The text message came around two o’clock in the afternoon. I was in the middle of training a group of community health workers and had just put on a video for them to analyze. I glanced at my phone and saw the silent, red, flashing signal, a sign that I had a missed alert. “I got the job!” The words, though silent, shouted at me with a mixture of complete joy and gratefulness.
My husband has been unemployed since the beginning of October. A restructuring took place and, through no fault of his own, he was out of a job. A job that had not only provided bread and butter (or dal and roti) but connections and relationships that he held dear. “It’s not you”, the typical words used by a human resources team to reassure, did nothing to reassure. Unemployment in a society that values people based on what they do is not easy.
With that one text, I felt like we could come up for air. Like we had been swimming hand-in-hand, underwater in an ocean, trying to press on against possible suffocation, and with the message, someone tapped us on the shoulder signalling we could come up and catch our breath.
When you lose a job you do what you have to do. You send out your résumé and search online job data bases, you send emails to former colleagues and friends alerting them of the need, you quickly respond to vague requests asking about your qualifications, anxious to get the conversation started. You interview, and then you interview again, and then again, and you wait. At some point there is a realization that you are the only one in a hurry, those who interviewed you are not. They are going through due process, searching for the person who they feel will fit the job through skill set and personality. You don’t realize that you are holding your breath until suddenly you don’t have to hold it anymore. The words “We would like to offer you the position” are sweet music from an orchestra that has been silent.
Unemployment isn’t the only thing that causes one to hold their breath. The person waiting for the results of a biopsy or the mom waiting to hear that their child is safe after news has come of a tragedy; the family waiting for their son who has been in active duty in an army somewhere in the world – more scenarios than can be listed. Those times in life when we hold our breath, when life is on hold as we await an outcome so we can come up for air, are times we don’t forget.
Because even as Cliff and I were holding our breath, we periodically realized that we weren’t drowning. Though everything seemed to point to drowning as an option, we didn’t drown. Someone kept us from drowning. Someone held us with hope letting us know that this wasn’t the end. So we kept on, not ready or willing to give in.
Right now I’m breathing easily, my pulse is normal, and the subconscious anxiety gone. But the feelings of being held so we were not allowed to drown will continue to be reminders of a God who gives breath, a God who gives life, and a God who gives jobs.