The Pause That Refreshes
by Lori Heine

Coca-Cola's advertising slogan used to be “The Pause That Refreshes.”  It became a popular saying, and though most people are too young to remember where it came from, I still hear people using it.  Usually they mean a break from the grind of everyday life—a mini-vacation in which they rest and recharge. 

Well, I have taken a mega-vacation.  It’s gone on for nearly a decade.  As it has stretched on and on, I’ve come to realize that I don’t want it to end.  It hasn’t merely rested or recharged me.  It has transformed me.

LGBT Christians have at least two good reasons to be suspicious of our postmodern world.  It peddles false values and it disrespects minorities.  On the frantic rollercoaster of everyday life in this world, we’re just swept along for the ride.  A rollercoaster doesn’t care who’s on it.  And when the purpose of the ride is to pack as many riders into those little cars as possible, it becomes dangerous.

I was thrown off of the rollercoaster.  The last big corporation I worked for tossed me out in a downsize at the start of the Great Recession.  At first I thought my inability to find another job like that one was a tragedy.  I’ve come to see it, instead, as a tremendous blessing.

Employment in a big corporation is serfdom.  An employee who loses a job is much like a vassal whom the lord of the manor has banished from the land.  In the eyes of the system, they have become non-persons.  For much of human history, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were also treated, by the system, as non-persons. 

As a matter of survival, we learned to define ourselves without the system’s help.  Christians of all sexual orientations and gender identities are encouraged to derive their sense of self-worth from something more important than their job title.  To call no one “lord” but Christ, because they cannot serve two masters.  At least, they used to understand that.

The world values only what is useful to it.  Even organized Christianity has adopted this false standard.  How else to explain the way genuine Gospel values such as kindness, patience, peace and generosity have been exchanged, by religious “leaders,” for viciousness, pettiness, mean-spiritedness and an addiction to strife? The latter sell well to consumers, while the former don’t.  The real Gospel of Christ called for self-sacrifice, which never made anybody wealthy.

I find, now, that I can’t simply go back to the world and resume business as usual.  It’s as if I’d gone to the Pitcairn Islands, fallen in love with a local girl and decided to stay and make a life with her.  A delicious dream.  Yet, as it turns out, not too far from reality.

It’s difficult to give up privileges that are simply handed to us, as if by birthright.  Perhaps that’s what Jesus meant when He said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.  Some of those privileges were denied us—or we had to surrender them so we could be who we truly are.  Others may be yanked away from us, as my privilege of seemingly-secure serfdom was when I was laid off.  In any case, it probably seems tragic—until we realize that the eye of that needle, which once looked impossibly small, now gives us enough room to get through it.

In my long, long vacation from the savage struggle, I’ve had the chance to discover what really matters to me.  I’ve gotten to know myself far better than ever before.  To some people, it may appear that I have lost all ambition.  But I have simply recalibrated it to match my needs.  As a freelancer and an independent contractor, I’ve come to enjoy answering to no one but myself.

Of course ultimately, I answer to God.  But God doesn’t speak in the bellowing voice of the corporate world.  “His” is, as Scripture tells us, the “still, small voice” that comes to us softly and gently when we are ready to hear it.

We all need to take the time to listen to that Voice.  It’s the one that told us that we’re loved for exactly who we were created to be, and worthy of the love of others.  It’s the one that tells us that even though the world may not value us, we are treasured by God.  If we listen to that gentle whisper, we will find out who we really are, and our hearts and minds will open up to the destiny God has planned for us.

I keep hearing, in the news, that the job market will never be the same again.  To me, that no longer sounds like bad news.  I’ve come to regard it as very good news, indeed.

 

© 2015 Lori Heine


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