For most of this season, my daily bread included a generous serving of time with family and a second helping of coffee chats with old friends. In itself, it was a delicious meal. Sumptuous. Filling. I could not ask for more. I should not ask for more.
But, like a petulant child in a kindergarten playground, I keep on glancing at my peers’ baon and find my own lacking. I can’t enjoy my ice cream cone when my lactose intolerant friends are all licking lollipops.
For a long time, I had the audacity to believe myself a non-conformist, an individualist. I was never one to succumb to peer pressure. I took pride in not letting pop culture dictate my interests, in having personal goals that would not look like anyone’s Pinterest board. But, on my nth day of
funemployment bumhood unemployment, I find that I do care about what others think of me. It is suddenly increasingly difficult to meet a different set of friends from the ones I’ve been consistently meeting, those who have been more or less apprised of what I have been doing for the past year. I find myself dragging my feet to meet my Manila friends, even actively hiding from them, because I cannot bear getting asked how I am and offering the same answers I did four months ago.
A lot of it has to do with pride, with having the same stories as last time, with having to remind people sometimes that I cannot afford that middle-class restaurant since my savings ran out more than six months ago. It also has a lot to do with the inability to be firm in my faith 100% of the time and feeling like a fraud when I say I am at peace with waiting. With having to contend with self-flagellating thoughts almost daily and being unable to articulate how debilitating the struggle feels sometimes. With having to, wanting to defend the choices I made because I truly, honestly prayed for them and continue to do so, even when the results are nowhere what I expected them to be. And sometimes, with the guilt of feeling like a bad, self-centered friend when their comments on enjoying my vacation (unemployment is hardly that), on not exhausting my options, on being okay to be choosy (I am not!) strike a sensitive chord inside me.
Every single one of my friend has a lollipop in hand. A lot of them complain over their flavors, trading commentaries on the textures, the tastes, all the while licking the sweets. Sometimes I stare at their stained tongues, wanting a lollipop for myself, knowing I’ve been promised one five months ago and feeling impatient that it isn’t here now. They love Fridays, they say. I hate Friday because he marks another week “wasted” on waiting. They hate Mondays. I would love to have their Monday. I love Monday because he’s a work day and I can then expect a call from xxx. And so I continue to covet after the colored lollipops, as the ice cream carefully, lovingly, thoughtfully prepared for me by my Father melts, dripping down my dress.
I didn’t use to think of myself as a covetous person. For the most part, I’ve had a satisfying life. Not necessarily easy, but consistently grounded. (I still think I have the absolute best pair of parents in the world, and by that alone, I already feel like I hit the jackpot in the world lottery.) However, there are times, lots of times, when I feel like I’m in the battle of the barrel of middle-class twenty something college graduates because, at 25, almost 26, I remain a dot in the in the growing unemployment statistics.
It would be so easy to blame government bureaucracy for my woes – it is, in actual irrefutable fact, the bureacracy’s fault. But I lose when I harbor bitterness against my employer before I even get employed. So I instead revert to second-guessing, to doubting, to seeking reassurances from the God who has power over busy government employees. The God, who, in infinite love and wisdom, offered me a gift I did not ask for.
Today, I read a message from one of my best friends. She said I was building character. I don’t really believe that, because this season has brought out in me insecurity, covetuousness, bitterness and a hundred other ugly sins in degrees I have never before been conscious of registering. And though, I find respite from them at the foot of the cross, I again have to struggle against them at an almost literal daily basis, a struggle that escalates within the day and peaks at 6pm, at the end of the work day and still no call has come, when I find myself sobbing in prayer, leaving tear stains on my bible.
I wish I could say that I realized something and then lived it out and became at peace ever after. In reality, I “realize” things repeatedly, feel comforted, struggle to hold on to the promise that has comforted me so well the previous night, and then run out of joy again as the sun sets. It is a cycle that would feel exhausting, if not for the fact that my quiet times are never exhausting. That God’s word never runs out of promises for me. That He still hasn’t run out of patience for me, and He never will.
And, maybe, this fragility that causes me to come back crying to God again and again, this pendulum-swinging between faith and frustration, this precise state where I feel weaker in faith than I have ever been, is good for me. Because it reveals ugliness I was too blinded to believe had existed in me. And so I tell my God that I recognized new sins in me. I tell Him how my heart broke when I got another “wait” message. I tell him how petty I’ve become. And I add to the sins forgiven of me all these.
And maybe, that is my character being built. I thought character came at the form of steadfast, unyielding faith. But maybe, just maybe, this unsteady, yielding faith is the precursor to that. This weak, overdramatic faith that struggles to be strong, that finds itself coming back to God, and will always find its strength in Him.
Now that I’m back in the metro, my meals no longer include family time and friends time. But yesterday’s had a huge helping of reading and dog time, just as lovingly prepared for me as the ones before. It didn’t really make me feel like the kid with the ice cream, probably because it’s not Friday yet. For whatever reason, I felt more like my regular self, eating veggies I did not order; nevertheless, I found myself enjoying the meal all the way through.