By Tim Turner
“…(Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 13:7 (emphasis added)
I am a little embarrassed about what you are about to read. But, for some reason, when asked to write about love on display in my life, this is the first story that came to mind. It begins a few years back with me working as a banker, sitting in my manager’s office crying. Yes, a grown man with a wife and a kid shamefully crying real tears in front of two other grown men. Tom Hanks’ character in the movie A League of Their Own famously stated, “There’s no crying in baseball!” This is true of just about every aspect of adult life, banking included, but especially true for a man. How did this happen? Why was I crying in my manager’s office? Let me back up a bit.
I didn’t set out or dream of becoming a banker. I had gone to school to be a teacher, got a degree in Music, and was job searching at a time of statewide hiring freezes in schools and a downturn in the economy. When the interview with a bank came available, I felt extremely fortunate and was in no position to pass up an opportunity no matter how unrelated to my education it may have been. At the time I took the job, my wife was weeks away from giving birth to our son, and I needed something steady with benefits quickly. I didn’t intend for it to be a long-term move, but rather a job while I looked for something else. And looked, and looked, and looked…
Years passed and I was still there. My childhood picture of bankers was shattered as my life was consumed with high-pressure, daily sales pushes for financial products and services. I had to do the pushing because my job depended on it. And, I was placed at a location that was referred to as the banker’s graveyard: where bankers’ careers go to die. Everyone that was there when I started had either been fired or quit; others who came after them fared no better. And there I was somehow surviving. I wasn’t good at it. Being a good banker required you to be a good salesman; I was not. Your life depended on numbers reported daily that tracked every aspect of your performance. My numbers were never great so my job was constantly on the line. I was threatened with my job so regularly that I stopped caring. I hated my job. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t hate the people I worked with or for. I dreaded going to work daily and felt guilty for not being grateful that I had a job.
So I found myself in my manager’s office one day almost two years into barely making it as a banker getting “the talk”. I didn’t measure up for this job that I didn’t want and hated. I was angry and frustrated and he knew it. In a moment of humanity he said he knew I had a kid and a mortgage, and he knew the responsibilities I had. He shared a story of leaving a job he hated, which sounded strangely like an invitation to do the same. He asked me what I wanted to do.
In that moment of anger, frustration, and desperation, I wanted so badly to sing him a Johnny Paycheck song as I left the room. But, instead, the mention of my son hit me. All of the mess of emotions I had felt of being told that I didn’t measure up for this job that I didn’t want, of being stuck somewhere I never intended on being in the first place, was mixed with the realization that I needed this job that I hated. My wife and my son were depending on me. As I said this to my manager, I broke down. It’s not one of my proudest moments, but I can’t change that it happened.
The following Sunday I was recounting the story to my dad after church. I judiciously left out the tears; you know, man stuff. He told me a story that sounded strangely similar. When I was a little over a year old he had almost the same experience, but his was worse. My dad worked for the U.S. Postal Service during the era when the term “going postal” was coined. Only then, it wasn’t funny. It was a time of intense pressure and stress, and sadly, disturbed people reacting with extreme violence to their workplace experience. My dad had a postmaster that seemed to enjoy making his life miserable. My dad referred to him as an “old school” type which meant he was used to getting away with treating and speaking to subordinates in a way that would shock today. He was threatened with his job repeatedly. As he said this, it was like I was being introduced to someone I had never met before. I knew this story from my perspective as a kid living it. I had no idea what my dad went through as a man. The easy question to ask was, “why didn’t you leave just leave?” But, that really wasn’t the right question. “Why did you stay?” was the better question. It was for my mom, for my brother, my sister, and me. He endured stress and frustration and the kind of abuse from an employer that wouldn’t be tolerated today. Not just for a few years either; it was over thirty years. He did it for us.
There is something strangely comforting about this story to me. As a child, before I knew or could understand, someone who loved me endured and suffered wrong for me. So that I could have a better life and stability, somebody else displayed their love by enduring hardship for me. We are celebrating the best display of that this week. Jesus, for the joy set before Him, experienced rejection, pain, and torture; He endured this because He loved us and so that we could have a better life. So that we can have a relationship with our Heavenly Father, Jesus endured the cross. His love on display was a love that endures all things. And because we have his love, we can endure all the minor things that parade around as a big deal in our life like bad jobs and bad bosses.
Though it’s not the most important part, I don’t want to leave you hanging. I was a banker for another year, and by God’s grace and favor got two promotions in a few years time and even had a chance to interview for a branch manager position. I now work for someone who was one of my clients as a banker. Life got better; our life in Christ always does. It doesn’t mean that we don’t go through unpleasant experiences. But, we can, like Jesus, endure for the joy set before us. The joy that there are better days ahead, that we have a future and a hope, and that ultimately we will be reunited with Love Himself.