Saturday, August 7, 2010

Promises II

I had planned to upload this post much earlier, back in June, when I posted some information along this line on my 100th Lamb site. Somehow, though, this particular posting got waylaid, and it has been lurking in my "edit posts" box ever since. Perhaps that is all well and good because my understanding of the situation has improved in the past month, and more "stuff" has happened in the past month so, clearly, I can update information at the same time as I relate it. In essence, what this post is about and why its essence changes with time is that the job God put me in seems to be going away. Well, not going away, but changing dramatically. The proposal going before the Board of Directors is to dissect it into a number of pieces (see my post, The Price of Success), give away to other division heads whole departments that have been highly successful and grown tremendously in size, and give me a new chain through which to report (equidistant from the big muckety-muck but not through my current boss).

Needless to say, all this reorganization and proposed reorganization has created a lot of stress for everyone involved. I want a stress-free, happy job, one that is focused on me and my needs, perhaps. That would be a change, for sure. I keep getting indications, though, which I stubbornly try to ignore, that indicate that God wants me focused on others and that it is not important if anything at all in my job focuses on me. Currently, I cannot point out one thing or one person who puts me, my wants, my interests, or my needs [not that I could state any of those, anyway] at the center of anything. Rather, my bosses throws tasks at me, expecting me to support them, and my employees are used to a servant leadership approach, also expecting me to support them. (Since I enjoy my current job for the most part, I don't think that deep down I really care where I fit in. I focus on mission and the people needed to accomplish the mission. When the mission is accomplished well and the people are happy, I am pleased.) But with the whole nature of my job changing over the next two years, if plans are implemented, I foresee potential mission failure and definite unhappiness among my employees, which will leave me displeased and ill at ease.

With all this weighing on me on one of those late-June days, I finished the work day rather discouraged and before coming home opened one of our trade journals. There I found advertised a good job, for which I could easily qualify, for 125% of my current salary. It was located in Portland, Maine, not far from family and where I grew up. An international job, it would have been a perfect fit for me. However, I know better than to consider a seeming match like this to be some kind of sign. I've been through that before, and I have been wrong before. I have to admit that Mme. Stubborn (i.e. yours truly) considered very strongly applying for the job even though I know that God wants me in the one I have. Most of the way home, I dwelled on the thought of escaping to greener pastures (the proverbial other side of the fence, which I do know is not really greener). And then I heard the compelling words, Come Walk with Me.

The last time I was tugged outside for a walk was with the ice halo. Then it was a gesture of love and made me feel humble (humility, I admit, is not my strongest trait as much as I would like it to be and as much as many others, including most of my employees, think it is; they simply don't know my heart as I do). This time, too, the walk was a gesture of love but in a different way: it served as a time and place to provide gentle, overt guidance. That is what I was asking for, but I did not expect to get it so concretely, so openly, and so lovingly. But I get ahead of myself.

Before taking that walk, I dropped by the Post Office, as I do every evening on the way home, San Ignatio being too impoverished to afford home delivery of mail and too small to need it. There was good news all around. Every letter I opened contained something positive. "You spoil me," I whispered, marveling that God does spoil me. I don't ask why God spoils me. I just accept the kindnesses and care with gratitude.

After reading the mail, I put on a light jacket as protection from the cool, somewhat blustery (even in the summer), evening winds, literally dropped everything, and went out for the walk I had been called to take. There I encountered peace from merely being in the Presence. That alone would have been a loving gift. God, however, is lavish in His love, and so I received more than that. I received guidance. I complained that I had spent four years building a division that someone from the national office would now lead with my assistance and would have the authority to tear apart or move into new directions with which I disagreed. Ah, right! That was pride speaking. Hm, a little more humility might be in order here. I was beginning to comprehend, but imperfectly. Then, in a way that only God can manage and that I can never explain, I realized that the question of where I should be and what is happening to my job is not about me at all. It is about the people for whom I am responsible. What will happen will be as difficult for them as it will be for me, and they will need someone to shepherd them along the new path and out into the new fields. That someone can only be me. I did not want this to be the case, but it is what it is, and that is something I can accept in spite of my stubborn tendency to fight against what I want not to be the case or what I understand only in part.

Abruptly, the wind changed from harsh to caressing, maybe because of the trees in its path or maybe because the evening had waned on or maybe just because. And there in the soft evening breeze and fading light, stubbornness met unreproving love. I would have stayed wrapped in the comfort of that love for hours, but soon I felt a little push, "Now go; you have work to do. I will be with you." There was something more, too: a promise.

So, I left the field and returned to the house. I sat down and looked at the briefing that would be given in the early morning by my boss's boss to the highest local muckety-muck, who would soon be presenting it to our national muckety-mucks. Instead of thinking about my role in the new organization, I thought about how the reorganization would affect those who work for me. One group of nearly 100 people would severely suffer. I would not be able to help them because under the new plan, they would not be working for me nor would they be working as a group but rather scattered among many teams in order to share the expertise they had gained. Suddenly, from out of nowhere (nowhere? really?) into my mind popped a "scathingly brilliant idea," to use Hayley Mills' The Trouble with Angels' character's words that always preceded some kind of momentous plan that would shake up her staid school and land her in the kitchen doing dishes for punishment. My idea was scathingly brilliant: it would shake up my organization's plan, and, since the plans had all been finalized and, more important, completely power-pointed, there was a risk in presenting a significant change right before the morning's presentation that I would probably be pushed aside with annoyance at best and angrily reprimanded at worst (but not required to do any dishes). Nonetheless, I sketched out how the changes I envisioned could be charted, and early the next month drew my boss aside and made my pitch. None of my fears came to fruition. My boss, who would normally have been strongly opposed to my suggestion, accepted my changes and quickly re-did the power points. (I think that had to do with the part about "I will be with you" from the night before.)

I still understand only in part and only imperfectly. I will, however, some day understand why God put me in this job at this time. That was the promise made in the night. It is enough.

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