Overlooked, He Overcame

It hurts to be overlooked. This morning I received a very polite rejection email for a job to which I don’t remember applying. After racking my brain for a few minutes, I remembered the position – a writer for a non-profit organization – and re-read the email.

It read, in essence, like this:

“Dear Jason – thank you for applying to [company name] for the writing position. At this time, we are moving on in our search. Though your resume had many outstanding qualities, we felt at this time you were not a match for us.”

It went on a little more after that, but that was the gist. I looked up the job posting to see which of my qualifications fell short of their standards. Based on the posted description, none did.

So why was I overlooked? Why was it assumed I wouldn’t be a good fit?

I’m sure there are lots of reasons, and I’m not exactly beating myself up over this. (Obviously, if I really cared about the job, I would’ve remembered applying for it.) But it does sting a little bit when you’re exactly what someone says they need, only they don’t want you. To be overlooked, no matter the rationale, stings. So yeah, I was a bit bummed that yet another job had turned me down.

But then I remembered today is Christmas Eve. All over the world, in various churches, people will celebrate the arrival of a small Jewish child, born some 2,000 years ago in the backwoods of the Middle East. People will sing his name, declare his glory, and salute his birth in a stable, a birth witnessed by animals, shepherds and filth.

Overlooked in his birth, Jesus still changed the world. If we can take no other hope for Christmas, let us a least take this much: the same can be true of us.

The Toilet Paper Holder Lesson


My nemesis.

I have a toilet paper holder in my master bathroom that drives me insane. I put it up about two years ago, and the stupid thing eventually pushed itself out of the wall, leaving a couple of nasty holes in the sheetrock which made me look as inept at home maintenance as I really am. Because of its mockery of me, I took the sucker down and stashed it in the back of a closet (I’m too cheap to throw away what should be a perfectly good fixture). It stayed in that closet for almost a year and half.

Recently, we repainted our bathroom and Rachel wanted to put it back up. I agreed, thinking that I had found the perfect solution to keep the holder affixed to the wall. I bought a substitute roll holder (the little springy tube you put the toilet paper on), reasoning that it’s weaker spring wouldn’t push the actual holders apart as much, and thus keep the holder on the wall.

Trust me, I know how insane this sounds. It is insane.

Anyway, I put the holder back up with the screws and wall anchors required. Everything looked great. I put in the new paper holder, complete with a fresh roll. It fit snugly, with no signs of strain. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Two days later, I thought I noticed the sucker starting to bow a little bit. I wiggled the holder, and it seemed to still be tight against the wall, so I chalked it up to paranoia. Two days after that, the sucker had almost pushed itself out of the wall again.

It’s still there, hanging on by a thread, making an otherwise elegant bathroom look like a 70s camper john. I’ve been tempted to rip it out and toss it across the room, but I’ve resisted. I am going to take it down today probably, and replace it with something else. I’m just tired of looking at it.

There’s a lot of lessons I could draw from this illustration – I suck as a handyman being the first. Maybe something about the need to learn from past experience being another. But what I really come away with is that some things just don’t go like you planned. And no matter how much you try and work out a solution, no matter how many compromises or substitutions you make, you will never beat the flawed design. When that happens, you simply have to take things back to the start and try another direction – in life as in toilet paper holders, I suppose.

I interviewed a friend yesterday who recently made a big change career-wise, and we exchanged emails about the similarities of our work situations: both of us have left behind everything we’ve ever known professionally in order to pursue something new, but strangely meant to be. We’ve gone back to the start in an attempt to find a true fit.

It’s scary. It’s unknown territory. It brings new challenges each day, whether it’s networking or resume writing or just trying to keep faith when God seems silent beyond just repeating, “This is what I mean for you to do.” Some days I do well. Some days, I wonder if I shouldn’t have just left things as they were, even though I know – like that toilet paper holder – eventually, it would’ve all fallen apart.

Maybe you’re in the same boat. Maybe you’re wondering if the unrest you’ve been feeling about work, or church, or your purpose in life, is the nudging for you to step out in faith and rebuild. I can’t tell you for sure, but I can say this: take a good long look at your life and consider which path offers you the chance to be the person you were meant to be.

Then take that path. It’ll be scary, but it’ll be worth it.

Personally, I’m looking forward to having some balance in my life – both professionally and when I go to spin the toilet paper in my bathroom. Here’s hoping you find it too.

A Whole New World

different-races1So we went on vacation last week with the kids. Took our first for-real family vacation to Saint Simons Island. Rented a little house. Kicked it on the beach. Enjoyed walking around the Village at Saint Simons Pier, getting lemonade at Zuzu’s, and just taking a break from everything that’s been going on in my head for the past 15 years.

The kids loved it too; they got to share a room with twin beds and a television, complete with VCR (remember those) and DVD player. They watched movies to their hearts’ content, and the last movie they watched was Disney’s Aladdin. You know, the one with the hysterical blue genie and the sappy magic carpet ride across the world. In fact, the song during that sappy magic carpet ride got stuck in my head, and I’ve not been able to remove it.

Yesterday at church, it got stuck permanently, I fear.

The pastor who spoke was teaching on Jesus’ habit of eating with unseemly people. How Christ, God made flesh, came eating and drinking with sinners and the lowest of the low. The point of the message was about modifying the frequent religious expectation of people (to behave the right way, believe the right things, and then belong to the right group) in favor of the way Jesus brought people along (by letting them belong with him, then believe in him, then changing their behaviors). We learned that Jesus shared meals with people who weren’t like him so they could know how much God loved them.

But the thing that turned my head around was the following quote:

“When you are uncomfortable with people who are different than you, that says more about your insecurity than it does your spirituality.”

Can I tell you how much this rang true with me?

I spent years trying to teach people that uniformity mattered. That everyone walked the same line, thought the same thoughts, watched the same shows, sang the same songs. I was wrong. It’s not uniformity that Christ called us to, it’s unity. And there’s a difference.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the pull to be around people who aren’t like me. To be around people who don’t think like me, or believe like me, or watch the same kind of shows as me. I want to be around people who will stretch me, challenge me, make me laugh, and remind me that people aren’t horrible all the time. I want to go places I’ve not gone for fear of being judged and meet people I’ve not met for fear of being scolded. I want to be like Jesus, so secure in my own self that I can make others around me feel secure too.

My struggle lies in letting God accomplish this on His timetable. I’ve got this internal clock in my head that keeps sounding off about how I don’t have the luxury of time to wait for God. I can’t afford to give Him my complete trust because He might work so slow that I’ll have to sacrifice something like my house or my car just to stay afloat. I’m at war within because I am hungry for the deeper things that God is doing in my life, but I’m anchored to the security I’ve created outside of God.

Everything feels like a battle for my soul because I’m secured myself to insecure things, and God is calling me into a whole new world where I find my security solely in Him.

Not in my religion. Not in my self-righteousness. Not in my works. Not in my finances.

In Christ alone.

It’s scary, but it’s the only thing that offers peace these days. I will trust in Him, even as the battle inside rages on. I will be with him, and trust him to change what I believe and how I behave. That’s walking with Christ.

And that’s the life I want.

Being Yourself

meI had breakfast with an old friend this morning, and while the subject of our conversation was mostly about our lives and what God has done in each, there was a moment when he said something that’s stuck with me all day. Maybe it will stick with you too.

“My goal,” he said, during a conversation about work and environment, “is that the same guy who lives at my house is the same guy who goes into the office. I don’t want to have a ‘home self’ and a ‘work self.’ I want to be me in both places.”

Isn’t that awesome? It’s got to be one of the top five or six things I’ve heard/read/seen lately, and I’ve been hearing/reading/seeing a lot.

I want to be me, wherever I’m at.

For some people, that statement’s pretty stupid. Or at the least, self-evident. After all, who else would you be? Cher? But for some of us, who’ve been conditioned that the bifurcation of ourselves is not only permissible, it’s necessary, the idea of being able to fully ourselves regardless of environment is beyond belief.

We may call it compartmentalization, we may call it professionalism, we may call it a thousand different things, but the bottom line is that a great many of us are used to being limited in some way, shape or form in some areas of our lives. For some us, it’s the decorum of our workplace; our sense of humor, our religious beliefs, our personal lives, might not be welcome conversation topics. And while you certainly don’t want to sit down with your company CEO and make fart jokes, if your company doesn’t respect all of you, then they don’t respect you, period.

For some folks, this is best seen at church. The Sunday Face that so many people put on so people won’t decode the pain they hide, or the differences between their Monday-Saturday life. While I’m not saying that a life of sin is permissible for a Christian, there are some things that some Christians make into MAJOR sins, while conveniently minimizing others.

(In some churches, sin – like beauty – is in the eye of the beholder. Just saying.)

So to avoid issues, some people pretend to be something they’re not. This defeats the purpose of the church, to be a community where people come and grow with Christ and each other. With so many people hiding struggles and problems, just to fit into the expected decorum, there’s nothing to talk about. Everyone just pretends like things are good with them, thanks, and isn’t that painting of Jesus just lovely over the antique table in the hall?

Authenticity. It’s so crucial.

I want to be me. I have a strange sense of humor. I make the occasional statement that people take issue with. I like nerd stuff, I prefer tennis shoes over going barefoot, and I would rather drink a gallon of gasoline than eat a cobb salad. And at 37 years old, I’m tired of having to be HomeJason and WorkJason.

I just want to be Jason. Take it or leave it.

Being yourself shouldn’t be as hard as it is, but courage can change that. Of course, some of us find courage easier than others. Some of us don’t have a choice. Here’s hoping you find the courage you need to be yourself, wherever you are.

Falling Down

I fell through the ceiling in my hallway tonight. I was carrying a stupidly heavy box of books from my packed up office (a box that was so I heavy I actually thought to myself: I should probably just leave these downstairs), and since my attic doesn’t have decking (but does have a high number of obstacles to easy walking) I missed one of the joists and my left foot came crashing through the ceiling below.

It’s a good thing my butt already has a crack in it – as it is, I almost gave myself a second one. Luckily, nothing sensitive got injured, and all I ended up with was a three foot square hole in my ceiling and a baseball sized contusion on the right side of my butt (which was helpfully treated by my sitting on an ice pack for 20 of the most awkward and least attractive minutes of my life).

For someone who just quit his job and has a limited income right now, this was not a welcome experience. Doubly so since I also have the handy man skills of a six month old.

So now I’m sitting here, staring at the massive hole in my ceiling, and all I can think of is Michael Caine. Specifically, this clip:

I love that clip for a thousand different reasons, not the least of which is Michael Caine’s accent. The man just sounds cool. But I also love it for the truth it contains: we fall down so we can learn to rise. Life has its way of asking us to go backward in order to go forward; we’re not fond of that fact, but it’s true all the same.

I had coffee with a friend tonight (well, now that I think about it, I had coffee; he never drank a thing) and we talked about life and the changes that it holds. For me, the changes with my job and career track; for him, the adjustments to fatherhood and how his writing/creative life has been put on hold for the moment. As we often do, we reminisced about life in high school and college, and we each were able to identify a specific point, or a specific thing, that – if we could do it all again – was the one thing we’d do differently. We talked about that for a second, and then my friend said something like this:

“But you know, by not taking that path, we’ve become the men we are today. So in some ways, not making those choices taught us to make them when they counted.”

We fall down, so we can learn to pick ourselves back up.

I know plenty of people who’ve fallen down lately (and for some, it’s more accurate to say they’ve been shoved down cruelly or kicked to the ground). There are people who are simply looking for enough hope to make it through the end of the week, or the day, or their particular shift at work. They wonder if things will ever be in their favor; if they’ll ever reach that point where life feels like it’s moving forward more often than it feels like it’s going back. The dream is still out there, but they’re tired of it being beyond reach.

All I can say is that falling down isn’t the worst thing in the world. Going backward isn’t always bad. It’s staying there that’s the issue.

If we fall down, we must get up.

That’s the path of reward – that’s the life worth living. Even gaping ceiling holes can be patched and made good as new. But sometimes, we have to live through those moments to believe that.