I have a friend named J. He is always good for a great story. J comes from a large family and has an influential father. J grew up as the youngest child. I come from a big family too; however, I am the oldest. The oldest is the test case; the youngest is often the most spoiled. I also know the drama that exists with large families, but I would not want it any other way. There is always a good story in the making. I have always admired J because whatever situation he is in he always seems to see the best of it and rise to the occasion. I tend to be more of a pessimist. I am a little jealous that he has that knack. We all have a friend that always has a story…J is that for me.
J told me this story one day, one I knew revealed some gems that were buried, and I could tell we were in uncharted territory. I encourage you to always ask someone to tell you their story, even if you have known them a long time. J told me that his family had a large business that was quite successful and influential but seemed to always be filled with some type of drama, typical right? Each family member was expected to work in the family business…that’s just what you did. I am familiar with many family businesses, due to my work, and find that story all too common. Sometimes someone believes their calling is everyone else’s calling. I also understand that there are many dynamics that are part of a family business, especially when there are a lot of family members. Therefore, the family business had quite a bit of drama among the brothers and J, being the youngest, was often caught in the middle. Needless to say, J was the runt of the litter; however, I think his dad saw potential in him.
One day, after several months of drama and infighting that led to some serious arguments, accusations and major conflict, J found himself thrown out of the business (too much detail to share here plus I have to honor the confidential nature of his story). I am not sure of the exact legal maneuvers that were used to wrangle him out, but it happened. Therefore, he went from being part of the family one day and out on his own the next. When you lose your role in the family business, sometimes you also lose the family. His father, who usually defended him, was oddly quiet, and all contact between he and J were severed.
I can’t imagine this situation and found it hard to believe. I have a hard time believing that family members can treat each other with such contempt. I was thinking to myself that perhaps there was another side to the story. There are always two sides, right? However, it does seem that sometimes family members treat each other with more disrespect and hatred than if they were total strangers. I think every family seems to have some horror story along these lines. These horror stories seem to come to light more often around the holidays too.
Back to J’s story…. so he found himself completely abandoned by his family and his family business and now on his own. His attempts to connect were futile. The unfamiliar territory he found himself in was terrifying and he went into a funk for a season. He battled depression, anger, resentment, rage and every other kind of emotion that you can imagine. He lost a lot of weight, didn’t sleep well and seriously questioned his faith in God. “Why would God abandon me too,” he asked? He was out of work, alone and without any resources. However, J always seems to amaze me because he finds himself in these unique situations and seems to be always at the right time and the right place…he’s sort of like “Forrest Gump.”
J got a job and found favor with his new employer and began to build a new reputation. He was a hard worker, quite witty and smart, and slowly revived his career. J began to gain more and more success. J eventually became very successful and seemed to feel as though God had redeemed him from the pain and horror of losing his family. However, he obviously still missed those relationships. I find it interesting that even though we may find ourselves on the receiving end of injustice, pain and horror, God seems to always find the silver lining…but the loss still exists.
I must say that his story is worthy of movie material. I interrupted J many times with questions because my dad was a shrink and because J has a tendency to jump around a little when he tells his story, and I get curious and need to know more details. J told me that he eventuality built a new life for himself and got a new family. He got married, has kids and friends, and though he will never forget his brothers and father, he moved on. I think it sounds a little like a coping mechanism that he “moved on” but I also get it. Sometimes some people just never move on from their pain and, in fact, are always identified with it, but you must move on even though you don’t always get answers to your why questions. I know that sometimes we live in pain because it was self-inflicted and, therefore, live in guilt, shame and regret. However, sometimes we live with pain because we are simply the victims of some else’s evil behavior. I think J’s pain was probably a little of both, though he may disagree with me.
Here is where the story get’s a little more interesting….or lets say it takes an interesting twist. One day, during the normal coarse of his business week, he noticed that he had an inquiry from a new customer eager to do business with him. He recognized the business and the names of the principals…yep, you guessed it, it was his family’s business and his brothers. However, they didn’t realize that J managed this firm that they were trying to engage with. He was in a quandary. He knew they wanted to do business with his firm, in fact, needed to do business with his firm, but he was not really “feeling it” as they say. Seriously, imagine you are now in a position of influence and power and the very person(s) that sold you out and caused you so much pain want to now engage you. I am thinking this is God’s mercy because now you can inflict some type of righteous revenge….well that’s not the right word, but perhaps God is allowing this situation to bring justice to his family.
J struggled with the dilemma. He was in a perfect position to embarrass his brothers and the family business. In fact, he could possibly cause great harm to the business. However, he also really loves his dad and doesn’t want to do anything that would hurt him…though he doesn’t understand why his dad cut him off too. His curiosity compelled him to dig a little into the situation. By the way, have you ever seen that show, “Undercover Boss?” J took a page out of their playbook, disguised himself and engaged in negotiations with his brothers. He actually did this to get some information. Perhaps he’d find out why they turned on him, why his dad didn’t defend him, how the business was doing etc. J found out that his dad thinks he is dead, that his brothers are still running the business, that the business is struggling and that the brothers admit there were some “errors” in the past (aka…we unfairly cut our brother out).
Somehow he kept his cool and did a lot of soul searching about what God wanted him to do. Should he try to reconcile with his brothers? Should he try to hurt them with some form of payback? Should he try and take advantage of them and manipulate them for his own profit and that of his new boss. I asked J who he was speaking too at this time for advice and counsel because I was thinking he’s too close to the situation to make a rational decision. He wasn’t really speaking to anyone except he was really leaning on God. I sometimes think God is too far removed to provide real time advice, but He really is our best source. J once again, taught me something. Needless to say, everything came full circle for J. He decided to take God’s counsel and peer at the situation through the lens of grace and the fact that God was using J in his current circumstance much more than if he had simply curled up in the confines of the family business. He acknowledged that getting thrown out of the “nest” was God’s plan all along. J was reunited with his family, his father was given a new lease on life when he finally realized that his son is alive and well, and they all began to do life together again…trust me, there is a lot more detail on how they got there, it wasn’t easy…I am still listening to J’s story, even when he’s not speaking.
Here is one thing that stuck out to me as J was telling me his story. The despair was always overshadowed by the hope of delight. I can only imagine how many times J fell asleep at night, in the middle of his despair, thinking that God had forgotten him and perhaps even chose to ignore him. We all hate to be ignored and thought of as irrelevant. Have you ever felt irrelevant? I believe J did many a night. I also thought of the many days his dad, believing J was forever gone, fought off hopelessness, fear, discouragement and depression. I have thought of the many times that I was overwhelmed with my current situation. Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your circumstances? Perhaps your finances, your health, a broken relationship, or a reoccurring sin overwhelms you. My despair hits me in the middle of the night…. it’s always the darkest. A friend of mine, Jason Upton (who is a wonderful worship leader) has a quote in one of his songs, saying, “If you are ever going to see the sunrise someone has to wake up before the morning comes.” I love that. The Bible says that life is but a breath or a blink of an eye. Therefore, is it possible, in God’s economy that my despair is just a blink, a breath, and God is simply asking me, in faith, to trust Him that in the long run there is always delight? Therefore, whatever your situation is, keep it in perspective and realize delight is on its way.
J reminded me of this.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.