Walking Our Faith: A rejection letter sparks a downward spiral (column)
On Friday I came in from a late afternoon walk with my two Newfoundland dogs, and opened the email I’d been waiting for:
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in the writing position here …We enjoyed the time we spent with you during the interview process and were grateful for your time. At this time, we have filled those positions. We will pray that you find your next position within the right organization in which God has planned for you.”
I have received many, many rejection letters during my job search. But this was different. I thought I was perfect for this job: I would be writing grants to obtain funding for charities of the Catholic Church. I would be fulfilling my desire to be, as Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “a pencil in God’s hand.” Financially, I needed this job. I had prayed desperately for this job.
On Friday night, I cried so hard that I burst a blood vessel in my left eye.
On Saturday, I attended evening Mass and mumbled words that usually filled me with joy.
On Sunday, I kept the television on so I wouldn’t hear my thoughts.
On Monday, the TV remained on, and I cleaned the house, because I couldn’t write.
Each night, I woke hourly and repeated one question: “Why, God?”
On Tuesday, I turned off the television and spent the day in silence, reading my Bible and praying. In my journal, I wrote:
“Dear God, I don’t understand. This job would have made a huge difference in my life, I could pay my bills, I would have the dignity of work I loved. Why did You close this door?”
On Wednesday, Barb and I met for lunch. We talked and cried and laughed, and she astutely advised that this is how I would feel: a roller coaster of anger, sadness and laughter. My friend Pat called from her vacation in California to see how I was doing.
With a practical mind, I replayed every moment of the interview, considering what mistakes I’d made, since this was my first in ages.
Perhaps I should not have shared my epiphany of how this job was the culmination of the journey I’d started 20 years ago when I left Wall Street, and how I knew that it was an answer to prayer.
Maybe I should simply believe the interviewer who told me the chosen candidate had more experience specific to the job.
It’s very unsettling when we’ve done the best we can and discover our best is not sufficient, it makes us fearful of the future. But as my imagination spirals downward, I feel as if I will always be on the outside looking in and never quite good enough to be chosen.
On a spiritual level, I turn to God and ask, “When will it get better?”
In her quasi-memoir “Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis,” Lauren F. Winner writes about the Book of Esther and notes that “Esther” means “hiddenness.” In this book, it is God who remains hidden, never mentioned by name.
Has God turned his back on me, hidden his face, turned a deaf ear to my cries?
Lauren F. Winner offers the words of a rabbi during Purim: “You have a choice: see God here or not; see salvation, or see only human courage, the divine subtly at work, or see chance, the luck of the draw on this day of lots. All throughout Torah, we find people looking for God, and not finding God because He doesn’t often conform to our expectations. God is somewhere other than the place we think to look.”
My friends say, “God has something better planned for you.”
Which is encouraging, but it doesn’t pay the bills.
In this place, I have two choices: to turn my back on God, as I feel he has turned away from me. Or I can turn toward him and offer my brokenness. And then go back to my job hunt, using what I’ve learned, and hope that next time I will be successful.
I choose the latter because I cannot imagine my life without God. And like Jacob, I will wrestle with God until I receive my blessing. But I am hurt.
Reading the Psalms Week, Five of Nine
I love the Psalms because it captures the raw honesty with which we can come to God, even when we are in pain.
Psalm 88 (1-5, 9, 11)
O Lord, God of my salvation,
I cry out to you by day.
I come to you at night.
Now hear my prayer;
listen to my cry.
I am forgotten,
cut off from your care.
My eyes are blinded by my tears.
Each day I beg for your help, O Lord;
I lift my hands to you for mercy.
O Lord, I cry out to you.
I will keep on pleading day by day.
O Lord, why do you reject me?
Why do you turn your face from me?
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