I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
- Philippians 4:12-13
Israel is swallowed up;
now she is among the nations
like something no one wants.
- Hosea 8:8
Before I begin this discussion, I would like to talk about how the topic came to mind. Whenever a large storm is approaching a part of the world or earthquakes occur, I pray for those in the storm’s path, but if the storm approaches where I might know people, I pray more fervently for those that I know. Some people may think that to be bad. Should we not pray the same regardless, because people are people? But I think it is only human nature when we can close our eyes and see faces or remember names and that makes the imminent danger more real for us, and thus the prayers more closer to our heart.
As Hurricane Laura was approaching the Louisiana Coast, I thought of an old friend with whom I graduated college, but he had moved to South Carolina. Then I remembered a strange job interview. The interview went perfectly, in my view. It seemed like God was going to plant me in the perfect place, a place where I could make a major difference.
When I had been out of work for over six months from the NASA project, a headhunter in New Orleans called, unsolicited. He had the perfect job for me, and I was the only one that he knew of that could fill the position. The job was at a chemical plant that was near the western shore of Lake Charles. They needed a Training Manager. That was about all that the headhunter knew.
During the first interview until the last, about an hour interview each with about ten people – two taking me to lunch – they all said the same thing. They had always hired the wrong person. The wrong person came in, force-fed training that was ill-suited to the plant, with the training manager shoving the training down everyone’s throats. The manager never related to the employees, never established rapport. The manager never got employee feedback, but the supervisor got feedback that the training manager was not liked by anyone and the training was a waste of time, yet much required by law. The training managers, all who had been hired, one after another, simply put as I kept hearing all day, were Jerks.
I smiled and then presented the Systematic Approach to Training (also with other names) where you have to start with some classes to prove your worth, but everything as you develop the deeply needed training is based on open communications. I would get to know every employee in their work setting. I would get to know the things that were habitually done wrong, done right, and learn how they could be done better. I would learn where procedures were cut short and the safety issues caused by those short-cuts. Establishing rapport is not just letting the employees know that you know your stuff, but that you care for them.
I thought that sold who I was, and they realized that was what they had been saying that they needed. Consultants that reviewed their hiring practices said that was what they needed. Everything pointed to someone that had every skill and knowledge that I had. It was a no-brainer. Thinking that I had “wowed” them with exactly what they needed and detailed information on how I would be successful, I went back to the casino where my sons had been watching television in the hotel room and trying to sneak past the guards into the gambling den, just to be kicked out. We went home the next day, rejoicing. As an introvert, it takes me a while to get over the jitters in an interview, but this interview was so perfect, I never doubted for a second that I would not get the job.
The phone was ringing as I entered the house, long before we had cellphones. The headhunter screamed at me on how I could have screwed up the perfect fit job interview. All I had to do was smile, not say a word, and sign the contract, but the company was scared off by what I said. That according to the headhunter.
As I hung up the phone, I remembered working in the 80s as a team building facilitator. The dictatorial managers were told that they needed to establish teams. They paid millions of dollars training people to facilitate teams, form teams, and have team meetings. Then the suggestions for improvements around the plant quickly exhausted the money set aside for team suggestions / improvements and exhausted the patience of these bosses who were a cross between Genghis Khan and Vlad the Impaler (sorry, I cannot think of more heinous leaders at present, but I assume they exist). Years of work wasted because the top echelon of the company was trying to get people who were insane with power to give up that power so that the people working for them could feel empowered. It worked great in Japan, but in Japan, the boss only remained the boss if his people achieved success. The Japanese manager took the blame for failure. In the USA, a failed boss usually got promoted or all the underlings got fired – at least where I worked.
It then dawned on me that these people at the chemical plant (both male and female) were “jerks” themselves, to use their word. They could not think of ever hiring anyone other than a jerk, just like the ones they hired the last half dozen times. Even though they had run through a half dozen of them and each was a failure.
They knew what they needed, but that need was overcome by their want to not ever change. The chemical plant is still there, but under new management. I wonder what caused the plant to be sold…
I have seen in business that the bosses promote the underling that is just like them – in my experience in most cases, a bully (interpreted as ‘confidence and a go-getter’) and an average or below average worker (thus after promotion, there would not be a lack in productivity among the remaining underlings) – and oh, how they knew you were an underling. There motto was “You drive the people hard, and if they do not like it, they can look for a new job, just to find the same thing at the other company down the road.”
There may be exceptions, but when if I found them, it was in the military – a totally different world based on totally different rules, with the gems and the jerks there too.
But do we go after our wants, ignoring our needs, at our own detriment?
Enter the no bake chocolate cheesecake.
Mid-afternoon, you feel hungry. You have a slice of cheesecake. It was good, so you have another. You are still hungry, so you eat a third piece of cheesecake, besides, they are small slices… It is not that much indulgence!!
Two hours later, you have gained weight. Your cholesterol is out of whack. Your blood sugar is off the charts, and when your spouse calls you in for a dinner, you find that they have prepared your favorite and they have been working on it since early that morning – you are full, and you could not eat a bite.
Maybe there is a little exaggeration in this example, but I have probably eaten four slices of cheesecake in my youth, but I always figured out how to eat the food that was good for me too – with a bad tummy ache later on.
Another good example, actually a very bad example for many reasons. Do you have that person in your family that is working on their third or fourth spouse? Or more? While they may be the tyrant that breaks up the marriage, they could be the victim also. But even as the victim, they realize what they need in a spouse, but they always get exactly what they had the last time, and sometimes even someone more extreme in that direction.
But that is just that one person in the family with a revolving door instead of a spouse.
What about everyone on earth? We need Jesus. Many of us are quite successful at doing everything possible to avoid Jesus. We even go to church to avoid Jesus. We give ourselves a nice shining coat of “Jesus skin” and no one can tell that we have never really met Him. And like those folks at the chemical plant, many of us would do the wrong thing knowingly, just to avoid changing our lives.
But with some people, the elect, the power of God is so strong that a miracle happens. A rebellious sinner forgets the wants and grabs ahold of the greatest need that we all have, our Savior, Jesus. And there is enough of Jesus to satisfy everyone’s need.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.