Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What Do You Expect?

In 1997, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters struck against United Parcel Service. It was one of the more dismal moments in UPS history, and one of the most significant moments in my history with the company: I learned received confirmation that neither side of the argument was any better than the other; I saw a disgustingly childish and vulgar level of bitterness and retaliation from both organizations. And I saw management who for sixteen days had crossed picket lines, worked ridiculous hours, and dug in wherever necessary, rewarded with barely a "thank you," and the excuse that the strike had done such significant financial damage to our company, no raises would be available to us the following year. "Time to tighten 'our' belts." Translation: your.

A couple years later: 9-11. Shortly after that: recession. Still "no money for raises." Nothing seemed to be breaking, except the spirits of UPS' frontline management. Not much has changed. Promotions are "fixed." The fat cats at the top give themselves ungodly raises. And the poor schmucks in the trenches remain just that -- poor and in the trenches. As a fabulous perk, the quality of management has deteriorated for myriad reasons; most of the folks promoted these days couldn't hold a candle to some of the less talented folks I worked with in the past. But I'm not complaining -- really I'm not -- just trying to prove a point: if I receive recognition; if the obnoxious, good-for-nothing I am forced to work beside gets what's coming to him; if I get a raise; if one of the capitalist swine sitting in the next board meeting decides to read some of the wisdom penned by Jim Casey and his constituents upon founding this company, and vows to return it to the people-centered success story it was, I will consider it a huge bonus. If not, it will be just another day in corporate America.

Pessimistic? Not necessarily. Realistic, I think. Last year I opened my check to find the largest raise I've received in years. Not like the "good ol' days," but definitely a step in the right direction. I was surprised; elated, in fact. My raise actually covered the increase in the price of my benefits this year! (Snarky, I know; but true.) Take a look around. Do you see many other companies that are treating their employees any better? It doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to see people are -- literally -- starving for work; with a job market like this is anyone is going to pamper their workforce? I'd be nuts to walk into work tomorrow expecting them to tell me, "It's 'Waxing Wages Wednesday,' and we are going to pay you a double time just for coming in today!" Not gonna happen. And it's not personal; just capitalism in the hands of a worldly few; those with power taking advantage of those without.

So why are Christians so taken aback by all this? Why do we think we are entitled to good health, financial prosperity, wonderful marriages, exemplary kids -- or kids at all, white picket fences, and sound minds? Even Jesus told us: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." He told us that so we would have peace about it: don't expect much from this world but trouble; I am your refuge and strength, and you are not of this world anyway! I don't expect a 39% raise this year: I'm not on the board of a large corporation; I don't expect the world to be a kinder, gentler place to me (or anyone else, for that matter) I don't belong to it. Why are Christians surprised by problems we encounter? Why do Christians even think they are our problems? Do you think Satan gives a rip whether you pay your mortgage or not? He doesn't care, just as long as it keeps the kingdom of God from prospering. If poverty keeps you discouraged -- Great! If a windfall keeps you distracted -- Fine! His beef is with God, and he'll use you anyway he can to accomplish his purposes.

If we as Christians get all caught up in this temporal stuff: what we deserve; how we're being plagued, we miss the point. This life has been entrusted to us, and we can choose to work as we are (hopefully) training to do, or we can expect something Jesus Himself has told us we are not going to get. We can rise up when the battle reaches our territory, fighting in the power of Jesus' name, or we can freeze like deer in the headlights, panicked because we are under attack.

“The point of your life is to point to Him." ― Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God  

Let's get to that, and let God handle the circumstances.

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