Reading through the first five books of the Bible has been tough. For one thing I’m a slow reader and for another, a lot of the stuff is kind of boring. Today’s reading, however, caught my attention.
I read through chapters 32 & 33 of Genesis, which is where Jacob meets his brother Esau after 20 years of separation. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Jacob had tricked his father, Isaac, into receiving the blessing that was supposed to be given to Esau. After Esau had found out, he became furious and Jacob didn’t want to deal with that (Esau was a beastly man – seriously) and so he booked it.
Jacob returns to where he grew up mostly because God told him to (31:3), but partially because Laban – the relative he was staying with – was kind of a jerk. Anyhow, Jacob knew that he would have to face Esau and so he sent a messenger ahead to let him know he was arriving. When the messenger came back and reported that Esau was on his way to meet him with 400 men, Jacob freaked.
“In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, ‘If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape,’” (32:7-8). Jacob thought that his older brother was coming to kill him.
It makes me think of all the times I’ve reacted rashly because of fear, but yet was proven foolish in the end. Around this exact time three years ago, I was working at Mezza Luna – a New York style pizza place in downtown Eugene. I had worked at a pizza place back in Lincoln City all throughout high school and thought that a job like Mezza Luna wouldn’t be so different.
In practicality, it wasn’t. Most of the equipment was the same (ovens, pizza line coolers, etc.). But there was definitely something about the environment that upset me. Back home I worked with a bunch of people my age who cared about working hard and well and yet having a good time with it all. Any pressure to do well with our work was practically non-existent. But at Mezza Luna, I felt as though my job depended upon doing every little thing as perfectly as possible.
Working from fear doesn’t usually produce the best quality of worker – at least not for me anyway. When I’m worried about what a particular manager or owner will think of the work I’m doing (even if it’s something as trivial as mopping the floor), I psyche myself out. I worry that whatever I’m doing won’t be good enough and ultimately sabotage myself. I botch whatever I’m working on because I’m terrified that I’ll get fired.
In a matter of one week of working at Mezza Luna, I wanted to leave. It wasn’t fun for me and I was a little sick of the restaurant industry. But yet I wanted to stay in Eugene that summer instead of going back home to Lincoln City, so I convinced myself time after time to stick it out. I thought God was just testing to see what I could put up with and for how long. When the 30-day review came, I was ready to tell the manager how I felt and hopefully find a way to keep going with it. If I just talk to him, I thought, then maybe things will start to ease up a bit…
As I was walking over to the restaurant, though, I thought it was a good idea to pray. I told God that if it came down to it, I’d just quit right there on the spot. I walked in, went to the office, and in about 3 minutes walked back out with my last paycheck ever from Mezza Luna. It was the happiest moment of that entire year.
Until I walked a block and realized I was unemployed. It was then that I, like Jacob, started to freak out. I was terrified of not being able to make ends meet here in Eugene because I didn’t have a job and so I decided to call an old boss at a golf course back in Lincoln City. I was only hoping for a part-time cart-kid job, but when I called him up, he offered me a full-time Pro Shop job.
As I’ve learned within the last couple of weeks, there is a lot of pressure to find a job after you graduate college. Friends, relatives, and acquaintances alike ask you the age-old question, “So what are you going to do now?” It adds up pretty quickly. Time and time again I’m tempted to freak out – I’m tempted to make another rash decision just in case my worst fears become reality. And yet what I must remember is exactly what Jacob needed to remember: God’s promise of provision.
After he had mad the fearfully-driven move to separate his traveling group, Jacob prayed to God, “…O Lord, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ … Save me,” (32:9-11a). What he didn’t realize until Esau embraced him in chapter 33 was that he had incidentally reminded himself that God did promise to be with Him and to provide for Him. You can imagine the joyful shock he experienced when the man he thought would kill him gave him a hug and kiss instead.
The amount of time elapsed between getting let go at Mezza Luna and being offered a full time job at Salishan’s Pro Shop was literally 10 minutes. It was a long ten minutes because I was seriously afraid of not being able to provide for myself. And in the midst of my fearful response (calling the old jobs back home), God surprised me with much more. He blew away my expectations of His provision. Will He do it again this time? Will He surprise me once more with a job that pays better than I want or need? Maybe. But the difference between now and the summer three years ago is that I must refresh myself in God’s promise of provision.
No matter what, He says, He will be with us and will always take care of us.