Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Sitting on a bus one day heading home from work, I meet someone who works at the same place, different location. I’d only been on the job for a week, if that. He asks me who was over there, and I rattled off a couple of names. I told him the name of the team leader who did my training.

He laughed. “Oh, I know him! He used to work at our store.”

“Yeah, he’s nice.”

The guy looked really serious. And he said, “Let me tell you something. It doesn’t matter what comes against you in that place, as long as he’s for you.”

I work for, hands-down, the best team of supervisors, managers, leaders, and higher-ups in general. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. But what this guy said was a pretty big statement. I didn’t really know anyone at the job well enough at that point in time to agree, or to even give it another thought. It wasn’t until maybe three weeks had passed that I really felt overwhelmed with the job. It got progressively worse, and I felt more and more like everything was against me. Every time I got an order wrong, every time I messed something up, I mixed something wrong, I punched in the wrong thing on the register, I misplaced something, I took twenty minutes to do what everyone else does in twenty seconds… But I was blessed. I had people willing to help me; people above me who had already learned what I was learning. And the first thing I needed to learn, before I learned anything else, was how to trust them. So, it didn’t matter if a customer was red-faced and yelling at me for screwing up their food, because I had people above me who were for me.

The first time I ever handed out the wrong orders, the team leader who did my training rushed in to get things straightened out. And I remembered what the employee had said from the other location. By watching my TL, I learned how to enter a customer’s name onto the register, write it on the receipt, and bam. No more mixing up orders. That moment did something for me. I realized that I could watch and learn, and learn by watching who else but my TLs and managers; people who had already mastered these little things I was struggling so much with. But it all started with one TL. I trusted HIM, I listened to HIM, and by doing so, I learned I could trust other leaders, too.

I would get frustrated and angry with myself when I messed something up. And I messed up a LOT those first few weeks. But even in the fear and confusion, that TL never once got frustrated with me. I honestly don’t know where I’d be right now if he hadn’t stuck by me the way he did. I seriously do not believe I would ever have made it pas the first month without him.When we brought in a new hire a couple weeks ago, he was asking me about who were managers and who were TLs. When I named the TL who trained me, and had now trained him, I said, “It doesn’t matter what comes against you in that place, as long as he’s for you.”

Today at work, near the last hour of my shift, that same TL said, “You know tomorrow is my last day?”

I thought he was joking. I said, “Yeah, mine too.”

“No, really. I thought everyone knew, but since you weren’t giving me a hard time about it, I thought maybe you didn’t.”

For the next thirty minutes, I struggled with what he was saying. No, he’s joking. If he tried to leave, there’d be torches and pitchforks everywhere. He’s kidding. He’s got to be. But eventually, he told me he’d been offered a position with his brother’s company, and tomorrow was his last day. Since I’m off tomorrow, today was it. I still secretly hope he shows up Friday and says he was joking. I would even accept the harassment that would ensue. (“You actually believed me? For real?! Nah, I’m staying. But I can’t believe you bought it!”) Maybe I’m overreacting. I mean, people come and go in the workplace all the time. Is the level of impact here normal? The devastation is real.

Jesus spent over three years with his disciples. To understand why that’s important, you need to know a couple of things. First, the synagogues at that time were similar to schools today. All Jewish boys were required to memorize the first four books of the bible. No, not the titles. I mean they had to memorize the BOOKS. Once the boys graduated from that part, a select few went onto the next level. Boys who didn’t make the cut were sent back to learn their parents’ trades. From this next class, they have to remember even more Scripture. The Bible then wasn’t like what we have today, the most obvious reason being that it was basically still being written at that point. But the Bible wasn’t divided into neat and organized chapters and verses. You had to just remember it. The rabbi, therefore, couldn’t ask you to recite chapter five of Deuteronomy. He would quote a few words or a sentence from the Torah, and expect you to pick up and continue where he left off, all from memory. And from this group, the rabbi would choose only one student to take under his wing, to teach and mentor, and to one day be his successor.

When Jesus was gathering the first apostles, he didn’t pick them up out of synagogue. Now, if the rabbi chose you as his successor, you did not hesitate for a second. You left with him. That’s why when Jesus called Peter and Andrew and told them to come, they dropped their nets and immediately went after him. For the next nearly four years, he was their rabbi, their teacher, and their friend. By learning how to follow Jesus in the natural, they learned how to follow him in the supernatural.

Jesus says in John 16, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Holy Spirit will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.” Pair that with what he says in Acts about giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles. So to paraphrase, it was as though Jesus looked at his apostles and said, “You know what to do.” And they knew, because their rabbi taught them.

How frightened they must’ve been… To know the one who guided and encouraged you, who has kept you safe and given so much affirmation in the chaos of doubt, is leaving you. He will no longer solve your problems for you, or tell you if what you’re doing is the right thing to do. All you will have to depend on is what you know. When the disciples were, as I can only imagine, losing their minds, Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses.” And then finally, Paul, in the book of Romans, sums up the entirety of the great commission in one scripture when he says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

One of the greatest things we can ever do to honor someone who has helped you and held your hand through the rough patches is to apply all the things they taught you. Then they see how you’ve appreciated them, how worthwhile the time it was that it took to get you to where you are. Their sweat and energy did not return null and void. You honor those people by continuing to learn and flourish long after they’re gone. Show them the time they invested in you was a good investment.

Always know that no matter what comes against you, there’s a God who is for us, and who loves us enough to guide and protect His children. And if you’re really blessed, you’ll find someone who can demonstrate.

Grooves of the Tire

Most of us have traditions, or things we have to do that we simultaneously enjoy. Or we have hobbies. For me, I LOVE playing guitar. It keeps me going. I also love my job, and I know I’m blessed to have one that I feel that way about. Too many people hate their jobs.

When I was a kid, I had a best friend who invented a game with me called Catnip. It was really just tag, but one of us was the mouse, and the other played a cat. I usually ended up being the mouse. I would hide somewhere while she looked for me. Except, the only good place to hide was in the big tractor tires (only in Kentucky are tractor tires considered playground equipment). There were three laying on their side, and three more stuck upright and halfway into the ground. They were really the only places you could hide. She would usually find me in one of the tires. As we got older, we played it less and less. It just didn’t offer the same excitement that it used to.

And that’s kinda what depression is like. You have a moment when you wake up and realize you’re sitting inside a tire, and you don’t know why. It’s not doing for you what it used to. So you start asking yourself the hard questions. Why am I doing this? What’s the point? Then you decide it’s not worth it anymore, so you want to get out of the tire. But then the problem becomes that you don’t get out. Because you wouldn’t know where to go if you ever did.

People don’t understand. The ones still in the tires and still loving life don’t understand why you don’t enjoy the tires anymore. They say things like, “I know exactly how you feel. But, it’s just part of the tire!” Or “I know it’s smelly and dirty. You just have to find a new tire.” “The tire is always darkest before dawn!” My favorite is when they offer solutions that aren’t even remotely related to your problem.

Me:  “I don’t enjoy playing in the tires anymore.”
Friend:  “Don’t worry! We’ll find your tire.”
Me:  “No, I know where the tire is. I just don’t want to be in it anymore.”
Friend:  “Do you remember what playground it was on?”
Me:  “No, see… This is not the solution to my problem.”

So you get frustrated and angry, wondering why nobody else understands how these tires are so black and stupid-looking. Why can’t they see? Since you can’t get anyone to understand, and stop caring if they do or not, you retreat into a place that’s just barely a step above existing; where you sleep until five on a Saturday, and you think you might want to order a pizza, but then realize it’d be too much work to get up to go to the door once it arrives. You get home from your meaningless job, go straight to your meaningless bed, watch a meaningless marathon of Cops, and sleep a meaningless sleep. Then you have to get up and do it all over again. And you’re tired. Not tired like sleepy, but a different kind of tired. It scares you how tired you are.

You put on the face that tells everyone you’re happy and normal. You become very conscious of the words you say, since saying the wrong thing is a dead giveaway to the fact that you’re a fraud.

You might feel nothing, or you might feel sad. You gotta give into something, and feeling sad is better than nothing. So you go with it.

You make peace with the fact that nobody understands, and nobody will.

Lying gets old, quick. You decide the next person to ask “How are you?” is going to get slapped.

If you’re in a tire (and by that, I mean “among the living”), and your tire really sucks, I know there isn’t much that can be said to really make the tire roomier, less smelly, or less dark. But, here’s what we know based on scripture. And from my heart, I mean it when I say I hope it offers some level of comfort.

First… God loves you. WordPress doesn’t offer me enough memory to quote every Bible verse that says so. Jesus DIED for you, and by no means did he die a quick and painless death. It hurt.

Secondly, where you are right now is of no surprise to God. You aren’t a shock to Him. He isn’t appalled. When Jesus walked the earth, his message wasn’t of condemnation, nor was it of impending doom. He was never interested in healthy people. And in reality, we’re all sick. Some sicker than others… But that was the GOOD NEWS that he came to give! In Romans, Paul summed up in one verse what Jesus came to accomplish; that NOTHING, no minion of hell, no sin, no heights or depths, could pluck us from the hand of the Father. That means that no matter what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you, and no matter how horrible it is, you aren’t too far gone.

Finally – and I can’t stress this enough – there is no cure in religion. (For that matter, there is nothing worthwhile in religion. Jesus had no problem telling the Pharisees that.) Too many pastors are pitching Jesus to be Mr. Fix-It. Yes, he heals and restores, but he did not come to change your circumstances. He came to change you. By trusting him fully in every groove of the tire, you will have an abundance in life. His grace is sufficient for you, and because it’s sufficient, you will have peace that passes all understanding.

God loves you. And so do I. Rest in Him. And because He promises, I promise as well, you can do this.