Each chapter in Jonah has its own theme: Chapter 1 presents Jonah running away from God; Chapter 2 presents Jonah running back to God; Chapter 3 presents Jonah running next to God; and Chapter 4 presents Jonah running ahead of God.
I want to focus on Chapter 4, as I feel that in the last two years I have many episodes of this. When my wife got a new job last spring at a social service agency, after being unemployed for one year due to a blood clot, I was thinking that our lives would be much easier. But that was not to be. Her employer refused to pay her,and that put a bigger strain on us to keep up with our bills. It led both of us to doing things we now regret. Each time I was hopeful that we would have money to pay our bills, nothing happened. This led to her not being paid $1450 on her last check, and it caused us to lose our apartment and move in with my mother-in-law who lives 86 miles from where we were. Fortunately my wife got on at the same company that I have been working at, but she is bound and determined to get back into her chosen profession of social work. We were both also looking for jobs in Grenada, MS, instead of having to drive back and forth to Starkville, MS–as it was eating up our paychecks by spending most of it on gasoline. She had two opportunities for employment in her profession that I thought would solve our problems, but they did not materialize. Neither did any jobs I put in for that were closer to Grenada. I also applied for Americorps, hoping that I would get out of the long commute. So far this did not happen. I will say that the biggest disappointment came in November, when Pat sued her former supervisor over her back pay and won a judgement–but she still has not gotten what she is entitled to: money that will help to finance many needs we have right now.
These challenges were not limited to my career. For years I have struggled with how God may be calling me into a preaching ministry. In December Pat (my wife) and I began leading services at nursing homes in and around Grenada. I was thinking this would lead me to opportunities to preach in churches. This did not materialize again. When we got our tax refund, we moved closer to where we are working, finding a home in Columbus, MS. This also got us thinking that better paying jobs would once again be inevitable. But then we had more setbacks. First of all Pat was in the hospital with a colon infection for almost a week in March. As a result she missed 3 weeks of work and lost that much income. Secondly, we found out 3 weeks ago that there is going to be a layoff at our current employer on June 21. We work in a call center where major companies outsource their customer service and tech support. From my point of view I like this work, but I don’t really enjoy it–feeling that it is more of an obligation than a service. The company we are supporting, a major telecommunications giant, has decided to outsource our positions to Columbia, Panama, and the Phillipines. This has caused contrasting emotions in me. On one end I feel like I am finally going to get out of this line of work and God is going to answer our prayers for more meaningful, fruitful work. On another end it is the second time I am getting laid off since 2010 and I am thinking “how are we going to manage this, with all the needs we have?” There has been some talk that another major telecommunications giant may start a contract with us this summer, that we won’t get laid off at all. But Pat had an interview yesterday at a care center in Aberdeen, MS; and we are again thinking how our lives will be better if she gets this. I am also concerned that we may be running ahead of God and don’t want to be disappointed if He does not provide Pat with this opportunity in this profession.
Currently, I am also wondering if God wants me to start my own tutoring business. I still have a passion for education; but in all honesty I feel that is going to be an uphill climb to get back into a regular teaching job–as I was involuntarily terminated from the last three schools where I taught. I put ads in a local tabloid thinking that since this is the end of the school year I will certainly get some calls for tutoring. Nothing has happened however. The struggle I have faced is a balance of having faith to trust God that He will provide when we take steps of faith when we don’t know the outcome–a campaign our former church pushed us into signing on with, balanced with what I read in James 4:13-15–where too many times we get over-confident and boast about what will happen. I pray that God’s will be done in my life and in Pat’s; but it seems like too many times I have to cry out to God, saying “how long. O Lord do we have to suffer?”