Friday, January 17, 2014

"The wholesome chastisements of Love..."

"I wish for you
to be free from doubt..."

Ellis Delany's song "Right on Time," is so beautiful -- I hope you will take a moment (or two) to give it a listen. Being "right on time" wasn't always easy for me. I spent my childhood running for the school bus, slipping into dance practice well after warm-ups were over, and apologizing for being late -- a lot.

But this really isn't a post about being punctual. It's about how someone loved me enough to hold my toes to the fire and say, "no," without judgment or criticism.

It was my first year out of high school, my dad had recently passed on, and it was clear that I needed to defer my acceptance to an out-of-state college (with scholarship), and help my family. That meant multiple jobs, and one local college class at a time, for a while. A solid Monday - Friday, 9-5 salaried anchor job, waitressing on weekends, and some evenings free-lancing would make that possible.

I was thrilled when I was hired on with a well-respected law firm that shared administrative services with Certified Public Accounting office. The offices were beautiful, the people were kind, the expectations were clear, and the head of the firm was wise and funny.

If I wasn't going to be able to attend university right away, this was a place I could go to work each day, learn the ropes -and still feel good about myself professionally -- something that felt like a very big deal at the time. I was embarrassed to not be studying at a university. It felt like an unexpected crash-to-earth after a year of hard-won academic honors.

Before my dad's passing I'd had clear life path in mind. Undergraduate school, teach for a few years, law school, then a long and exciting career with the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) as a human rights attorney. I still thought I could reclaim that path, if I just worked hard enough.

Getting this job was the first step.

But I blew it. Really. Well, at least -- at the time -- I thought I had. I've since learned that every step in my life has been God-designed to serve a greater purpose. And that the things I've learned, during each particular chapter, have been absolutely vital to my "growth in grace" -- my ultimate goal.

But I digress.

From the first day I walked through the front doors of this firm and found my desk, loved it. I was starting at the bottom rung -- but I could see that there was much I could learn as a receptionist, typist, and assistant to the law library clerk. I was happy there. I had daydreams of continuing to work at the firm during the day, attending college -- and then law school -- at night. All I needed to do, was work hard and get my family's financial situation stabilized.

But it all started to fall apart one Monday morning after my fifth week. I arrived at the office in flurry. My purse flying off my shoulder, keys dangling from shaky fingertips, and a string of well-rehearsed apologies tumbling from my lips.

The office manager reminded me that punctuality was one of the expectations that had been lain out from the beginning. She explained that it was critical to the operation of their office, and that if it happened again I would need to speak with Mr. Rosenblum -- our wise, funny, and kind boss. I assured her that it would never happen again, put my things away, smoothed my hair, and slipped into my office chair.

But it did happen again, about a week later. And I did have to meet with Mr. Rosenblum. He was kind, heard my apologies, and then explained that this would be our last conversation about punctuality. If I was ever going to be late again, I didn't need to come in. They would send my last check in the mail. There was no lecture about his expectations being morally right, or my character being in question, because I hadn't met them. It was all about clearly stated boundaries, and just as clearly stated consequences.

I thought he was kidding. I was hard-working, loved my job, often stayed late, needed the work, and was devoted to learning. I was sure that if the circumstances were explainable the consequences would be waived.

I was wrong. About two weeks later my alarm didn't go off -- or if it did, I'd hit the snooze button without realizing it -- and when I woke with a start it was clear that even if I hurried, I would still be 5 minutes late. But it was just going to be five minutes. So I called the office and explained to the Office Manager that I was "on my way," but even with the best traffic conditions, I would still be 5 minutes late.

She asked to put me on hold while she spoke with Mr. Rosenblum. When he came on the phone, he was loving, understanding, and thoughtful -- but clear. I didn't need to come in that day. My career with the firm was over. They would send my check.

He explained that out of his care for his office, his clients, and for me -- he could not, in good conscience, abandon the established standards of his office. I had crossed a clearly delineated boundary -- and the consequences weren't personal.  He wished me well, but it was over. There was no anger, no harshness -- just a sweet sadness that we would not be working together. It mirrored my own.

It was the best gift any employer ever gave me. I learned something vital. Mary Baker Eddy promises, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, that it is:

"Through the wholesome chastisements of Love
[that] we are helped onward..."

and that:

"The way is straight and narrow
that leads to the understanding
that God is the only Life."
Over the years, this particular example has -- time-and-again -- confirmed these statement to be true, for me. I felt Mr. Rosenblum's love -- to the core of my being -- that day. I knew that he cared enough about me to say, "no." To set boundaries, and then hold them with the firmness of a father who dearly loves his child. A father who wants her to know when and where she is safe, and to clearly know what is acceptable -- and also what isn't. A parent who sets straight and narrow boundaries to the path so that her child doesn't wander too far afield and get lost. Why would I ever want a wide path -- again.

Losing that job made my path much more difficult -- for a while. The consequences were pointed. But so was the lesson. I continued to work multiple jobs -- while going to school part-time -- for quite a number of years. I had many jobs and many employers. But there is one boss whose name I have never forgotten -- Mr. Rosenblum.  I only worked for him for a few months, but I will never forget his name, his humor, the strait-forward boundaries he set, the lesson he taught me, the non-judgment which characterized his treatment of me, and the love I so clearly felt when he said, No."

lovingly offered,


1 comment:

  1. Very inspiring; thanks for sharing!