Friday, September 5, 2014

Living in No-Man's Land: From Job Hunting to Joy Hunting

No-Man's Land used to be a term that sounded romantic and wild to me. The idea of a place in between countries that belonged to no one... free from war and conflict and subjugation, free space for any creature to roam without being regulated or watched... this may be a far cry from the actual meaning of the phrase but this is how I imagined it should be as a child. I wanted to live in No-Man's Land!

A good friend texted me something along these lines the other day: "I feel like you and I are both living in no-man's-land... not yet where we hope to be but trying to find meaning in the place where we are now." She was exactly right! Both of us are in different states but similar worlds... living with our parents (or parents-in-law, in my case), looking for work to get by, but longing to find our callings. No-Man's Land no longer feels like an adventure, but like a dry, pointless rut in between where I was and where I should be.  For months now, I've been praying for this stage of life to be over and to know where God wants my husband and I to go. We knew that it was time for us to leave Beckley and pursue other things, but where we are supposed to go and what we are supposed to do is still in shadow. Tim and I have applied to about 30 different jobs across the country. But so far, nothing has panned out. Nothing. It's been a nine-month rollercoaster of hoping, praying, getting hopes up, and having them fizzle out. Over and over and over again. I am weary of being in-between and desperate for an answer that has been eluding me for what feels like a lifetime.

Weary of the job hunt and weary of life in general, Tim and I finally had to make a decision when both of our jobs in Beckley were coming to an end. We felt that if we stayed in Beckley, we would be stuck there and have even more difficulty getting out of the no-man's land rut. So we got rid of half our junk, packed up the other half, and moved to Chattanooga to live with my wonderful in-laws. The plan is to find short-term jobs here while continuing to search for more permanent positions. Things have been better here than I could have imagined... we have much more space for our stuff than I anticipated, free time and low expectations, and our dog is even getting along with the dog who currently dominates the house. We could have been homeless and instead we are living in a beautiful house with a beautiful family (and air conditioning!)

And yet, with these blessings surrounding me, I fight discontentment moment by moment. Part of me is whining, "I want to be settled in my own house (preferably out West) with my own kitchen and my own goats and chickens in the backyard! I want a good-paying job doing what I love! I want Tim to find a good-paying job that he loves and be able to pursue his dreams!" Every complaint is eroding my faith and working against the very thing that I am thirsting for. While reading Ecclesiastes the other day, I realized that what I have been thirsting for all along has not been a job at all, or a new house, or even security. What I am thirsty for is joy. 

I have been letting the "waiting game", the dusty clouds of No-Man's Land, steal my joy. Looking back on this year, I can't remember many moments of true joy and peace in the memory of the job hunt rollercoaster. I have squandered so many days longing for the future and missing out on the beauty of the present.

Two days ago, I was sitting on a rock by Chickamauga Lake reading about the Preacher's search for meaning in the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is famous for the word vanity, but I was struck by how many times I read the word joy. For example:

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  Ecclesiastes 2:24-25.

Whether I find a new job today or two years from now, whether Tim and I buy a house or live out of our cars or live with our parents, whether I become a director of a camp or a cashier at Aldi, this is all from the hand of God. Joy is not generated by circumstances or surroundings, but by the loving and sovereign hand of God at work in your life. The poet David reminds me in Psalm 16:11:

You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

I firmly believe that God wants us all to have space to dream... and courage to make those dreams big... but I am learning that until those dreams become reality, I need to open my eyes to the joy in my current reality. God is lavishing so much on me, and when I ignore the beauty of today I am dishonoring His gifts. I am here in No-Man's Land for a reason, and until the dust clouds clear and God reveals the way out of this rut, I am going to do my best to find the wildflowers that have been growing here all along, praising the God who planted them there for me to discover.

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