TITLE: The Mistaken Pursuit (Part 2), 12/30/15
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Proverbs 9:8 Correct the wise, and they will love you!
Of course, I didn’t want to work in an oppressive environment. But I found myself in the same predicament as the Israelites who looked at their neighbors instead of looking at God. The Israelites saw that the neighboring nations had a human king, so they wanted a human king instead of God, the King of Kings. I looked at my colleagues and saw that they had an international financial career, so I thought that it was a normal and good thing for me too. Both the Israelites and I didn’t think that desiring what our neighbors had was sinful, but it was.
God relented to the Israelite’s disrespectful request of desiring an imperfect human king over Him. However, their granted request came with a consequence—the human king would mercilessly oppress them (1 Samuel 8:6-18).
The Israelites and I compared ourselves to others instead of acknowledging that we were complete with God. We rejected Him as top priority and put something of inferior value above Him. Consequently, we suffered oppression. The Israelites suffered under their oppressive human king. I suffered under my oppressive career king. Even earnest God-followers can be distracted away from spiritual things.
While lying on the emergency room bed God spoke to me, Promotion means getting closer to Me, not getting closer to what the world might consider a promotion. At that moment, I made a firm decision to leave my job. But before speaking with Eric, I decided to privately speak with at least one co-worker about my plans to leave so I asked my office neighbor, Kita-san, for some time outside of the office. He agreed to meet me at a local restaurant for dinner.
Kita-san was in charge of information technology for the division, which meant that he had to keep updating everyone’s computers, provide system training, and be on call for emergencies.
As soon as Kita-san sat at our table, he asked, “What do you want to talk about?” But nothing came out of my mouth. I was reluctant to tell him that I was overwhelmed with work and had decided to leave when he was under the same heavy workload.
Because I couldn’t speak, Kita-san said, “Let me talk first. My wife just left me and took our two little boys with her. I take full blame for her leaving because I took my stress out on her. We had a fight. I left the house and when I returned, my wife and sons were gone. I think they’re at her parents’ home, but neither she nor my in-laws will answer my calls. I asked for the day off tomorrow to get them to come back with me.”
Huge tears rolled down my checks as he spoke. I had no idea how the stressful environment was impacting my co-workers’ personal lives, and neither did they know how it impacted mine. I didn’t tell anyone about my emergency room visit.
“Now it’s your turn,” he said. More so, I couldn’t speak after he told me about his wife and sons. I felt that my concerns were petty compared to the job and home challenges that he was going through. Instead, I replied, “Make sure that you take the biggest bouquet of flowers with you. I’ll be praying for you.” I pictured Kita-san walking toward the front door of his in-laws house, the view of his body almost entirely blocked by an enormous bouquet of flowers that he would be carrying as a symbolic olive branch.
“If you don’t see me in the office the day after tomorrow, you’ll know that I failed to get them to return with me. I’ll be too distraught to work.”
Two days later, Kita-san passed my glass-walled office. I spoke to him with excited eyes, Everything’s okay? He thrust his thumb up and kept walking. At the end of the day he stopped at my office and remarked, “The big bouquet of flowers made a difference.”
I responded with a relieved smile. I didn’t ask for the details because it was already a big deal for the usually stoic Kita-san to have told me that his wife and sons had left him. After a deep breath, I said, “I’m leaving the company.”
I understand, he replied with compassionate eyes. It was as if he intuitively knew I was leaving. “What are you planning to do next?” he asked.
“I’ve been thinking, for quite a while, about going to China to encourage Christians. This may be the right time to do it. Then I’ll decide my next step.”
Kita-san nodded his approval.
A month later on my last day of work, the office was startled by the sound of Takino-san's body hitting the wood floor. There was a farewell dinner party scheduled for me that night which was, of course, cancelled. Minato-san told everyone, “Go enjoy a beer.” He believed that you could die anytime like Takino-san just did, so enjoy a beer.
Right after I left the company, I was surprised to learn that two of my office neighbors, Kita-san and another talented co-worker, Kobayashi-san, who had suffered through office drama, had left for careers at other international corporations. When I told Kita-san I was leaving, he didn’t tell me that he was leaving too, even though he had already accepted a position at another American corporation.
Three glass-walled penthouse offices were dark and silent within a one-month period. The phenomenal view from the offices symbolized power, especially for a Japanese national. Our offices towered over the Diet, Imperial Palace, and a sea of well-known buildings, all within a few miles. Gorgeous views, however, come with a high cost.
Kita-san called me at home after I left the company to apologize for not telling me that he was leaving too. He had wanted to leave quietly. “I was aware of the financial division’s hard-driving reputation, but thought I was up to the challenge. I didn’t realize that this career advancement would almost cost me my family,” Kita-san said.
The irony in this situation was that I knew people in the financial industry who would have given their eyeteeth to have my job, but weren’t hired. The company had a reputation for thorough and rigorous employee screening and background checks. The industry’s top talents were sifted through to assemble the best teams. The silver lining, for me, was that the people and projects were of the highest caliber, stimulating, and focused on continuous improvement.
But the sound of Takino-san’s body hitting the floor haunted me. I didn’t have a chance to ask him about his spiritual belief, which was regrettable. I knew that it was futile to mull over the “could have beens.” I had to concentrate on making the best spiritual decision going forward. I was looking ahead to what God was drawing me to: encouraging Christians in China.
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