For All He’s Done

As the year comes to an end, I feel compelled to say something I’ve not said nearly enough: I’ve been very blessed, especially over the course of the past year. Even when I don’t appreciate it (which is about 95% of the time) or deserve it (which is 100% of the time), God is extremely good to me.

I’ll admit, I don’t always feel abundantly blessed, though I know that I am. There are things in my life that I would change, as I recently said, and it’s easy to let that bring me down. But all along, I’ve been fully aware of God’s blessings in my life. I try never to take them for granted, though of course, it’s still easy to do. We get used to things and forget how fortunate we are to have them.

This time last year, I was facing job loss (which is exactly what happened) and the uncertainty that comes with it. I won’t go into detail right now about the emotional and mental effect that had on me; but it was one of the most trying experiences of my life. I made a decision to choose principle over convenience, and it cost me – as I knew it would. I thought I would find comfort in that decision, and guess what? I was right. There’s something very gratifying in knowing you sacrificed for what you believe in, however great or small it may be.

However, that comfort did not make all of my problems go away. I was still unemployed and unsettled only a month after the year began. The job I lost was the best professional thing that ever happened to me, and the odds of finding anything to match it were extremely slim. Add to that my own personal issues (some particular, some perpetual), and this year didn’t exactly begin on a high.

That said, I was reminded of a couple things: 1. I was incredibly privileged to have the job I did for the past seven years. And 2. I really should’ve saved more money. I won’t dwell on the second point, but… seriously, I don’t do a lot of spending, and even I found myself wishing I had been more careful. I had enough money to get me through, but it would’ve been nice to have a larger safety net – for my own peace of mind and for my pocketbook, when the storm had passed. I’ve always been pretty good at saving money, and it paid off (literally) this year. But in the future, I hope to do even better.

The first point is the one I want to talk about.

I knew for seven years that my job was an incredible blessing. It was a great fit for me, and it bettered my life in almost every way. It enabled me to live a secure and comfortable life, to buy my own house, and to get up every morning without dread. After a decade or so in fast food and retail, where I often felt stressed and discouraged, aimless and unaccomplished, with almost no prospect for change, this was almost miraculous. And best of all, I had no reason to worry it would ever change.

Until it did.

Because of how nutty things have gotten over the past two or three years, I was one of the unlucky people who lost his job to a politically motivated mandate – one that accomplished nothing but to help ruin people’s lives. I had already made up my mind on the issue before I knew it would even impact me. And I knew if I caved in, I would never be able to live with myself. So I didn’t. And I lost the only great job I’d ever had. Suddenly, I found myself wondering what I would do with my life again, while everyone else around me chose to accept the changes and move on like nothing happened.

It was a challenge, to say the least. But I did have one thing going for me (aside from my faith): seven years of new work experience.

In the 21st century, one need never leave his computer when job hunting (especially in a world that had adapted to remote work over the previous two years). And believe it or not, I had interviews with two different companies within a week, both of which were ready to hire – and one of which did. I remember getting the call and immediately thanking God that something came through so quickly.

That was the good news. The bad news is… I hated it.

I was working from home again, which I never loved. But now I was doing work that I wasn’t used to with people I had never known. The training was… inadequate. And while everyone I dealt with was good to me, the job turned out very different than I’d hoped. I made comparable pay, but I knew I couldn’t keep at it. I would’ve been miserable, and for two months, I pretty much was.

Nevertheless, I was thankful for the job. It was an answer to prayer at a very unsure time. It kept me afloat – more than that, I barely noticed the setback – and that’s no small thing. Because here’s something else I was reminded of, though I never forgot: being able to provide for oneself is an incredible privilege on its own, one we definitely take for granted. There are people in this world who still struggle to pay their bills or even eat. In some neighborhoods and countries – even in times gone by, right here – it hasn’t always been so easy for people to find what they need or make ends meet. If I had to live that way, an unpleasant 8-hour shift would seem easy. I’ve tried to keep that in perspective.

I’m very blessed to live in 21st century America, when my biggest worry is not finding a job, but finding a better one; and I wouldn’t trade this time or place for anything (even if it’s easy to find things to complain about). So while I might not have liked the new job, I still thanked God for it. In fact, I continued to thank Him for the previous job that had given me so much. I couldn’t help wondering if I should’ve been more grateful for it. (Full disclosure: I’m very neurotic and overly analytical, so even when it comes to something like prayer, I find myself worrying that if I forget to appreciate X while praying about Y, God will take it away just to teach me a lesson. That’s not entirely rational, but I can’t help myself.)

So here I was working a job I didn’t like and still wondering what to do. I kept looking and praying, and once again God provided me with something better. I found work nearby (exactly one mile from my house) that allowed me to quit the other job and work with actual people again. I knew going into it that it might be difficult – not only because I would be taking a big pay cut, but also because I would be working as a customer service representative for a call center. That is not my cup of tea.

Again, the change came at just the right time, and I got to work with some great people. I wasn’t as well-suited for the job as I would’ve liked, but I expected that. It was still better than doing… whatever I did for those two months in between. It’s kind of a blur. I gave the call center a shot, and I did pretty good while I was there. It was a fine company to work for, but it wasn’t for me. I stuck it out for six or seven months while I tried to figure out my long-term plan.

Unfortunately, my long-term plan is to write. That’s not a very practical career goal in the here-and-now. If one is ever lucky enough to do it for a living, it takes time. So I still need to support myself, hopefully while pursuing that goal. But my call center job did not lend itself to that end (and that’s to say nothing of the other personal drawbacks I had with it).

Long story short: the company that fired me at the beginning of the year has now lifted their pointless mandate, and thanks to an old coworker, I was able to get a job with them again last month. I’m working from home again (blah). But I’m doing work that I’m familiar with again, and I’m making better money than before. It was a long, painful road to get re-hired (I think it took three months), but it was definitely worth it to get back.

And believe me, I had to think about whether or not I even wanted to work for them again. I don’t feel the same way about them as I used to. But I didn’t want to be prideful or bitter. I had coworkers who complied with the company mandate, and I certainly never held any grudge against them. What reason did I have for holding a grudge against a faceless corporation (which can always be expected to take the path of least resistance) for following a government mandate?

The downside is, I not only have to work from home again, but I had to leave a pretty great group at the call center. Maybe I didn’t get to know them as well as I would’ve liked (it being a call center and all), but they made it fun while I was there – even if I never warmed up to the job. Now that I’m alone, I definitely miss them, but I’m glad we had the chance to work together.

So within the course of a calendar year, I lost a great job, found two new ones, and finally got back on with the first. I never missed or made a late payment on any of my bills, I got to make some new work friends along the way, and I still managed to get a raise before December, in spite of two pay cuts. All along, I’ve been thankful not only for the job I wanted, but for the ones that came along when I needed them.

I hope the drama is over. I’ll continue to grow in my current position. I’ll continue to write, as I’ve done in the past (and am now able to do again). But this year has taught me more about patience, endurance, and faith than almost any year of my life. That’s a lesson learned.

I’ll be finishing up the book of Psalms tomorrow on New Year’s Eve, and one thing I always notice when reading it is how often the writer(s) thanked God for health and happiness, peace and prosperity. As a Christian, I try to focus on eternal blessings over temporal ones (even if we’re naturally inclined to dwell more on the latter). God gave the gift of His son, after all, so that I might have eternal life, and that’s where my faith should come from. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room to praise God for what He’s given me right now – especially when I see the kinds of struggles other people are having.

I’m not a very poetic guy, and I don’t gush forth in worship very often. But I couldn’t let the year end without sharing how God has blessed me. It was a rough year, but it turned out all right in the end.

May God bless us all – every one – in like manner.

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