Let it Burn

Even before my job hunt began almost three months ago I had a bad attitude about it. Why? Because I knew that it would be hard. Job hunting is hard. It’s a job in itself, and in my opinion, the worst kind of job there is. As my time with Beautiful Unique Girl came to a close in June, I knew that I was entering a scary, unknown season. The thought of finding a new job in a new city was overwhelming to me. I wished that it would be easy – that a new opportunity would fall into my lap like the last two had. But I knew it wasn’t going to happen that way this time.

Only two weeks after my job hunt began in July, I wanted to give up the job hunt. I was nearing hopelessness. But come on – just two weeks! Who do I think I am? Did I really believe that after such a short amount of time people would be knocking on my door to offer me a job?

But my frustration continued, and maybe that initial sense of hopelessness was simply foreshadowing what I would feel the next few months. On occasion I would choose not to worry and instead keep plugging away, but for the most part I felt a deep sense of rejection. Why? Why can’t I get a job? Why do I always have to wait?

I was feeling pretty low last week when my mom came in my room and sat down beside me on my bed. She picked up a tiny, stuffed penguin that my BUgirl teammates bought for me last year. “Pingy doesn’t want you to be sad!” she said in a silly voice. I snatched “Pingy” from her hand and threw him on the floor. “That was rude,” she said, as she stood up and walked out the door.

It was so rude. Sometimes I can’t believe that I’m 26 and still act like a child.

I tried to forget what I had just done and turned my attention toward the landscape outside my bedroom window. In our backyard, in the field beyond the forest, there was a fire. My dad was burning hundreds of dead branches. The same branches that I had picked up almost two months earlier and piled into three rows, six feet high.

In that moment I wished that I could cut off all the old, dead, ugly branches in my life, gather them neatly into piles, and throw them into the fire. I wish it was that easy. But pruning is painful, and surrender requires humility. Even though I desired the fruit of a good attitude and a joyful heart, I wasn’t willing to endure the pain and let go of my pride in order to experience it. So I went on with my day, moping around the house, feeling sorry for myself, and never offering an apology to my mom.

Somewhere in the days that followed I began to have a series of wake-up calls. It seemed like every conversation I had, every article I read, and every novel that I finished was about hardships and how our culture is unnecessarily unhappy at the first sign of pain.   

I began to realize that I had been wasting my situation. I’ve been in this boat for three months, and almost every day for three months I’ve whined and whimpered about the place I’m in and wondered how much longer I’ll have to stay here, all while trying to hide my jealousy toward friends and family members with good jobs, good opportunities, and…oh yeah, money.

But not once in these past three months have I decided that instead of allowing this to break me, I would allow it to build me. I’ve never once let myself believe that this hardship – that this season of waiting – could produce something good in me, like perseverance, character, and hope. If the purpose of my short time on this earth is to be sanctified – set apart – to become holy, more like Christ, all for the sake of God’s glory, then aren’t hardships my best opportunity to do just that? I don’t want to waste my hardships with a bad attitude. I want to use them to cultivate my character.

A couple of weeks ago I had coffee with an old friend from elementary school. She spoke of the recent death of her dad. “I’ve come to accept that life is hard,” she said. “It’s so easy for us to expect otherwise.”

How true. In my own life, the word “hard” means “bad” and I don’t want anything to do with it. I don’t necessarily expect that life is going to be easy 90% of the time (I think if your life is easy and comfortable you need to switch things up, otherwise you’re probably not really living), but I definitely don’t want things to be hard. However, life isn’t a walk in the park. It is hard. People die. Dreams dissolve. Companies fold. And sooner or later, whether you like it or not, the bottom will fall out from under you.

Not only do I maintain a resistance to the word “hard”, but I also have a skewed belief that I am entitled to many and various things. A good job. Money. A car. A nice place to live. A husband. Children. And that all of the above should be delivered to me in a timely manner, ie – NOW. No doubt this mentality is fostered by our western culture. Take a look at people in Africa or South Asia. Their wants are vastly different from ours.

And then there’s my resistance to waiting. The truth is we spend a large portion of our lives waiting. If this is the case then shouldn’t we learn to do it well, to find strength in waiting for good things, and then rejoice all the more when they finally come to pass? But waiting is so counter-cultural. Waiting means giving up control. And sometimes waiting means the absence of doing, and society tells us that if we’re not “doing” then we’re lazy.

The way I see it, I have two options: I could waste my time living in denial, telling myself that my situation is unjust, that I’m entitled to my wants, and then expect the road ahead to be easy. Or I could accept this season for what it is, find the courage to cut off my bad attitudes and behaviours, and let them burn in the fiery flames with the hope that something beautiful will emerge in the afterglow.

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