A month or so ago I was shortlisted for a couple of jobs. Now … well, now I’m not. Which means it’s a great time to talk about hope. (Funny, that Advent. Always right on time.)
I did my best to hold both of those possibilities lightly. And I think for the most part I did, while letting myself enjoy the dreams and possibilities (because holding back from dreaming for fear they won’t come true is too sad), without getting too attached to the ideas (because a tight hand just makes a fist).
I was taking the process(es) seriously though, seriously enough that when the second “Nope, don’t think so,” came down the pike I felt pretty squished. Old labels, old triggers all started firing. “Inadequate, not good enough … shame.” My heavy heart made it hard to fall asleep, and then turned into a midnight wake-up call from a nasty nightmare.
But this is where the good news starts kicking in. It took me a couple of hours for my mind and heart to clear enough to allow me back to sleep, but instead of spending those hours twisting into destructive thought storms, I used what Kristin Neff calls “self-compassion.”
I got mindful. Where in my body is the feeling? In my stomach, and chest. What is that feeling? Sadness … grief … fear … self-condemnation.
Then I chose mercy, by doing this radical thing: I spoke to myself kindly. “Aw, Tammerie, I’m sorry, honey. That was a hard one. I know you wanted to have more of a shot at it. It doesn’t define you though. No job you get or don’t get can define you. What you are is a beloved, adorable child of God. See? Your name, written in the palm of God’s hand. God could no more forget you than you could forget Harper and Chandler. Just think of all the awesome you want for them. God wants even more awesome for you.”
Then I got connected, thinking of all the people I know — and don’t know — who are also experiencing underemployment or unemployment. I sent my compassion out to them, breathing in our pain, letting it meet the golden light of mercy in my heart, and breathing out peace to all of us. I sent waves of lovingkindness to us all, until I finally fell asleep.
The next morning, when I awoke? Well, I still didn’t have the job, but I didn’t have the misery either. And because I had given myself compassion, I could let myself receive it from others. (That’s how it works for me … I can’t receive from someone else what I haven’t given myself, whether it’s love, grace, forgiveness, compassion ….)
And somewhere in that morning light, the thought came: “I bet God has an even better idea … better than I could ever ask or imagine!” Looks like Pollyanna, I know. But it felt more like the truth.
I have so many reasons to feel hopeful, and to feel grateful as well. My family and I are healthy; my spouse loves me and supports me in every way; I have friends near and far who give me their all. I believe that these years of “nope” will yet bear fruit.
My situation hardly qualifies as suffering, but I’ll claim Romans 5 all the same. Maybe these words will speak to your situation, and the hope you might need a little help to hold onto, just like me.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.