Sunday, September 18, 2011
HHHHow many of you ever want your daughter to grow up and declare, “Oh, dad, I really want to be a professional hustler!” Standing before you, ladies and gentlemen, is a woman who—on her honor—almost became one.
Like a lot of people in this country, I’ve been out of work for two months now. Last week, my uncle called up to tell me about a job fair the following morning. He had heard about it all on the news. He said the news anchor suggested candidates “dress for success”—which meant smoothing out your best dress suit, straightening your wild locks, and sharpening your Stilettos. The next day, there I was in my dad’s immaculate Mustang convertible headed out to take someone for a ride.
After registering my name and email address with the vultures in the foyer, I was handed a 37-page pamphlet and ushered in to the coliseum. Just like Daniel in the Lions’ Den. The leaflet was crammed with too many useful bits of information to be helpful, so I stuck to reading the map. My first booth, a trade school.
“I wouldn’t work in this industry,” the young man confessed as I stood there with my arms full of resumes. “It’s really more of a business.”
Oh really? I’ll trade you professional job-seeking, and throw in broke, for a chalkboard. “Do you have any room for English teachers?”
“We don’t teach English, no.”
I was beginning to wonder if they used it in the classroom at all. “Can I give you my resume anyway?”
“Sure.” He looked down at the first location on the page. “You worked in Korea?”
“Yes, I did.”
“How was it?” he asked eagerly. “I’ve been thinking about doing that myself.”
“It’s worth it. You should totally go.” There I was, putting myself out of a job—in another country no less!
I scoured booth after booth looking for a warm body to pawn off my 8-and-a-half-by-eleven “I Love Me” stationery. And each time it was the same response: “Oh, we’re not taking resumes. Apply online.” The only reason that first guy took it was to get my number.
Moving along, I quietly passed a power company. “I’m sorry, ma’am,” I was told as I skirted the booth, “we don’t have openings for secretaries or office work.”
I stopped dead in my tracks. Shouldn’t there be an equal opportunity here? Or is this industry just rigged? Success for them must have meant a well-proven track record of grit under the fingernails.
Before I rounded the bend in the event hall, I came across an opportunity to be a corrections officer for the GEO group. Translation: professional jailor. I could teach a class on how to win friends and influence prison wardens.
Finally, I had reached an oasis amid the throng, a booth nicely decorated and peopled about with gleaming upper management. They still wouldn’t take my resume, but at least I was qualified for the job. The position? Professional complaint consultant at a local call center. I would be up all night with the screams of protest ringing in my ears. I could have made a career out of this growing up for all the times my twin brother rained on my parade… Wait, maybe I could still cash in! …
Further down the line of headhunters was posted a sign for a mattress company. Expert salesmen needed, it read. Conscientious need not apply. Now, I wasn’t one to swindle anyone out of a good night’s sleep, but what I saw next to the booth was my golden opportunity.
Just opposite the mattress guys stood a flashy display that caught my eye—either that or it was the skinny guy next to it making googley eyes at me. “Drive Time” read the bold, green letters across the top of his nametag. At least as a used car salesman I’d look the part.
I only hesitated a moment before offering my hand. “Jennifer.”
“Ryan,” he said as he slipped his fingers over mine. It was official—we were now engaged… in conversation.
As any betrothed couple does, we chatted about the most important things—the weather, Korea, my job history. But, alas, we had come down to business. “Well, Jennifer, if you can communicate like you’re doing now, you can sell a car.”
What?! That’s almost like saying, “If you have a pulse and breathe air, you’re hired.”
“But I can’t sell a thing!” I sputtered at him like a beat-up station wagon.
“Let me take your resume and have you talk to my supervisor.” I knew it—he just wanted me for the Stilettos!
I was ushered past other potential tricksters right up to the man himself. “Dominic,” he stuck out his hand. “So what has my colleague told you about Drive Time?”
“That you’re… looking to expand your network,” I told him sheepishly.
“Good. We’ll set something up this week.”
There I stood, writhing like shark bait. I, too, would be asked to lay down my chalk to become… a used car salesman.
The next day as I sat relaxing peacefully at a friend’s house, the dreaded phone call rang three different times. These guys are nothing if not persistent—that, or someone on the other end is desperate.
They must have decided on a different approach because I soon began receiving made-to-order email spam. “I called the number on your resume and left a message,” read one of the notes, “but I thought an email might be ignored just as well.”
After three days of email tag, my inattentiveness had worn them out. They must have seen through the façade of hair and makeup—and the Stilettos—to where my real interests lie: in waiting out pesky used car salesmen. “I’m sorry, Ms. Lowery,” the note read sweetly, “but we’re looking for someone who… will answer our emails.”
I knew I wasn’t cut out to be a professional swindler! “After many attempts to contact me and subsequent follow-ups,” I wrote to my dad, “the good folks at Drive Time have asserted that they… just can’t keep up with my laziness.”
So I didn't become a car salesman. Maybe it's because I didn't live up to my potential--but really, who wants to be involved in legalized what collar crime? Rest assured, ladies and gentlemen, that your pocketbooks are safe with me.
Monday, September 12, 2011
“And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins and lest you receive her plagues.’ ” Rev. 18:4
“I have a question for you,” he suggested nonchalantly as we steadily hiked up the rocky pathway towards the summit of Woraksan. “What do Christians think about dating non-Christians?”
My heart pounded below my blouse. “I”—gasp—“would”—gasp—“love”—gasp—“to answer that question, Ben,” I told him as my chest rose and fell like a tidal wave. “When I’m not heaving!”
“Okay,” he shrugged as I dutifully trudged on beside him.
It was a beautifully brisk afternoon that May in Korea. After winter had grasped the peninsula in its frigid grip for the previous six months, it felt good to get out into the fresh air and stretch our legs. Ten or so yards below us, our friend Dan was trailing behind without fighting to keep up. I was only so close because of the company.
As Ben and I approached a clearing mere meters from the top of the mountain, I quickly began to realize I wouldn’t be good for the final push up the trail. Not having been on a vigorous hike since our last walk four months prior, I was a worn-out rag doll. I also discovered that 70 degrees was a temperature still too cold for my asthmatic lungs to be sucking in so rapidly. When Dan arrived, I advised the still-energetic Ben that he should probably go ahead without us.
“Be back in forty-five,” Ben breathed as his boot struck the dirt. While we waited for his swift return, Dan and I settled in on the concrete ledge in the middle of the clearing, and thoughts quickly turned to our absent friend.
Dan, a professed believer in Christ, had been watching Ben’s and my interaction the last three months, privy to confessions on both sides of the aspiring relationship. He knew that Ben and I had walked through serious heartache together when a friend of ours had jumped ship early in March. He also knew that we had become each other’s best friends since that time. “The feelings are there,” he affirmed. “All you gotta do is light the match.”
He knew what the Scripture said about not being yoked together with an unbeliever (ref. II Cor. 6:14), and, aware of Ben’s lack of faith in Christ, began persuading me to look elsewhere for romance. In addition to his spiritual reasons, Dan also gave other sound advice as to why Ben wouldn’t be the best choice. “He’s leaving in three months—” he began.
“I’ve thought about that, too,” I cut him off.
“Jennifer! The match has been lit!”
I looked down at my feet as his admonition hit its mark. Even then, I knew something had to be done about whatever it was pumping so loudly in my chest. I quietly took up the rear as we descended the mountain, conviction weighing down my limbs more heavily than my fatigue.
It wasn’t until the three of us waited for the bus back to Chungju that night that I realized the totality of Ben’s numbness to Christianity. He’s clueless, I thought as Dan and I tried to share the gospel with him. Nothing we said seemed to penetrate his blank stare.
“It’s okay to have feelings for him,” Dan later told me at Starbucks. “It’s just not okay to act on them. You need a P. O. A.—a plan of action.” He sat back a moment and then looked pointedly at me. “You can’t come to Chungju.”
Since I had moved into my new place the previous March, I had been to see Ben several times. Once, he came up to help me move my things into the new apartment. Another time, we had met in Seoul for a Costco run. Just prior to the hiking trip, I had come to see him for a national holiday and found myself stuck two hours away from home—overnight. Even if I weren’t in Chungju, I knew the struck match could still light a fire.
Facebook had become the sole means of communication for Ben and me—a quick email here, a short post on his wall there. We had even begun to chat together if the two of us were ever online at the same time. If I were to limit what I “Facebooked” him, perhaps I could put out the blaze before it started. No more random posts on his wall, I resolved; and if I emailed him, I couldn’t say anything that I wouldn’t want others to read. “Jennifer Lowery,” read my status update a week later—“has her POA.”
Fast-forward a year and three months to August ’11, a year since Ben left the ROK and nearly four months since I’ve been back myself: I hardly think about him anymore. With Ben no longer in my physical world, my POA is all but a non-entity. I wrote him, though, just to see what he was up to.
“I’m back in Korea,” he answered jovially, “with a job that I’m blessed to have. I’m here in Jeju [Korea’s prized tropical island paradise] and have been back for two weeks now.”
While in Korea, I hadn’t given Jeju a serious thought—but now, it looked so appealing. With my new passport in hand, all I would need to get there was to get my federal background check back from the FBI. Maybe my next job would be on a sub-tropical island only a short flight from Seoul. Then again, maybe there would be another tsunami.
Recently I noticed another of my friends from the ROK online at the same time as I, so I messaged him. “Maddock!” I had met him the September before, just days before he left the peninsula for Argentina. As I chatted with him, I typed in Spanish to help his language acquisition in his newly adopted country.
“Estoy tan impresionada con tu espanol, mi amigo,” I wrote him. I’m very impressed with your Spanish.
“Y tu tambien,” he volleyed back. And you as well. “Despues de once meses, necesito saber ALGO!” After eleven months, I need to know SOMETHING!
We must have talked in our respective second language for a half an hour or more. I secretly relished the idea that I could turn off my English for so long—and that he was so impressed with my abilities. “Anyway, Maddock, it was great to catch up and chat in Spanish,” I told my friend at the end of our talk.
“Most definitely,” he replied. “Glad to talk to you… Wish I’d met you earlier when we were both in Korea.”
In an online Bible study that some friends of mine and I do together, we’ve been studying the prophecies and parables in Revelation. So far, we’ve made it to Revelation 18, the fall of a harlot named Babylon. “All nations have drunk the wine of the wrath of her fornication,” reads verse 3 (NKJV). Another version calls it the “maddening wine of her adulteries.”
In an effort to allow us to understand these things spiritually, our discipler had us understand them physically first. “What do prostitutes do?” she asked us. “Simply put, they receive seed from many different sources.”
Earlier she had argued that this “seed” represents words. We know from the parable of the sower, for example, that the “good seed” sent out into the field is the Word of God (ref. Luke 8:11). This harlot, Babylon, didn’t receive the good seed—and in fact, has mingled it with the seed—words—she has received from others. The “maddening wine of her adulteries,” suggests my teacher, is her mixed words.
Last week, I began thinking about this harlot in terms of my own fallenness, emotionally if not physically or spiritually. When have I received seed from many different sources? Whom have I prostrated myself in front of? Harlots make themselves beautiful and attractive to their lovers—so when have I played the harlot?
My POA really need not have anything to do with Ben anymore. And it has nothing to do with Facebook, either. Rather, it’s about the heart of my own prostitution. I prostrate myself if I make myself attractive to different men through my words—and if I accept their words about me.
My plan of action doesn’t simply mean not writing something I don’t want others to read; rather, it means refraining from saying something that makes me feel good or attractive to multiple men. If it nets me intentional masculine attention, whatever seemingly innocuous action it might be is wrong.
“I saw what you wrote on Ben’s wall,” Dan told me that day I was with him in Starbucks. “And I thought to myself—what is this girl thinking?! [With your post] you’re saying, ‘Oh, I’m thinking about you. I care about you.’ That’s gonna drive him crazy!”
Men love innocence—they’re drawn to it. And I can’t be so innocent as to think my innocence can do no harm.