Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Shabbat in Egypt

Just over two years ago I made one of the hardest decisions in my life--the decision to take a job with the National Weather Service.

It would seem like a trivial thing, a no-brainer. As a meteorologist I could not hope for a better opportunity. But, as a Messianic I would be forced to sacrifice Sabbath. That is no easy decision.

There are a hundred ways to look at the issue. A hundred ways to support my decision. A hundred ways to condemn it.

"I need a job to support my future family."
"But are you really trusting in God."
"Is it not God who placed this opportunity in front of me? He blessed me thus far in this path."
"Would God really ask you to transgress one of His commands?"
"This is the opportunity of a lifetime. To reject it would be to spurn God's blessing."
"Or perhaps it's the test of a lifetime. Which comes first: money and comfort or God?"
"But it is an emergency service of sorts. Tornadoes don't take Saturdays off."
"But what about all the routine duties you do through the weekend...are those really necessary?"

And on and on it goes. I sought counsel from my parents while trying to negotiate with the agency for Sabbaths off.  I prayed for weeks, wrestling with the question of when to put my foot down and when to roll with the waves. And when it became clear that I was going to have to make the hard decision, that there was no win-win solution, I broke down and cried. I followed the counsel of my parents and accepted the job, knowing full well the decision I was making.

I did hold out a little bit of hope that things might eventually change. I had assumed that part of the problem with allowing me to have Sabbaths off was the current shortage of staff. Once the shortage ended, I took up my request once again. My boss took the question seriously and brought it up to his superiors. Unfortunately, the answer was still no. Due to the 24/7 nature of the job, such accommodations just couldn't be made. And I respect that--it's not really fair to make my fellow employees work all my Sabbath shifts (that's part of why I was so hesitant about bringing it up again).

That being said, my boss didn't just do nothing. He reminded me that I can always seek out voluntary shift swaps, and thus far my fellow employees have tried to work with me on that. It's not a guarantee; it certainly won't work for every Sabbath. But it is something, and for that I am grateful.

This is also a different world for me than it used to be. I'm no longer just a single guy living on my own. I've got a wife and a little one on the way. I have a family to take care of. I have to consider how my career decisions will affect my wife and children. Sabbath suddenly became more important.

Everyday I have to make a decision for myself and my family. Do I stick with the NWS job in the hope that I will advance to a non-shift position? Or do I jump ship after a different career that will give me Sabbaths off up front? This is a question I constantly wrestle with. I love my job and the people I work with. It is more than I ever could have asked for. Do I give that up because of this one thing?

Some would say I should refuse to work another Sabbath. Some would say I just need to leave the job and trust God to provide for me somewhere else (some would say I never should have taken the job in the first place). Maybe they're right and I just don't have enough faith. Before I came here, I used to be saying the exact same things. But, there's something that just doesn't sit right with me in leaving.

I originally chose a career in meteorology because I wanted a way to serve my community. The NWS gave me that opportunity. Sometimes I forget that is why I'm here. Some days it becomes just a job. But, on May 20th of last year, God reminded me how important this position is. Together our office became a watchman for our community, sounding the trumpet for the danger ahead. We were there when the the public needed us most, keeping citizens updated with the latest on the storms and the tragic Moore tornado. We were there in the aftermath, providing on-site forecasts for the storm torn areas. It was then that I realized I was working with giants; these weather veterans earned my respect that day. It was then that I realized I was privileged to have the opportunity to be a part of such a team.

Some might say I'm choosing comfort and security over God by staying. Perhaps. But, maybe, I'm just choosing patience. Abraham thought he was running out of time to produce the promised seed. Moses jumped the gun in trying to redeem God's people. Yet, God waited. The fact is most of us Messianics who find ourselves working on Sabbath aren't doing so because we want to work on Sabbath. We're doing it because we're in Egypt. We're in a foreign land. God is waiting, patiently.

To those who are struggling with similar issues, I would remind you:
  • Be a light, not a stink. We're here to first and foremost to show love to the world. "Love your neighbor" is one of the two great commandments...keeping the Sabbath is not.
  • Life is a journey. We don't have to arrive at the destination all at once. Growing takes time. Learn to be content in the journey while ever reaching higher.
  • Pray. Share your heart with God and listen for His guidance. We're all on different paths, so I can't tell you what to do; only that God understands your struggle. He is right there with you. Do not be afraid.

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