in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near
in the valley of decision.
The sun and moon will be darkened,
and the stars no longer shine.
The Lord will roar from Zion
and thunder from Jerusalem;
the earth and the heavens will tremble.
But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
a stronghold for the people of Israel.
- Joel 3:14-16
The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
- Jeremiah 1:4-5
Yesterday, I talked about finding the right direction in seeking God’s will. When I got out of the Army, I had choices. I felt I had chosen wisely, but it did not work out that way. Yet, wait a minute. God is sovereign, and He had me where He wanted me. Who am I to question whether it came out okay?
Although my mother had determined that I would be an engineer, I was determined that this Army thing was a bump in the road for my ‘engineering’ career. I didn’t mind staying in the Reserves, but I really wasn’t the ‘officer’ type. At least that was my mindset. I went into active service with the mindset that I would serve my commitment and then I would go back to the civilian world, where I had done some very good engineering work while going to graduate school.
The decision to get out after my four-year commitment was made, but where would I go when I left the military? In 1977, when I entered the service, I had options. The oil industry was booming. When I got out of the service in 1981, things had changed. There had been setbacks in the industry in my absence. When my wife and I returned to the US after three years in Germany, we had never sat in a waiting line at a gas station. We had not traded in our car for a more fuel efficient model. (Okay, we already had one.) People in the US had made countless decisions and changed their lives during those four years, but my family was stuck on a single trajectory, like the zax in yesterday’s post.
I had four job offers when I got out of the military. Two were deemed worthless, tremendous pay cuts and reduced to entry level, competing against fresh college graduates who had done all the calculations last week. I had a master’s degree and seven years of experience in ‘engineering’. That should account for something, but I had not done engineering calculations on a daily basis. The Army experience might not have been engineering all the time, but I made engineering decisions and I performed engineering calculations when necessary. The rest was leadership. Start over? Nope. Hiring managers, at the time, did not look favorably upon people who hit the reset button on their careers.
That left my old company and a government contract job doing the construction engineering that I had done in the military. My old company was required by federal law to give me my old job back, but my old job did not exist and they had laid others off – no room for my return. I could say that my old department could not survive without me, but truthfully they combined two plant’s personnel together and eliminated what I had been doing altogether. The old company low-balled the monetary offer and offered me the job that I mentioned that I did not feel comfortable with, my least favorite and highest percentage of failure. Add to that, my father-in-law was being irrationally argumentative and in my face during the job hunt. I felt we needed some distance. If I had only known that he was suffering from a heart condition that would take his life in a few years, and his aggression stemmed from that. I might have taken the back-handed offer from the old company just to be close to the family.
That left the government contract job at a nuclear plant. Other than the nuclear angle, I had been doing the rest of the job for four years in the Army, design review, project management, construction management, quality control, technical expertise when needed, etc. They even offered the most money.
What crossed my mind, but only for a moment, was to stay in the military.
Where is this going? When I moved my family, with two boys of almost five and two years old, to South Carolina to work at a nuclear plant, I had used logic, reason, and common sense. I had prayed, but had I listened for God’s answer? I listened, but not for long. The clock was ticking. My final day on active duty was a set date. The logic, reason, and common sense were all yelling too loudly to wait and listen for God’s answer. I took that to mean, full speed ahead. God had not shouted loud enough to offer any other solutions. He rarely does, especially when you are busy and moving forward.
Within a few weeks on the new job, I got a new boss who hated the ground I walked on. Why? I do not know. He said that I strutted around like a military officer and I had to know that I was no longer in the service. I never strutted while in the Army. The boss’ fair-haired boy, a Navy academy graduate, strutted. He barely got his work done, but he was loved by the boss. The boss was ex-Navy, enlisted. Was that it? Or was God moving the chess pieces of my life around? Or was Satan testing me?
No worries. The company policy stated that one boss can never hurt your carrier, because you or the boss would be transferred within a two year cycle. A ‘bad employee’ determination requires over three years of bad reviews. The boss drove me hard, but the reviews were good reviews (the reviews that I saw, unaware that he sent bad reviews to his boss). The rule to always transfer people was suspended, because our project was too important. Thus, this boss had the chance to end my career before it got started.
But at the beginning, after I had been on the job for six months and one day, they told me I was being transferred, to an operations job, as a reactor operator. Operator? Not even a supervisor? On shift? For ten years? I refused the ‘offer.’ They said my decision would not hurt my career. They lied when they hired me. They lied again.
I didn’t give continuing in the Army a second thought, because I wanted to be there when the boys needed me. But I had been lied to. They had no intention of making me a project manager. I contacted the Army. If I had signed the paperwork the day before, I would not lose the two-plus years time in grade. But now, I would still be an Army Captain, but I would lose that time, reporting to guys that graduated several years behind me. My pride prevented that move – that and eleven months on military maneuvers, something I was horrible at doing, and then one month of vehicle maintenance and then another eleven months of maneuvers. My younger son would be in elementary school before I got to spend more than a day or two with him. (Think about that when you think of the present military and add the deployments to war zones on top of that. That’s why those reunions in the videos are so tearful.)
I was a little bit angry that God was not speaking. He was speaking, but my emotions were too raw for me to listen.
What could God have said? “Muddle through. Prove yourself. Be better than everyone else in the department, and, at times, the boss himself. Get out the three-pound sledge hammer when everyone else has the half-pound tack hammer. Swing the hammer and beat your way to a career.”
And why would God say that to me? Why not just deliver a star to follow?
Let’s see. God gave me an interest in computers that many of my peers did not have. God could have spelled it out, like He did to Jeremiah, but Jeremiah did not have it easy either.
God could have said, “I want you to write a blog,” but blogs had not been invented yet. So, after I would ask what a blog was, God would say, “That is something where people who have something to say can post it on the internet,” but the internet had not been invented yet. So, after God explained what that would be, I might ask Him how do I reach the internet and how do others reach the internet to read what I write? Then God would say, “On your laptop in your home,” but laptops, and even personal computers, had not been invented yet. How could God explain what was coming?
Yesterday’s post, I ended with God may not give you directions, because what He wants you to do has not been invented yet. For me, I was being groomed, in my wrong turnings and right turnings, to be here, right now. If you have a lot of years ahead of you, you may have a gloriously successful worldly career, or you may have a career like Jeremiah with one hardship after another. Yet, God puts you where you need to be and where you can serve Him best.
What does John 3:16 say we must ‘do?’ Believe, which means place all our trust in God. He has a plan, and He’ll reveal that plan, once the “whatever” gets invented.
Tomorrow, I will close out the year with a look back on what I have learned, now that I am listening to God more than I used to do.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.