Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Have I mentioned that Marc lost his job?

So, Marc lost his job a couple of weeks ago. I guess I forgot to mention that here, haven't I? I didn't really forget. At first, I wanted to give Marc a chance to digest the news. He came home from a construction job he is doing for a friend of ours, with the news. The official reason was that his position was to be terminated. Marc was a technician for a company that sells systems for residential waste water management. He supervised installations, did inspections and repairs and had been working there for three years. Being let go so suddenly was a shock, to say the least.

It took us all a few days to incorporate the news into our lives, but Marc was understandably hit harder. He didn't sleep for several days, laying in bed thinking about what he might have done differently. After a bit of time and a discussion with a friend who is also an ex-employee of the company, he was able to find some perspective on the situation and relaxed a bit.

I realized, from walking this journey with him and watching how others would relate to him when he told them the news, that one of the hardest things for us to do when someone is hurting is listen. I have always been impressed with Job's friends in this aspect. I know that they went on to offer all sorts of unhelpful blather that has fueled countless sermons on the the evils of...well, unhelpful blather. But listen to their initial reaction to Job's considerable sorrows;

When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:11-13

These three guys went to Job and sat with him in the dirt for seven days and nights in complete silence. Am I alone in finding that simply remarkable? I know they said all the wrong things afterward, but I think there might be something about entering into another person's sorrow so faithfully that makes up for a considerable amount of stupid.

So Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, funky names aside, impress me. It's not easy to sit still and not try to fix other people's problems. I saw this with Marc. He just wanted to talk about what had happened and how he felt about it. He needed people to listen. Just listen.

He also needed lots of physical affection. Ladies, just a quick note here. If your husband is struggling with a blow like this, especially one that bats his self-esteem and sense of self-worth around like a beach ball, it is often helpful to use physical touch as a means of communicating concern, love and acceptance. Back rubs, hand holding, hugs, and yes, even making love can bring a lot of comfort to a man, especially if he is struggling to identify or communicate his concerns. As women, we often find comfort in difficult times though physical touch. We hug friends, pat hands, cuddle children, cry in each others' arms, stroke kittens, and just generally find ways to comfort ourselves. Men get much less physical touch than we do, and most of it comes from us. Never underestimate the value of a hand on his back, a brief touch in passing and other moments of intimacy to give him the unmistakable feeling of being loved and accepted no matter what is going on.

Learning to listen requires faith in God and His plans for us and others. It is a glorious thing to listen to someone talk themselves into godly solutions and mindsets. We understand that God is at work, through His Spirit, and we are mere servants in the process. It doesn't mean that words are not useful, but it is only after freely, patiently and trustingly listening that we can have any hope of our words being what we want them to be - comforting, wise, up-lifting. Also, if what comes out when we finally do open our mouths is mindless blather, well then at least we haven't completely messed up. Comforting others is often less about saying the right thing and more about being present.

This is something that I am only beginning to learn. You may not have noticed, but I have a tendency to be a bit wordy. Okay, how could you not have noticed? :) In any case, I read once that the type of fasting needed by most preachers (I would add teachers, speakers and writers as well) is a fasting of words. I tend to use words like my husband uses duct tape - to fix everything. Only, and I realize I may be offending a whole segment of the population here, duct tape doesn't actually fix everything. Neither do words.

So, Marc lost his job. He has a few leads on other jobs, and in the meantime, today he is setting up the chick nursery because on Friday, hopefully, the eggs in the incubator will hatch. Who knows where the next few months will lead us? Well, God knows. That is good enough for me. What I do know is that God loves us and has promised to care for us and that whatever happens, it will be an adventure.

That is also good enough for me!

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