Values

I know a couple where the husband said to the wife that they have to make a certain amount of money a year. It is a very high amount. They have only one child and live in an apartment.

Meanwhile, the wife is miserable, stuck at a job that she hates, where her manager is abusive to her. She is so stressed out that she has begun pulling out her hair. Doctors have put her on anti-anxiety medicine, but it isn’t helping because it is treating the symptom, not the disease.

I believe that the husband has his priorities wrong. It isn’t about money at all, and it never should be. If his wife is so miserable that it is affecting her health, then something has to change. They need to evaluate everything that they are spending money on and how much money is coming in. Perhaps he needs to get a second job. Perhaps they can trade out a car for a cheaper one. Perhaps they can move back in with a parent.

But there is no reason that a spouse should ever put money before the health of their spouse. No money is worth more than your spouse.

My husband was very stressed out recently about extra responsibilities with his job. This is a new job, but suddenly he is being expected to do things that he did not sign up for and is not trained in. He wants to do well, but these added expectations are not reasonable. It was obviously very overwhelming to him.

I chose to play the biggest card and speak of my fears. I told him a story that I’d just read about a woman whose husband was very stressed out over his job. He was so anxious over all that was going on that he had constant pains in his stomach (the stomach and the head are the most common sites for stress to manifest). Doctors, as usual, gave him medicine to treat his stomach pains but did not advise him to seek help about his job. She woke up one night to discover that he’d killed himself while she slept.

I told my husband that I don’t want to live through that. No job is worth that kind of stress. If his boss got angry that he wasn’t able to do what he expected him to do – a duty that was not on the list of expected tasks when he was hired – then perhaps he needs to find a new job. We can make do. We will work it out. We have before. But his health is worth more than money.

Don’t ever put money before your spouse. Remember “forsaking all others” as part of the vow? It normally refers to intimacy – that we promise to only be intimate with our spouse. But I take it to also mean that their well-being should be seen as important and valuable.

It doesn’t make sense if you have a lot of money but your spouse is miserable. It doesn’t make sense to demand that your spouse work at a place that is harmful to their well-being. Even if that man’s wife doesn’t kill herself from the stress, she’s living a half-life already because of it. It is not right for him to demand that. But this is her battle to fight. If he cannot see that, then she must speak up for herself.

Spending too much time with strangers

It seems unusual that we are expected to spend time with people that we didn’t choose to, but it happens all the time.

When you work forty hours a week, you are expected to spend all that time with people you don’t know. The only way this doesn’t happen is if you start your own business or you work with family. But for the majority of people, you spend all that time with strangers. Your boss decides who gets hired and who you work with. You often end up spending more time with them than you do your own family.

If you marry into a family, you are then expected to spend every major holiday (like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter) with them, as well as minor holidays (like birthdays). This is odd, since when you marry you state that you are committing to that one person – not their entire clan. Likewise, you certainly did not agree to spend time with people who were not even members of the family when you joined it. Here I’m speaking about people who become members through marriage (brother or sister in-laws) and any resulting children.

One way cloistered communities have it right is that they give the new person and the rest of the community time to feel each other out, to see if they would be a good fit together. This is not done over a luncheon. This is done over the course of years. With monastic communities, it is a minimum of seven years before the person is allowed to make final vows and become a full member of the community. The new person, the abbot or abbess, and the community are all consulted on this.

It seems like something like this would be useful for everyone who is expected to spend a lot of time together.

I remember when I was in the medieval reenactment group, if a new person wanted to join the household I was in, they would approach the Knight (the head of the household). He then would ask each one of us privately what we thought about that person. Not only would we be spending many weekends together, but we also would have different perspectives on that person. We might know something about his personality that he didn’t reveal to the Knight. In one instance, we all had seen that the person was very polite to the Knight, but would be short-tempered and downright mean to anyone he thought was beneath him. The Knight had no idea of this, because the new person had always been on his best behavior with him.

Some combination of these approaches could be useful for workplaces and families. Have the new person spend a significant amount of time with the group before a long-term commitment is made. Each person should then be asked if they feel this new person would be a good fit. Likewise, it gives the new person a chance to see if this group would be the kind of people they would like to be with. This could prevent a lot of stress, and would reduce the amount of workplace and domestic violence.

Peace is possible

We tend to have a set of blinders on when it comes to peace. We forget that the world isn’t always at war. Let us focus on times of peace that have happened – times when long-standing disagreements have been resolved. What “could never happen” has happened before and can happen again.

I invite you to recall specific moments of peace –

The end of apartheid in South Africa.
The removal of the Berlin wall.
The peace accord in Ireland.

All of these conflicts seemed to dissolve overnight, yet they required the intense energy and attention of many people who prayed and worked for their resolution. All along it seemed hopeless – too big to fix, too large to solve.

Do you feel the energy of the change? A huge shift in energy occurred that made it possible for peace to flow.

Now take that energy and push it towards today’s issues –

Israel and Palestine.
Race relations in America.
Refugees fleeing war and poverty.

These seem bigger than us, impossible to resolve. And yet the past tells us otherwise. There is hope. Change is possible.

Keep pushing.
Keep believing.
Keep working.

Do your duty

The apostles asked Jesus to show them how to increase their faith. He replied “Would any of you tell your servant to come and sit down to eat when he comes in from a hard day of plowing or tending the sheep? Wouldn’t a master say this instead – ‘Make something for me to eat and then wait on me. After I’m through you can have your supper.’ Do you think he is going to praise the servant for doing what he was commanded to do? Just like that, when you do everything you are commanded to do, you should say ‘We are merely lowly servants; we’ve only done our job.”

LK 17:7-10

Honoring the Father and the Son

The Jews began persecuting Jesus and trying to find ways to kill him because he was breaking the Sabbath by healing people. Jesus responded to them by saying “My Father is at work, and I am at work as well.” Then they began even more earnestly to want to put him to death. Not only was he breaking the Sabbath by working, but he was saying God was his Father, which made him equal with God.

Jesus replied “The Son is only able to do what he sees the Father doing. He is not able to do anything on his own. Whatever the One does, the Son does also in the same way. The Father loves the Son and reveals everything he is doing and will show him even greater than this, so that you will be astonished. In the same way the Father brings people back to life, so the Son also restores life to anyone he wants. The Father has given the power of judgment to the Son, and judges no one Himself. This is so all people will show honor to the Son in the same way they show honor to the Father. Anyone who does not respect the Son does not respect the One who sent him.”

JN 5:16-23

Life change cake

Yesterday was the icing on the cake. I don’t know where the cherry is. And if yesterday was the icing, then I don’t know if that means the cherry is good or bad.

The cake is a multi layer cake.

One layer is made up of a car dying and having to buy new car. I’d paid it off and become very fond of it. It was cute and familiar. I wasn’t planning on buying a new car. For a while we had two car payments, and I was grateful to not have any. I was using the extra money to pay off the mortgage sooner. But I have to have a reliable car, and one that won’t start isn’t acceptable, especially when the dealership can’t even tell me what was causing the problem. Since they didn’t know, they couldn’t fix it. They got it running, for another day, and then it wouldn’t start. I’m grateful that it failed to start while I was at home – so I wasn’t stranded doing errands or at work.

Another layer is finding out that I’m being transferred to another branch a week later. I’ve worked at the same place for almost 15 years. That’s a third of my life. I created the order and routine of the branch I came from. It’s a huge loss to have to go somewhere else. I’m grateful it is close to my home and in a safe neighborhood.

Another layer is the loss of my normal schedule. Because this other library is on an opposite schedule of opening and closing I can’t go to my exercise class like I used to. All the people that I knew at work and at working out are gone to me.

I might as well have moved to another country for the amount of loss that I am experiencing. It would’ve helped if the other branch had even welcomed me. But there was no welcoming note, no welcoming words, not even my desk was cleaned off. It was like it was a catchall for debris. I hate being the only person who is sensitive to other people’s feelings who thinks about how hard things are and is considerate so that they feel welcome and included. I hate feeling so deeply.

Adding to that is that I’m at a place that has three people, and only two do the work. The manager sits in his office and types at his computer, only coming out of his office to go to lunch or yell at the kids when they are loud. I’d love to have a job where I could get paid, yet do my own work (like write books) for 8 hours a day, like he has. But then I’d feel that I’d feel guilty about it, because I know that I’m not doing my real job.

I was reading Proverbs this morning and came across some parts that are applicable. (All translations are HCSB)

Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding;”
To me, this means that I don’t need to worry about this. To rely upon my own understanding is to say that I’m wiser than God. Ultimately it would mean that I’m setting myself up as an idol. The height of idolatry is to worship yourself. Sadly, a lot of today’s new religious leaders are saying just that. I’ll go further into that another day.

Proverbs 3:31 “Don’t envy a violent man or choose any of his ways;”
I’m taking this to mean more than just violent. I’m taking it to mean someone who shirks his responsibility. I should do my job and not follow the way of someone who isn’t doing his, as I know it to be bad. However, I won’t do extra or wipe myself out to get it all done, either. If I do more than my share, it will not be obvious that he’s not doing his. Upper management knows what is happening but they aren’t doing anything about it. I don’t know why, but I have to trust that God is in charge.

And then I read this, and it confirmed my feelings.
Proverbs 3:35 “The wise will inherit honor, but He holds up fools to dishonor.”

It doesn’t make it a lot easier. I still have to figure out how to live with this situation. I’ve spent a lot of my life with similar bosses.

Jesus teaches us that the best boss is also a worker. When he washed the feet of his disciples, he was teaching them that they needed to lower themselves from thinking they were above everybody. He was teaching them that they had to see themselves as equals. Everybody has to do “the dirty work”.

Sadly, many managers, even ones that are Christian, don’t seem to get this. It draws resentment upon them. Even if they are paid more, they aren’t respected more. I knew a lady who retired after 40 years of “work” and not one of her employees attended her retirement party. There were a lot of people there, but they were her friends – nobody she had worked with or “managed”. Sure, she got paid more than her employees, but she was overdrawn in the respect department.

I’d rather be paid in respect. I’d rather be paid in knowing that I did my best, rather than cheating the system. I’d rather know that the money I make I made honestly.

Hair covering butterfly

In thinking about my new (sometimes) practice of covering my hair:

I’m comparing it to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. It has to cover itself up in order to transform.

The funniest thing is that it is the easiest way to color my hair. I can have blue or purple hair quite easily and change it very simply. No chemicals, no risk.

I’m of mixed opinions as to people commenting on it. Most people say that they like it and I like to think that what they see is not the covering or the color but they like the fact that I am transforming myself and trying to make myself better than I am. I like to think that what they’re noticing is my practice of self-improvement rather than my fashion sense.

I’m being transferred to a small library in a very close community. I feel that it is very conservative. I’ll be under the microscope for a bit, from the staff as well as the patrons. They are very protective and proud of their library, and they don’t want some stranger in there. I’ll have to let them know early on that I’m OK. Sticking out isn’t going to work.

Nothing sticks out more than covering your head, but it is for religious and modesty reasons. Thus, even though it is unusual, it is unusual in a very conservative way.

I have to work every Saturday now, unless I ask off. That will be tricky, because there are only three people in the branch. There isn’t any wiggle room. Sure, they can borrow from another library in the cluster if needed. I hear it is slow enough that two people can run the library with no problems. This is amazing to me since having just two people in my department was an emergency in my previous library. My department was one of three in that branch.

I’d started covering my head at the library on the Saturdays I work about four months ago. It was my way of remembering that Saturday was the Sabbath, and keeping it different and special. I’d cover at home on my weekends off. I worked every other Saturday on average. It was awkward when I was at work. I got asked questions, people would comment. Generally they liked it. They didn’t really understand, but they were kind. Explaining something as personal as a religious conviction is hard. I had to explain it and get it approved by the branch manager because there is a library policy against head covering (except for religious reasons). I only stuck out at work 26 days a year because I only covered at work every other week on Saturday. Working every Saturday at the new place, I’m going to stick out more.

I remember Jesus says that we should not make our piety obvious. We should pray in private, and not show others our religious acts. They are to be seen by God, not others. Jesus also worked on the Sabbath, and said that the Sabbath was made for us, not the other way around. Jesus also reminds us of the words from the prophet Hosea – “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

So should I worry about working every Saturday? Is Saturday the Sabbath, or is Sunday? Do I have to take a full day off from work to rest, or am I covered if I’m doing God’s work? Should I cover my head or not?

This is all a work in progress.

I think like Jacob, we are praised for wrestling with God. God wants us to actively engage with our faith and our practices. God wants us to be mindful and fully alive. Our practices should draw us closer to God and to other humans. If they put up walls, then we have to stop.

For now, I’m going to modify how I do it. I have seen that opinions vary as to if women are to cover all their hair, or just their head. It is not a commandment to cover – just a tradition, inferred from a story in the Hebrew Bible. In the Christian texts, Paul has his own things to say about it, but Jesus is silent on the matter. So I see it as optional – if it draws me closer to God and reminds me to be kinder to others, then it is good. Since I can’t see my headcovering, it is the pressure of it that reminds me to modify my actions. I can achieve that pressure by tying the tichel like a headband. I’ll be covering my head, getting the pressure as a reminder, but my hair will be exposed as it falls from the back.

I’ll see how this works out. Hopefully it will be seen as a fashion statement and not a religious one. I’m not doing this to make other people change their ways. I’m doing it to change my own.