The dawn of March 1 will mark the beginning of technically my 9th month of unemployment. I haven’t had regular work/paycheck etc. in that timeframe. I’ve been freelancing in some management projects, teaching projects, writing projects and hustling our Resurgam Coffee side business, but none of that has equaled anything close to a full-time income. What have I learned? I’ve learned this journey has been an incredible gift on so many levels. Let me explain . . .
- The Gift of Self-Reflection – How often in your life do you get the opportunity for a complete do-over? To go back to the drawing board and ask foundational questions like Who am I? Why am I here? What would I love to do? What brings me joy? Now this is also deeply frightening, the more questions you ask, the deeper the rabbit hole gets. I began to realize how much of my ‘accepted’ and unquestioned life both internally and externally did not line up with my deepest values. The gift does not then become self-condemnation, but an invitation to new life. Know thyself and then act accordingly.
- The Gift of a Simple Life – My wife and I are more connected right now around our daily, weekly and monthly finances than ever before. Not fear, not panic . . . connectedness. We talk about it, daily. Our grocery list is no longer whatever looks like ‘we have to have’ at Costco, it’s planned out and intentional. You know what? It’s fun! I’m cooking more creatively and intentionally. Our meals are actually far more fresh and healthy. We are counting the green beans and the last eggs, but we are also finding creative ways to deliciously season the throw-away and discounted cuts of meat from the grocery. We are grocery shopping with cash, whatever cash has come in, that’s our budget. We’ve learned how we don’t need very much income to live a connected, satisfied and full life with some creativity and teamwork. It’s a gift to be able to have such connection between God’s most recent provision and the food that will be on our family table this week. We have daily bread, gratitude fills our table.
- The Gift of Intimate Marriage – Naturally, this has been a time of great challenge, pressure and vulnerability. These kinds of storms in life have a way of exposing great breaches in the foundations of even the best of marriage partnerships. But, there is always a choice. You can live in fear, isolation, destructive habits to cope and blame etc. Or you can choose as a couple to look at the storm in the face and hand in hand walk into it and through it together. Wedding vows take just a moment in a ceremony to say but it takes a lifetime to fulfill them. We chose to come together in this, communicate and over-communicate, look to the needs of one another and create a new beginning together. We have no idea how it will all turn out, but we do know one thing, we are gonna be there together. It’s our eternal vows to one another and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I am so in love with this woman. She vowed to believe in me on our wedding day, and on my worst and most discouraging days, she believes in me and the gifts God has given me. I am able to anchor my identity not in the rejection email of another job I won’t get, but in the love and commitment of my wife for me. Folks, with that kind of love, I’ll run through a wall. True intimacy in marriage is an unbelievable gift and it’s the result of a lot of choices ‘towards’ one another, not ‘away’.
- The Gift of the Myth of the American Dream – In my dissertation I wrote a chapter on this ‘myth’ and how consumerism has robbed much of what we used to experience of so-called community in America. The assumptions of certain standards of living for happiness, the crazed rat-race of the US corporate life, the dehumanizing experiences of bottom-line company strategies, the false dream of a leisured retirement, the entitlements of the marketing seas we swim in, the oughts and shoulds of a life it seems almost no-one is enjoying. We are supremely busy, but not busy being happy. Meaning, connection, community and the things that feed contentment and happiness are not bought, and not even offered in consumer lifestyles to keep up. Consumerism by definition keeps you wanting more so you buy more, all with the hope that it will finally satisfy. It doesn’t. That degree won’t magically satisfy you, that job, that car, that membership, that house, that team etc etc. All will leave you wanting and never having ‘arrived’. I’m learning to look at my life of a different ‘arrival’, my own death. I’m mortal, I will die, this human life will end. So how do I want to live it? I get one chance and it’s a result of my free choices. Should I organize it around chasing things ‘out there’, or can I organize it around the amazing gifts God has already given me right here? Faith, family, friends, creative work, sustenance etc. These things can be lived and enjoyed for a whole lot less $$ than the American rat race. Why live a myth, why not live in ruthless and satisfying truth?
- The Gift of Anything is Possible – One of my largest personal values is freedom. I love the freedom to create, to learn, to dream, to act, to inspire, to encourage, to lead etc. Feeling confined in close-ended jobs in my history has contributed to a lot of self-imposed depression. After I grieved my vocational past and choices, I now have come to a place of a free and open future. Anything is possible, that is a gift to me. I’m in this place of what Romans 8 says, ‘what’s next, Papa?’ God and I can create together a connected, partnered, grounded and freely sustained life. I don’t know yet what it looks like, but I trust Him. His goodness and faithfulness have become so resounding in my life during this journey it’s almost deafening. I have nothing concrete in my hands but I have supreme confidence in my heart and mind. Anything is possible, that is hopeful and good enough.
“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” -Romans 8:15-17 (The Message)
My journey is my journey. I know many of you out there are experiencing far more painful stories and realities than me and you aren’t seeing the same conclusions I am. My intent is for encouragement and help, I can’t change your reality, but I can offer you my human compassion and story. All of life is a gift, the learning is the fun part. Let’s live out loud!