from (at age 80). The last job was certainly so. We even investigated relocating to the area to lessen his commute. Happy that didn’t work out!  In our minds we long for that perfect fit job, the one that will allow Bruce the free exercise of his intellect, creativity and energy. The one that will reward him for his 200% efforts and not crucify him when he drops the ball. Where the people are decent, have integrity, are hard working, professional and smile from time to time. I think the dream of what our parent’s generation experienced is still dying hard, even after all these years. Especially for me. Bruce is a little more realistic but there is something in me that still wants the Christian American Dream.

Back to my verse. I realize that it most likely applies to the hereafter, it’s meant to encourage suffering Christians who might be facing a painful and violent demise. The misappropriation of it to encourage us in our current life makes for dramatic and pumped up Sunday sermons but it does a disservice in the long term. Desiring the Christian American Dream isn’t what life in the Kingdom is about. Being like Jesus is all that matters. I have to trust that these episodes of unemployment are allowing that to happen in my life. It’s natural to dream, to desire, to want a life that brings fulfillment and happiness. But for some reason my dream must die.

I’ve experienced the love of Jesus for me in tangible ways throughout my life, but yesterday I had an opposite experience. I felt a love for him that I’d never felt before. I’m such a literal person. I have a hard time imagining love for someone I can’t see or touch. Jesus as a person from literature is alive to me, he’s imaginable and cerebral. But this, it was emotional…it caused me to weep, set a warmth in my chest and melted something in me, it was simply unforgettable, indescribable. You’ll notice that the end of the verse applies to “those who love him”. I’m wondering if there’s a connection to the unimaginable dream and my encounter. It gives me hope for the future, maybe that’s really what the verse is about.

Whatever the case, I already know, I ain’t movin and my lifestyle isn’t changing…for that I say a hearty, Thank you Lord!

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