We know job loss in Cleveland.
A story in today’s Plain Dealer?grimly declares that we’re leading the nation, for the seventh month in a row, despite economic recovery. (Perhaps this is why researchers also found Ohio to be the sweariest state in the Union?) ?The job loss numbers reminded me of a “Psalm for Getting Laid Off.”As for me, I said in my prosperity, ?I shall never be moved.? By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; You hid your face; I was dismayed. ~Psalm 30
?The first time I got laid off, I ran to a bathroom to cry. I am quoted in a trade magazine sniveling something about, ?but I really thought we were doing good work, producing something valuable.? (For the record, the image of me crying in the ladies room was exactly not how I wanted to debut before a national audience.) My cynical evaluation of the state of the publicly-traded market economy did not make the article.
I emptied my desk into a small box the final day and shoved it to the back of a closet at home. It had been my dream job. Landing it, I imagined God confirming my life?s value and calling. I was established. I had health insurance. I was even unionized. And I delighted in the work of my hands.
But when the most junior 10 percent of us got cut free, God seemed to hide her face. I was more than dismayed. I got clinically depressed. And that box of horrors remained untouched in the closet for four years, until my sympathetic spouse donned psychological rubber gloves to dispose of the rolodex and notebooks and business cards so we could relocate states away for a new career.
Did I really let that box represent me and the corporation stand for God, so little valuing me?
I did, in some subconscious way. Perhaps you have, too. We can?t help it. We?re Ah-MUHR-i-kuns. It?s just eh-kah-NAH-micks. (My 11th grade econ teacher punctuated those words by smacking the chalkboard, and I can now pronounce them no other way.) A decade after marrying into the family, I realized I did not know what my Canadian relatives did for a living. I had to ask. Then I spent a whole day marveling at their courage to never need mention it.
Surely we could learn this little thing from our Northern neighbors: We are not our work. Prosperity is no measure of God?s favor. Or our value.
I like to think the singer of Psalm 30 learned this. She starts off ?established.? But God?s smiling face seems to disappear, and she becomes dismayed, crying out to God. (I imagine her bawling in the ladies room.) Then something happens ? it never says what ? to turn that sobbing to some kind of loud joy. I doubt ?the corporate cost-cutters in her life merely saw the error of their ways. More likely: The singer found a new way to measure her value in the world.
More than a decade after that first layoff, while nursing new wounds from more meaningful work lost, I hear a writer with?Vitae?(the online arm of The Chronicle of Higher Education) suggest that a ?professional identity? is a now a luxury few can afford.
Accepting that could be a good ?and bitter thing.
Good, meaningful work meets basic human needs. Maslow recognized that long ago. ?But if I could give a blessing to the many, many people I know in this new year struggling to disentangle feelings of personal value and self-worth from an unsatisfying or lost job, it would be this: God is not your CEO. May you find your value and your worth more in your being and less in in your working.?