I tried numerous times to get a meeting with Nick, the head of the department, but he stayed shuttered in his office. My calls were not returned. Occasionally, I’d see him burst out of his office like his shirt was on fire, but he’d be gone and out the building without a word.
Nick hadn’t yet told me if I was to remain in the central office or work at a development project up in the mountains. I’d recently moved to that country to begin my contracted work and needed to get my family settled one place or the other. After the first several days of that frustrating behavior, it was clear he was purposely avoiding me, which I thought absurd.
I tried not to let it get under my skin. But it did. My thoughts began to play out the immediate and long-term consequences of being treated like a pariah:
- Depriving me of information would keep me out of the loop.
- Shut off from communication would signal to others in the department that:
- the powers-that-be are asserting the levers of control—they don’t want me to know what’s going on;
- there must be a reason;
- that reason could be linked to my capabilities or whether I was deserving of status;
- all of which could negatively affect my reputation and identity;
- Which would result in the weakening or diminishment of me.
I tried to understand why I could get no information. I prayed for the Lord to show me. What had I done? I was so new; I hadn’t had time to mess up or alienate others. Except Nick.
So, if Nick’s unstated isolation of me wasn’t my fault, his attitude came from inside himself. That brought more questions: He feared me? He was weak or insecure in his position? Maybe he was simply an unpleasant person.
I toyed with the idea of withholding information from him to gain power. As the newbie, I didn’t have much power, so that would be kind of dumb. Besides, I didn’t believe I had to stoop to that sort of unpleasantness.
It struck me, though, that power was his issue. For whatever reason, he felt my presence might jeopardize his power as head of the department. Perhaps he, being English, felt threatened that I, an American, might come in and expose his deficiencies or sneer at his management or design skills. Withholding information was his method of asserting control.
I had no designs on his job or wish to hurt him. But I had gotten all hung up over his motives and the possible consequences to me, which had distracted me from what I was supposed to do.
I was to start with my relationship with God. Work, status, achievement, money—they all had to be put aside. My purpose was simply to rest in the Lord. I stopped fretting and said, “Jesus, you take this situation.” Jesus was to be my defender.
He took it. He knew who I was. I felt such a sense of peace when I let go of everything. My identification, my reputation and my rights were wrapped up in him. I’d already tried to establish myself my way, and it had put me on the slippery slope of self-sufficiency.
I was able to say that no matter if Nick treated me as a nothing, I knew who I was. I was loved by, and belonged to, the God of the Universe. Good enough for me.
I learned some patience, and trust, out of that journey. And while Nick and I never became bosom buddies (he’d had some bad history with a couple of Americans), he saw I wasn’t out to get him. We could talk.
Maybe he eventually discovered he didn’t have to be his own savior.