Competing Ways: Gurus vs. God

The Guru track to career success.  Whose missing?

The Guru track to career success.  Whose missing?

In the rather convoluted job/career track I’ve been on since 2008, 16 positions in nine years, my current job has by far been the most enjoyable.  It seems I found something new I flourish at - customer service!  

Might have something to do with the workplace -  a hardware store - essentially a toy store for a Do-It-Yourself guy like me.

It’s a great work environment - a knowledgeable, patient boss, supportive and friendly co-workers and a growing and appreciative customer base. I also love the part-time schedule that has allowed me to work a little more on some long latent creative longings like this blog, writing in general, maybe doing something more with my ornaments...

Unfortunately, the variable schedule pushes against the rhythms my creativity thrives best in and then there’s the compensation issue.  Retail pay is notoriously poor and I’m at the lowest rung possible.  Although we gave this a go, we’ve been tapping into our modest savings to cover our bills.

We already live frugally but we managed to find a couple small costs to cut back on while keeping a closer eye on spending.  Meanwhile we lean heavily into what has become our primary life strategy - to trust in, abide with and wait on the Lord.

Me as a True Value, "Customer Service Associate"

Me as a True Value, "Customer Service Associate"

This "Trust-Abide-Wait" focus finally locked in with me in 2016, a few months after I was “downsized” from position #15.  During eight or so years of career-searching, I basically vacillated between following the “Guru” career-search track and seeking/depending on the Lord.

“Guru” is my term for the generally advised career-search strategy that involves crafting a plan with tailored materials and pitches that feed a relentless campaign to aggressively promote yourself to hiring managers who make the call about who gets the job and who does not.

Some of the Guru mantras are: “Go big or go home… Just do it… If you want it, you gotta go get it;” and,  “Don’t turn back until you hit your mark.”

In stark contrast is God’s way along the line of Jesus’ striking teaching in Matthew’s gospel:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
— Matthew 7: 7-12, ESV

Notice how individualized God’s advice is.  “EveryONE who asks receives, and the ONE who seeks finds, and to the ONE who knocks it will be opened.”  

So how does God work out what happens when each of us ask, seek and knock along different lines?  EXACTLY!

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps...Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
— Proverbs 16:9 and 19:21, ESV

When I finally peeled myself away from Guru to give myself over to trust-abide-wait, I was able to hear God’s voice a lot better.  This hardware job surfaced during that time and I accepted it with full knowledge of its variable hours and meager pay.  While our bank account dwindled a bit, my wounded spirit was restored.  

In the last three weeks, two job opportunities were made known to me, both bearing God’s fingerprints. While neither were perfect fits, I applied for both.  The second one resulted in my next job that offers stable hours, better pay and a growth track I can pursue if I want to.

Now I have to break the news to my current boss and colleagues.  Store staffing is delicately balanced and my departure is going to upset that balance during our busiest season. After I accepted the offer for the new job, I decided to also trust-abide and wait for a couple days to seek God’s guidance about the conversation with my boss.  

I’m glad I did because God reminded me that my duty is to listen for and follow only him and let him take care of everything else.  

“He is before all things, and in him ALL THINGS hold together,” wrote Paul in his letter to the Colossians  (1:17, NIV).

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27, ESV)

God holding ALL THINGS together includes my boss and colleagues, all our customers as well as everyone at my new workplace.  Such “holding” as only God can do is behind Paul’s bold, “no stress” statement in his letter to the Philippians:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4: 6-7, NIV

Ideally, obedient believers have no stress whatsoever when we follow the path the Lord opens no matter how unusual or irrational it may initially seem.  Even so, God recognizes that this life is far from ideal and we all are stuck in it to varying degrees. For our "stuck" moments," Jesus offered these words of comfort:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
— John 16:33, NIV

No matter how stressed we feel about what we know we have to do, "Trust-Abide-Wait" is generally a great course to take.

Abide in Me — 2011 Ornament


Three years after I was separated from my position of 30 years, my life remained in “stuck” mode still. So I plowed ahead, one step at a time, clinging to my faith in God. He was faithful. He provided. He spoke.

But His messages were confusing: Be Still – Wait – Rest – Trust. This is not what the career-search gurus are advising. (Apparently, God and them are tuned into different channels.)

I turned to trusted advisers including the pastor of our church, Doug Walker. But Doug and God were in cahoots. (Apparently, he and God are tuned to the same channel!)

So, in honor of God and Doug, the message of my 2011 “Abide in Me” ornament is this: Listen for God and cling to Him. No matter what life brings, don’t let go – Ever.

2011 "Abide in Me" Ornament

Doug’s message on April 10, 2011 regarded Jesus’ teaching found in John’s gospel.  “I am the true Vine,” said Jesus. “Abide in me, and I in you.”  (John 15:1,4)  This term rested at the center of Jesus’ description of the kind of relationship He and his Father (God) have with each other and that each believer is invited to share.

The setting was significant as Jesus was sharing Passover supper with his closest friends, the last supper they would enjoy together before Jesus execution the next day.  Perhaps while lifting a cup of wine, Jesus used a grapevine metaphor to illustrate this “abiding” concept. He is the “true” vine, whereas God the Father is the vinedresser.  Believers are branches who “bear fruit.”

“Abide in me,” said Jesus, and you will “bear fruit.”  What fruit? The kind that flows from a branch, a person who clings to the Vine, to Jesus.  The fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5: 22-23: “love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.”

I appreciated Doug’s message, but it wasn’t making me feel very fruity. I was struggling.  Life wasn’t working for me.  Then Doug offered Jesus’ explanation about how fruit production occurs – by simply staying connected to the vine, to Jesus.  Through thick and thin, we cling, hold on, never let go and fruit will flow, “much fruit.”

And then he talked about “the catch.” About how “abiders” who bear fruit get PRUNED.  Why?  So that more and better fruit will grow.

Pruning.  Jesus friends would know about pruning. They were Jews, people of the land and sea – shepherds, fishermen, and vintners. The language of the land was in their marrow.

They would know how pruning worked, and why.  In the metaphor of likening a vine branch to a person, they would know that a person being pruned would not take to the treatment very kindly.  Pruning hurts.  It’s not fun.  Think about recovering from an incision.  The dang area hurts.

In my Twitter profile, I describe my journey as, “Negotiating the perils of earth life using a Bible as a flashlight.”  Life is full of peril. Cindy and I are living in that peril right now.  When God is the flashlight, the way he shows is often not the same way as what we hear in the culture around us.  The Christian life is not easy or for the feeble of heart.  Believers live in that tension.

But this is the life God has given us to live and Cindy and I are committed to walking with our God through every moment of it.

Christmas is, first and foremost, about the birth of Jesus Christ who we Christians believe to be God’s own son. Messages like these that are scripted in the lore and language of every day people reflect a very personal God.  But Jesus’ arrival on the scene was God’s most dramatic demonstration that people matter.

Of all the “matter” conceived by God, the so-called “Intelligent” creator, people are the matter that matter the most.  The God of Jesus is a personal God to each and every person who ever lived and ever will live.  For God, everything is personal!

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser…Abide in me, and I in you.
— Jesus (John 15: 1, 4a; Context: John 15: 1-8)