Today is God-Is-Absent Day

IMG_0180The Saturday of Holy Week sits like a giant pause button between the disappointment of Good Friday and the vindication of Easter morning. As such it defines God’s absence in a way. The Deity is OUT, the red plastic clock hands indicate a return at sunrise tomorrow. 

I like that, actually. Let’s make a holiday about God being absent. I know, it’s his apparent absence, but c’mon—my perception is my reality. 

Today has a bizarre vacuum-like quality. Following the Christian calendar as it marks the story, it’s the day after he left us. It’s a day of his absence and our doubts. We were huddled without answers, under obligation to a quiet sabbath, without direction or hope, and not sturdy enough to remember any of his promises. 

On this day, God affirms that I will doubt and feel alone. My theology is made uncomfortable by this, but that’s a good thing. Theological discomfort is like what Frederick Buechner said about doubt, that it’s actually the “ants in the pants of faith.” I love dangerous ideas, and this is one: God is apparently absent and we dare to make something of that, even to mark it one day per year. 

But here’s where I think the idea turns for me. He went somewhere I was not invited to go. He left me to go do something, to face the Ultimate Separator. And for the 39 or 40 hours from Good Friday afternoon to Easter Morning we actually mark a time when he went to the grave, even Hell, and we have to stay behind and wait. What he has to do there, we cannot do with him. So we think he’s absent, and in a way he is, but really he’s off somewhere with his boot on the throat of death, and my not being there is a good thing. 

It’s as if he’s saying “trust me; you don’t want to see this.” 

I think of it this way: If there are other moments when Jesus Christ is my teacher, my friend, my coach, my guide and my mentor—and there are plenty of those times—this time is different. This is the moment when he is sin for me. For the substitution to be utter, and for the percentage of my participation in this gift to be 0% (otherwise, how is it a gift?), then he will be there alone. 

He invites me to everything else, but not this. He does not ask me to share the burden, but he wants to take it solo. And he says “wait here; I’ll be right back.” 

Then on Sunday….


The Flexibility of Hope

Could I have seen 2014 from 1961? Heck, can I even see it now?

Could I have seen 2014 from 1961? Heck, can I even see it now?

I may have been way too certain that my vocational next step was the Employee and Org Development Manager position at Cal Poly. It happens when you get excited about an opportunity, and then you invest in research and prep for it. We even had what appeared to be Divine clues when quirky circumstances pointed us to this job.

The interpretation of this rejection is still being formed in me. I was deflated, I say in my letter (reprinted below), and the perceived impact of that is larger because of how protracted the hiring process was.

My hope is undeterred, but hope must also be adaptable. In fact, to overly proscribe one’s future is to limit the wonderful variety of ways that this future can arrive. In the end, A claim to know the best and narrow path is a conceit, and can lead to missing an even better future than first imagined.

Here is a note I sent out yesterday, briefly telling the results and then processing its meaning for us. If you and I are email correspondents, you might already have seen it.


Hi there,

Well, I’ll get right to it: I did not get the job as Employee and Org Development Manager at Cal Poly. The hiring manager told me it was a difficult decision and caused quite a bit of back-and-forth among the hiring team members. My candidacy was strong and impressive, she said. In the end, the job went to a person who has had years of experience doing OD in higher education, most recently for the US Department of Education.

It was deflating news, but I’m glad finally to know. Now it’s on to other things.

I much appreciate the support of family and friends who prayed, asked about status, and supported us through this time.

Cal and Nancy

Here are some postscripts that provide some further reflections, and a look ahead.

My response to the process: You might agree with me that a hiring process that begins in October and ends in April is a test of patience and resilience. It’s some consolation to have been a finalist, but for those few who get that far, and then not get the prize, it feels nearly abusive to drag it out that long. Oh, that’s dramatic, I know. I am not accusing anyone of doing that intentionally, but it is a system thing. And it is how I experienced the process as a participant in it.

Given their deliberate and moribund processes, it’s a bit of a catch-22. They might make it long, but over the entire span of time I am full-bore enthused, anticipating a great life change, and approaching each step with singularity of mind.

How could it be otherwise? I entered to win: Application materials in November, a Skype interview in December, prep of portfolio of work in January, the finalist all-day campus interview in February, a phone call from them to discuss salary and another to request permission to contact my references. The hiring manager confirmed today that I was not wrong to sense that I was near the finish line in March.

When they ultimately did not contact my references, I thought something was up, and it was. The field had expanded to contain another interview. As I said, in the end they selected the OD professional with the higher ed background.

What now? With upheaval at Intel, the continued lack of commitment there to OD services, and then an attractive option to retire I moved to this better place in which I now stand. But there is more for me to do, and this afternoon I begin to sense some freedom and hope.

Even some freedom, I say, from this whole process with Cal Poly. Much as I thought that role was perfect, and that I would make a difference there, I now sense some liberation from the whole process. As I think back over the last few weeks, I was starting to think whether I even really want to work there. One of my interviewers in February said that one of their workforce strategy barriers is their lengthy hiring process. No duh.

Hope, I say, yes. There is a path ahead to that better place—consulting, teaching, writing. God knows, and it’s going to be fun to see what it is. Oh, and we still want to move to San Luis Obispo.