Several weeks ago I was sharply disappointed. I have been waiting for more than a month to hear the results of my annual performance review as it applies to my compensation … a subject that closely rivets my attention. Some time ago I received the narrative part of the review and was delighted to see that, in the view of my boss and peers, I had performed beyond expectations for my level and position. This was particularly welcome in light of the high performance standard and stringent hiring requirements that my employer maintains. I began to allow myself to hope for a generous increase, which turns out to have been a mistake … the small increase I did receive was half of my most conservative hopes.
Accounting for bonuses and ignoring inflation, I am earning substantially less now than I did when I was laid off in 2002 … not quite the career path I had planned. With our Duckabush house mortgage on top of the cost for this house in Lakewood, we are not making great strides (or even a slow shuffle) toward financial security; rather we seem to be consuming our tax refund and increasing our debt level. I had really looked for a salary increase as a validation of my worth and a badly-needed affirmation of my ability to provide for my family, especially after a recent 17-month stint of unemployment. It seems very important to me to be able to bring nice things home to my family, to continually improve our lifestyle.
A large part of my satisfaction at work is tied up with my hope for the future. That hope was sharply dashed … the level of salary increase seems starkly out of step with the positive nature of my performance review. When the dust settles, actions mean a lot more than words … based on compensation, I am inclined to believe that my career prospects may be rather limited with my current employer.
As I drove home from the train station yesterday, I wondered, “Is God stingy?” Does God hold back financial blessing from me out of a sense of miserly mean-spiritedness? Why, when I have (at least in my own mind) clearly earned it, would I not reap the benefits of my hard work? As those thoughts passed through my mind, I looked to the east and saw Mt. Rainier in all its lofty glory, shouting God’s attributes with 14,000+-foot authority. Surely the God that created such lofty heights is not stingy … a stingy God would stick to rolling hills topping out at 3000 feet or less.
So then I must conclude that this salary increase is part of God’s plan for me, and He is doing something in my life through this perceived injustice. Several theories come to mind:
- I don’t handle disappointment very well at all. Perhaps God is teaching me to look to Him when my hopes are dashed.
- I continue to look to my own ability to provide for my family, rather than trusting in God. Perhaps He is reminding me to rely on Him for all my needs.
- I do not respond well to injustice, especially when I am the one being treated unjustly. When all is said and done, I would have to admit that I have mostly failed to learn this lesson in the past. Perhaps God is continuing to teach me to wait for His justice, waiving my ‘rights’ for personal, immediate justice.
- I am not known for my patience, and will often choose the path of least resistance. Perhaps God is motivating me to make the most of the opportunities for learning in my current employment situation … in a weird sort of way, lack of generous financial remuneration motivates me to more aggressively seek some other advantage in terms of on-the-job learning. It probably wouldn’t hurt me to learn a little more patience, either, although it pains me to admit this.
I’ve been reading in Isaiah lately, chapters 30 and 31, wherein the prophet warns the people against reliance on Egypt for their defense and deliverance:
“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.” Isaiah 31:1
This is a repeated theme in the Old Testament … horses and chariots must have been really cool by the technological standards of the time, because the people of Israel are warned against trusting in them on multiple occasions. God’s desire was for His people to trust in Him, not in the worldly power of Egypt. Interestingly enough, Egypt is often synonymous with wealth and ease in the Scriptures … I suspect I am not reaching too far in applying this warning to my own situation. Certainly all those who trust in wealth or their own hands will be put to shame sooner or later. But is it wrong to want to work hard and enjoy the fruits of that labor?
My initial reaction is to jump ship … now that I am not tied to living in the Duckabush, surely I can find an employer who will value my experience and abilities, if not in Seattle, then somewhere else? One advantage of growing up as an Army brat is that moving holds no particular terror for me … for my own part, I would see moving to another state or country as more of an adventure than something to be feared.
On the other hand, I think that there are many things I could still learn, working where I am now. Is there any virtue in sticking it out, persevering beyond this perceived injustice, making the most of this employment opportunity?
I asked Kathy and the kids last night this question: “Which do you think would be better? Should I seek to make a lot of money, to be happy in my work, or to work in a field that accomplishes something for God?” Certainly there is no money to be made in programming for a Christian organization. I feel as though this job provides none of the three, which seems a definite lose-lose situation.
Yet the thought of leaving my current situation somehow saddens me. Call it cognitive dissonance, but I like working there for some reason. I like a lot of the people, I like the dynamic nature of the company, I like the idea (even if I don’t take advantage of it as much as I could) of learning new technologies.
I talked it over with my boss and learned that I was not particularly singled out for stingy treatment … apparently my employer is not lavish with annual increases but relies on other factors to retain employees. I’m not sure I find this particularly comforting, but there is at least a reasonably well-defined path for advancement within my organization, if I am willing to exert myself.
By a strange coincidence, I started a new project yesterday afternoon which provided me an opportunity to learn something new … I had more fun in my work yesterday than I have since I started this job. I found myself still working at 10:30 pm last night … full of energy and enthusiasm … this kind of experience has been rare in my current assignment. Was this God’s creative way of encouraging me to persevere?
As I have done many times, I cast myself into the hands of God, for Him to do with me as He wills. I choose to let Him carry the burden of any injustice that has been done, and will let Him take care of the needs (and wants) of my family. If this means that I take another job, then I will do so carefully, trusting in God to guide me in making that decision. If it means we do not buy a house, then we will continue to rent, and if necessary move to a smaller house, trusting in God for our long-term financial well-being. If it means we must give up the Duckabush house, then we will trust God for a place to retire, and count on Him for comfort in the loss of that dream.
Just outside Seattle there is a place where my train pauses at a signal to allow a southbound train to pass. It is one of the ugliest places on the planet … railroad tracks branching into industrial yards, graffiti-covered concrete warehouses standing amidst mounds of discarded ship chains and stacks of rusty rails. Yet in the morning sunshine, a wild bunny hops daintily amidst the piles of junk, looking for a dandelion poking up through the asphalt. It reminds me of the remarkable way that God can take an ugly situation and make something beautiful of it, and it gives me hope. I’ve certainly seen Him do it before, and I can rely on Him.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31