The program manager leaned forward and pushed his glasses back up on the bridge of his nose. “You are the reason the government has lost confidence in the procurement team. You are the single point of failure.”
I recoiled. Stunned, my mouth gaped. I took a deep breath trying to process the words, then swallowed hard to keep threatening tears from flooding down my face. I didn’t see this coming. I was led to believe this was just a team meeting to discuss strategy. I certainly wasn’t expecting for my character and work performance to be attacked.
I glanced at the procurement lead. She sat comfortably in her chair, her crossed leg swinging as if this was something she was enjoying. In fact, I sensed she was pleased with herself. When I looked at the team lead, he had the decency to drop his head.
I gathered my courage and, honestly, had no idea what words would come out of my mouth. “How come I was never told there was a problem with the quality of my work? This is the first time I am hearing about it! And, if what you say is true, and I am a failing employee, then perhaps you need to get someone else to train the new employees.”
The room was dead silent. You could have cut the tension with a knife.
I resisted looking at the procurement lead again; I had trained her when she was hired and still daily coached her in her role. Through tears, I held eye contact with the program manager. Had he forgotten that a couple of years earlier he had asked me to take the team lead position? And, only months ago, had offered me the procurement lead position? I had turned down both positions because I knew for certain — after much prayer — that while I was fully capable and qualified to do the both jobs, I was not to take on a leadership role. This job was only a provision, not a career ladder.
My team lead cleared his throat. “I don’t want you to think I don’t like you…” His words faded to silence.
My eyes spewed fire. “Oh, I don’t think you don’t like me, I know you don’t like me. Otherwise, you would have talked with me one-on-one about this problem and given me a chance to explain — or defend— myself instead of throwing me under the bus. As it is, you even misled me about the purpose of this meeting!”
I don’t remember much else about the meeting, only that tears rolled down my face and I didn’t care enough to wipe them away. While I knew I made mistakes, I was a conscientious and hard worker, and had never before been counseled about my job performance. For whatever reason, unfairly, I was being made the scapegoat.
As I left the meeting, my shoulders drooped. I was defeated and weary.
Three years earlier, when my government job was relocated, I retired from federal service and accepted a contractor position. Even though I knew most of the people in my new job, the transition was not easy. Often I felt like an unwanted intruder in an elite clique. No matter how hard I tried, I frequently encountered stinging, demeaning words. I even “took-one for the team,” when I got rebuked for sending an email — which the entire team had collaborated on — to address an issue that needed to be addressed. I got the cold silent treatment. Then things progressed to the point where I sensed there was a deliberate effort to undermine my credibility, a covert attempt to destroy my character and reputation. I was desperate for a way out.
Daily, I sought encouragement in the Bible. I clung to the promises in Scripture. I entered each workday hopeful the day would be different; but each day, it was only more of the same. I continually fell on my knees, begging the Lord to get me out of the situation.
The “counseling” session was my breaking point. When I got home that afternoon, I fell on my knees in anguishing prayer. I wasn’t sure what lesson I was supposed to learn, but I was sucked dry and had no fight left in me. I was hopeless.
I wiped my face and opened my Bible. The pages fell open to Ezekiel 37, the story about the valley of dry bones. As I read, I knew the words were describing me.
I was in a valley and my bones were broken and lifeless. I hadn’t been asking God to breathe life into my bones while I was in the valley, I had been begging Him to get me out of the valley. I wanted the circumstances to change. I wanted relief so I could get off my knees.
Yet the Lord revealed to me that “on my knees” was exactly where I needed to be.
Not on my knees as a victim, but on my knees victorious! God knows of all my injustices, suffering and heartache and He will redeem all of my trials -- in His timing -- for my good.
On my knees, surrendered: for in my surrender, He will pour out His Spirit on my dry, brittle bones and battered soul and renew me and make me useful for His purpose.
On my knees, strengthened: I don’t have the physical endurance to trudge through the muck, mire and ugliness in my own fleshly power; but I can walk in the power of God, girded up and strong, because He is always with me.
On my knees, sufficient: I don’t need to worry about what anyone thinks of me, for He calls me beloved and worthy.
On my knees, seeking: He promises He will lead me in my journey, both in the valley and on the mountaintop.
From that day on, I began to pray differently.
I pray for darkness to be brought to light.
I pray for courage to endure the hard days.
I pray for an opportunity to use my talents, skills and abilities for His glory and purpose, wherever it may be.
I pray to know the fullness of His joy, peace and love.
I ask for Him to teach me His ways and promises, and then to live like I believe His promises.
I ask for Him to amaze me.
I ask for His will to be done.
I pray He will continually breathe life into my dry and weary bones, and reveal Himself to me, especially in the difficult valley days.
I will put my Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord. ~ Ezekiel 37:14