When I first moved to Houston almost 6 years ago we were weathering a recession that prolonged my job search, landed me on food stamps and WIC, and caused a general anxiety over my life. Coming to Houston was like a light at the end of the tunnel for me, and I was surprised to find that the recession had not hit Houston that hard.
Today it's a different story. I've watched the present oil crisis creep closer and closer to just a degree of separation, where my own job isn't immediately threatened, but I am feeling the effects in various ways. Friends have been laid off. Others consider relocation. It's sad, and hard. But as I dig my hands deeper and deeper into the Houston soil I am finding a rootedness that is hard to escape: I love my city, and I am happier nowhere else. So the question is, how do I stay afloat in this city I love while the economy tanks? Here's a few suggestions from a minister's point-of-view - consider it a spiritual vantage point for your own journey through the dark tunnel:
- Build something. Plant something. I have oft reflected on the words of Jeremiah 29:5-7 as a stranger in a strange land: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” These are words that don't twist and turn away; looking and yearning for greener pastures. These are words of settledness, contentment, and trust. Unless directed otherwise, sometimes we need to dig in for the long haul, and it is only in blessing our own very soil we find ourselves on that we find purpose on it.
- Say: "Your Will, Your Way." This is a prayer I pray often, myself. The biggest component of my struggle is often myself - the notion that I know what's best for me. This is problematic because those times I didn't run the show, it was so much more charmed; so much more sublime - I just couldn't script this stuff even if I wanted to. Having to surrender my agenda meant relinquishing control and all of the associated discomfort, but the trade-off was the surprising adventure of discovering God's purposes in the twists and turns and redemptions of life in His plan and will. So the best thing I have concluded, is to say "Your Will, O Lord, in Your Way" and to live in expectation and trust of the adventure to come!
- Don't discern in a bubble. There are people in your life who speak deeply and see as you can't. As a pastor to my congregation I try to serve this role as a deeper voice in people's lives, and have found that people are grateful for it. I try to avoid telling people what to do, but I do share what I believe to be the direction of God in light of Scripture, ethics, and personal circumstances. For some, it meant leaving Houston to find work elsewhere. As heartbreaking as this was for me, I also knew it to be right. For others, I can tell God is steering differently. The point is, we all need that outside voice to help us; don't discern in a bubble; don't discern in isolation. We often deceive ourselves with crazy thoughts. Rationalizations abound. Get some input. Use telephone therapy.
- Give; don't take. I think times of lack are times of trust. Giving is a way of moving out of our isolated fears, panic, worries. It is an opposing posture to self-absorption. Greater generosity during times of uncertainty may jump-start the blessing process we've been looking for. It may just be the breakthrough - economic or otherwise - to the stoppage we've been experiencing. Give in order to breakthrough.
So in the end, friends, cast yourself upon God. Get out of your dark room. Stop ruminating, obsessing, worrying. Get your hands into the soil. Sweat it out under the sun a bit. Talk to your spiritual director. Panic not over the Brexit or the oil slump; the Lord of the Storm is asleep in the hold and will not let your ship sink.