Monday, November 28, 2005



For the last five years, I've been going through a rather peculiar season. If I were to describe this season in one word, that word would undoubtedly be "underemployment." No, I'm not talking about how I earn my living--I've held a full-time job all this time--but the responsibilities I hold and roles I fill in my private and church lives.

I was reminded of my underemployment during my church's recent Thanksgiving services. In these services, people of all ages rose to offer thanks to the Lord for His blessings during the last year. Almost without exception, each adult gave thanks for their spouse and their children, and many specifically thanked God for the blessing they enjoyed of serving as husband/father or wife/mother. It was clear from these testimonies that relationships are at the very center of their lives.

My situation is quite different than theirs. To be sure, I have relationships. All of my family members are alive and well: father, mother, and brother. I have relationships with people at church and with people at work. I have friends. However, during the time I spend at home, I'm on my own. I am responsible for one person: me.

This is a really peculiar situation, because I really, truly have a heart to give to others. During the preceding season when I enjoyed several close friendships, I was never happier than when I had opportunity to help my friend with this or that, even if all that I could do was to listen. Although (like all men) I'm a son of Adam, I believe that God gave me a measure of grace to be a help and encouragement to my friends. In the case of my last close friend, I was able to help her along through some very difficult times until she went and found herself a husband. Since then, I've found myself to be lacking in opportunities for building close relationships.

Since I have plenty of time on my own, I have lots of time to think, so one of the things I've thought about is whether there's anything I might do to help obtain fuller employment. For much of the last five years, I invested lots of time, effort, and expense in trying to meet single Christian women. Although I learned and grew a great deal through my efforts, the bottom line is that God didn't see fit to bless them. On some occasions, He most clearly hindered my efforts to spend one-on-one time with a single lady. As for friendships, I enjoy cordial and edifying contacts with several folks, but they're all busy people who already have a full slate of relationships and responsibilities, so there's really been no opportunity for me to get very close to any of them. As for the online world, I seem to be best suited to fill a small place there, too.

Thus, God has left me to pretty much fend for myself. In many ways, this has been good for me. For much of my life, I had a tendency to lean on other people rather than Christ for support, so this season has given me much opportunity to learn how to trust Him rather than man. This is a lesson that's helped me to put my human relationships in proper perspective. Also, I've learned to take care of more and more mundane day-to-day tasks without running to other people for help. In all this, I've learned much about how to take best advantage of the situation in which God has placed me.

Occasionally, I find myself thinking about one of my favorite Biblical persons: Joseph. During his lengthy stretch as a bondservant and prisoner, Joseph suffered much injustice and was no doubt lacking in close relationships, but yet by God's grace he managed to conduct himself in a God-honoring manner. Sadly, my attitude often falls far short compared to Joseph's. Instead of being content to fill a small place (should that be God's will), I often find myself resenting my lonely lot and pining for fuller employment and responsibility. Although I largely manage to submit to God's providence, I fear that I don't always do so cheerfully. No doubt my season of underemployment will continue until I learn to submit willingly and cheerfully to God's sovereign plan, even if the place He has for me is very, very small indeed. Perhaps this is why He's left a man who's eager and willing to give his life in loving service to others in an underemployed situation for such a long time. Hopefully, Lord willing, I will one day be blessed with greater opportunities for loving service. Until then, I must strive to be content with the small influence I have and use my ample free time in the most profitable way, trusting that God has a good purpose for everything He brings into my life.

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