Unexpected Awesome

God puts a whole host of unexpected awesome behind people who pray. Don’t believe me? Don’t have any idea what “unexpected awesome” means? Then I hope you read on and discover this truth gained from my own meandering experience.

waiting | jon henry

Last October my life at work was in turmoil. My immediate supervisor was fired after only six months on the job, and there was uncertainty on whether my contributions as the company’s marketing coordinator were partially responsible. I was wondering if I would be next.

Part of me was hoping I’d be fired. Thanks to my frugal wife we have at least an 18 month stockpile of food from couponing and we live well below our means so 99 weeks of unemployment benefits would give me the free time to work on my dream. Being fired wouldn’t be that awful, right?

But what I really, really hoped for was that my employer would consider hiring me as a consultant. As this blog and the websites linked above suggest, working as a marketing consultant is a big part of who I want to be. Obviously, going from “I may have just gotten my supervisor fired” to “I’m so awesome you should hire me as a consultant” is a stretch. But I was ready to make that jump right then and there.

So I thought about it. I prayed about and expressed my doubts and frustrations to my wife. I pulled some people I’ve met in the blogging community and got them involved in the prayer chain. And then I jumped into this October meeting expecting to come out a consultant.

Instead, I got promoted. Except, it was one of those promotions that did not involve a change in title or an increase in pay. Instead, it was one of those promotions where you get more responsibility and pressure and little to no reward. No matter how I sliced it, I wasn’t any closer to being a consultant. So I wasn’t too excited with the situation or with how God responded to the prayers.

My lack of enthusiasm revealed itself in my work. I suddenly became responsible for four people instead of two. And I learned pretty quickly I not only loathe managing others, but I am also really bad at it. Pouting about the situation and not doing anything about it tends to result in that kind of outcome.

I really wanted to be a consultant, not a manager. I wanted to direct great big marketing ideas, not people who needed constant direction on what to do next. I was upset that God didn’t hear my hope, frustrations, prayers, and all the prayers I dragged along (strength in numbers, right?). God could easily make me a consultant.

But he didn’t.

There’s a line in the Bible that says “Here I am Lord, send me.” I really felt like that guy. Except I wasn’t. I may have been a successful marketing coordinator with a blog and a dream, but God saw things I didn’t consider. I wasn’t prepared. The world wasn’t ready for me either.

I was in school working on a Masters degree. I had no plan on what exactly I would do for potential clients or who I would even approach as a client beyond my employer. Even if I became a consultant that instant, I wouldn’t have the realistic amount of time to adequately give the consulting gig the attention it needed. I would have been distracted and scatterbrained and I would have drove my dream right off the cliff.

Last October, God saved me from the disaster of a destroyed dream with a gentle but pout-filled no (to clarify: my pout not His).

You’re probably wondering what you got yourself in to reading right now. I promised at the beginning this story would be about the unexpected awesome behind people who pray. So far, all I’ve shared is that I’m a jerk who likes to pout when things don’t go my way.

Well, between October and as I write this in April a couple of things happened. I learned a little about myself. I stuck with school and have less than two weeks until I’m done completely. I got a clearer picture of where I would excel as a consultant and where I would fail. And then I got a horrible review on my management style.

I completely deserved it. It started with the pouting. I had two people placed under my control as a marketing coordinator and neither individual had absolutely anything to do with marketing. So I treated them like they should have absolutely nothing to do with me. Of course, I made them terrible at their jobs, and their work reflected negatively on me. Awesome leadership lesson here: don’t do treat people like they don’t belong.

The owner of the company recognized the miserable job I was doing and confronted me. For the record, it is really hard to defend yourself when you do a miserable job almost intentionally. I knew it. The owner knew it. We all agreed something should change.

But I wasn’t fired on the spot. Even with a horrible attitude and poor performance, there was some grace. I was asked to think about what I really wanted to do with marketing the company and how I would go about doing it, and then get back with the owner and others in leadership. If you don’t know by now, I really want to be a marketing consultant. This was my chance, again!

I like to take my time thinking and processing, so I really wanted to develop my thoughts before getting back with the owner. I wanted to present my dream of being a marketing consultant in the best light possible. It would be round two of “I just did an awful job right there, but hire me to do this instead.” I needed to prepare.

I never got the chance. Instead of waiting and planning for weeks, the meeting would take place the following morning to discuss my future marketing work at the company. Maybe I was getting fired. Or maybe I was getting another “promotion.”

It was time I invoked the prayers again. I presented God my desires and dragged my blogging friends back and added some men from church to the prayer group. I asked again to open up the path for me to be a marketing consultant.

The meeting happened. We talked about marketing and roles and responsibilities and all the fancy stuff discussed in business meetings. And then it came to the point where I realized (probably the same time the other leaders realized) if I did an excellent job during the next few weeks I could make my marketing position obsolete.

Normally, that would be a bad thing. But for the consultant in me, that was exciting. My employer wouldn’t feel pressured to keep me on payroll just so I can do busy work and I could focus on doing work that mattered when it mattered. So I asked, “if this marketing plan we discussed works out and I make myself obsolete, would you consider hiring me as a consultant?”

That question was on my heart for a long, long time before I found the courage to ask it. It was loaded with equal amounts of fear and hope, but on most days the fear won out. The fear would tell me nobody would understand what I was asking. Or nobody would like it. Or that I would be fired on the spot for being bold and outrageous. The one sliver of hope was pushed in the corner saying “how awesome would it be if this works out!?”

If it were not for prayer, there would be absolutely no explanation how I found the strength to ignore the fear part and listen to the sliver of hope. Unexpected things were about to happen.

At first, it looked like I would have to utilize my Red Cross training and save a life or two after I asked if I could be hired as a consultant. There was an uneasy silence as the other leaders in the room shuffled around waiting for the owner to respond. Then the reality sunk in. The owner looked at me and said “I don’t agree.” Oh boy, I thought. I’m about to get fired. Not awesome.

But then he continued. “I really don’t believe you will make yourself obsolete here. I recognize the work you’ve done and the steps you’ve taken to improve your education and there will always be a place for you here. I don’t think you’re ready to leave, but if you really want to go down that road and be a consultant we can work with you.”

Wow. Here’s the unexpected awesome. They would work with me to help me launch my dream?

He then proceeded to thank me for letting him know what my desires were, and expressed his opinion that too many people kept their desires within and then quit out of frustration when they were never able to do something about them. I was headed down that road because I was too afraid to step out and share that dream.

Now, I have the opportunity to practice being a consultant for my employer for the next three months to determine if I feel like I’m ready to actually be one or not. If I am not up to the task, I am welcomed to stay with my employer. If I am ready to continue the challenge, I am welcomed to jump in to my dream. More awesome.

None of this would have been possible without prayer, frustration, patience, feeling like a jerk, getting a bad review, and going back to prayer.

I needed to hear no the first time I prayed; I wasn’t ready.

I needed to be frustrated to work out my priorities.

I needed to wait so I would have the time and resources to excel.

I needed to feel like a jerk so I could learn more about myself and others.

I needed to get a bad review to look up toward God.

I needed to go back to prayer in order to experience the personal blessing that this whole story conveys.

Of course, the story doesn’t actually end here. There is still work to be done. Challenges to overcome. Actions to undertake. But in the middle of all these things, the presence of God and the power of prayer will be revealed. And it will be totally unexpected awesome.