I will always remember 2002 as a Very Bad Year. Not the entire year - January to May rocked the house. I had a great job as promotion manager at Bantam Dell Publishers, a division of Random House in NYC, that I loved. I was enjoying my single late 20s in the city and, most especially fabulous, I took myself to Italy that April.
But then July arrived and I entered an extended period of unemployment, heartache, drama, and woe.
Ever since, I have looked back at that year as a watershed. I have railed against the Lord for those events and many that followed. I have begged to know why my life and plans alone were sacrificed for family needs, why (when I finally got my current job) I had been relegated to an uneventful job where my training and experience had no place to flourish, why I was continually blocked from changing my circumstances professionally, why I wasn't allowed to go back to the publishing industry I loved, why I had a job but no longer a career. Why, why, why.
This morning, as I was again late for work due to - stuff - I was hanging up my cell phone after alerting my boss to my delay and found myself marveling (not for the first time) at my good fortune. Had I managed to shift from the creative side of my agency to the account side (as I had endeavored to due two years ago in an effort to re-enable my career), I'm certain I would have been fired long ago for absenteeism or continued lateness or some other (probably valid) reason caused by the erratic life I've had this year with my mother's long-term illness and hospitalization. But my boss has been unbelievably supportive, allowing me to make up time and working with my erratic schedule whenever possible, and she and my colleagues have repeatedly pitched in to cover my account when I could not.
Then today, I read that Random House has been hemorrhaging big name authors lately. It's been having trouble for some time, evidenced most greatly when parent company Bertelsmann's CEO was ousted last year. Now RH has lost several recognizable names, two of whom (Iris Johansen and Tami Hoag) were directly managed by Bantam Dell. Big time authors. Besides being a longtime reader of these two authors, I had also worked on book campaigns for both of them - both hardcover and mass-market books - while employed at Bantam Dell.
And I thought: Oh. Crap.
After reading that news update this morning, my brain quickly flipped through the last six years. I could see how loosing my job at Bantam Dell in 2002, while devastating, was infinitely better than being there (or somewhere else in publishing) today and facing the current marketplace, especially considering our national economic meltdown. Instead, I have 5 years invested in my current company, the longest I ever been at a job in my whole life. I'm pulling down a higher salary (however limiting) than anything I could have maintained in publishing (finances in the publishing world are typically about 30% below other industries), which is especially helpful now that I'm supporting my mother. And while there will be shocks felt everywhere from these economy issues, here at least, there's less immediate fear of job loss. For now.
During those six years, I had to believe that the Lord had a plan for it all. How could I be a good Christian if I didn't? There had to be a reason for my suffering and sacrifice, a purpose I simply could not see but that might someday be revealed to me. I knew the lingo. I got the theology. I mouthed the platitudes. I had to be patient. I had to wait.
I really suck at patience and waiting.
It's much harder to believe in the dark emptiness of an aching night filled with pain. I still railed. I still begged. I cultivated festering anger and dissatisfaction. And that 's not all in the past tense. But in that revelatory moment this morning, I could see how the Lord worked through these trials and personal losses to set me up for what's happening now. My heart might still yearn for things lost that I valued so greatly, but I could now see and be grateful for His unfathomable, far-flung vision so massively greater than my own.
Well, maybe not too grateful.
I could feel Him smiling at me this morning, that gentle, knowing look when a recalcitrant child finally gets it. I could hear Him in my head offering a mild rebuke with a slightly taunting "See?" (though I'm betting the taunting aspect came more from my own inner voice than a holy discourse with my creator.) To which I, of course, responded in my normal, humble, repentant (ahem) way -
"Oh, ALL RIGHT!"