When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
- Numbers 13:17-20
The Scripture is from Moses’ instructions to the first twelve spies. It indicates that the spies had to go up hill. It says nothing about it being an uphill journey for their return, but when ten of the twelve spies came back with stories of giants and fortified cities and gloom and doom, it was an uphill battle in convincing the people that God could make good on His promises to take the land, the Promised Land.
The journey was uphill in only one direction, but their struggles were uphill both ways.
In the mid-80s, I was asked to leave the maintenance engineering side of things and become a technical instructor at a government nuclear site, to be the straw boss of a group of engineers and maintenance foremen. I attended all the operator certification training, all except the certifying process itself, and I took that knowledge, plus the knowledge I had gained from five years of work at the site, to develop the initial training courses for the maintenance people. Along the way, I worked at every step of the training development process and at every level of management, other than group manager and superintendent. About five years later, I left and went to a NASA project, to guide and direct all training and development (job title description). When the NASA site was closed down, I went back to government nuclear, but in Washington state and then on to Pennsylvania to provide technical training for an engineering company that supported the steel industry.
Giving that background shows that I knew all about developing training materials, but I had no idea what the key factors were in steel making. I knew that S-T-E-A-L was the wrong way to spell steel, but not much more than that. I learned the basics on my own, but then I had to know the furnaces that my employer designed in intricate detail. There were two senior engineers. One was glad to spend time with me and the other greeted me with the cold shoulder. I was the company’s training manager. I was supposed to know all that stuff better than anyone else, so he told me to leave him alone. So, I wrote the textbooks the best that I could figure out, and then he cussed and fussed about what I got wrong, with using God’s name in vain at least twice in each sentence. But through his rage and his tantrum, he answered the questions that he refused to answer when I had asked in the first place.
When upper management saw what I wrote regarding maintenance periodic inspections, they loved it. They demanded that the suggested inspections be placed in every owners’ manual, but again, the same engineer refused to give me any support until he felt that what I had done was wrong and said loudly, with plenty of cusswords, in the presence of upper management, how stupid I was, but, again, I got the information from him, just working uphill, both ways.
It was this senior engineer that became the new engineering manager. He was rough around the edges, but he knew his stuff. He hated the customer, but upper management thought they could teach him how to play nice. I knew he hated me, but I went on a campaign of being nice to him. I went by his office once each day to greet him cheerfully. The president’s administrative assistant had her office outside his office door. She once asked why I did that. I said that it was behavioral modification, but it did not seem to be working. She said that it would never work. All I was doing was making him angrier and he hated me even more, but she loved my tenacity. From then on, when I greeted the angry manager, she would try in vain to stifle her laughter.
As you would guess, they reorganized the company many years later and I eventually worked for him.
Along the way, he made a rule with his engineers that they would be in trouble if they chatted during the day. I do not know if they were given specific instructions to not talk to me, but that was the result.
You see, I could learn a lot from the functional specifications and the drawings, but as the small details are worked out on each job, there are some details that are not spelled out in those documents. What triggers the roller table to stop? What would prevent a basic function from happening (like something is in the way – and how does the system know that?). Those little details changed with nearly every project and were things that I had to know when I taught the customer’s operators, but the office rules were stacked against me finding out.
I found out, but it was an uphill battle in both directions. Life could have been easier, but it never seemed to be.
I think back to my grandparents who lived their entire lives in Mississippi, steaming hot Mississippi. They talked about walking barefoot uphill in three feet of snow in both directions, and I always wanted to know how there could be three feet of snow on the ground in Mississippi when I had never seen more than a couple of inches. I wanted to know how it could be uphill in both directions. I had a lot of questions, but unlike the cantankerous boss, my grandparents treated me with a wink, a smile, and a hearty laugh.
But when we go against the grain of the secular world, we can be in an uphill battle, even when we are going downhill along the way. As Christians fighting against the current in this present world, a lot of internal uphill battles must be fought just to keep the smile on our face and the twinkle in our eyes.
Regardless of the abuse, we need to show love. Even though that love shown by us may result in even more virulent hate in return, we need to show that we can work with them and for them, even when they cannot stand to be around us.
For a few years, I had two bosses that would cuss me out for doing the right thing and then I would say, “Thanks for the guidance, Chief!” I would then smile, nod my head as a mock bow and walk out the door. After months of doing this, a secretary asked me why I responded to such abuse by thanking them. Of course, I did so as a Christian, but then she asked where I got the idea of saying it that way. She said that it sounded vaguely familiar. I told her that in the early 80s, Dennis Weaver starred as Sam McCloud, a detective from New Mexico working in New York City. Every time his boss, the chief of detectives, would cuss him out, McCloud would tip his hat and say, “Thanks for the guidance, Chief” and then promptly ignore everything the chief had said – but always getting the bad guy in the end. In a way, it was uphill both ways for Sam McCloud. Here is the theme song for those who remember this TV show.
The Bible never promises us a life of ease. We will struggle. We will suffer. But God promises to never forsake us, and God is bigger and stronger than those that are against us.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.