In a Place of Bitterness

That's not the job I wanted.After the second interview, I knew the job belonged to me. My thoughts: give me the job; stop procrastinating. April, May and June rolled by without a call for the third and final interview. Heartbroken, I interviewed elsewhere landing a part-time job that I could perform in my sleep as well as my adjunct position. Grateful to have two part-time jobs I forged ahead.

In August, while chaperoning a four-day youth retreat, I went home on day three to get a change of clothes. Once home, I noticed a light blinking on the answering machine. I dropped my knapsack to retrieve the message. The dean of academics said: “Angela if you’re still interested you’ve been considered for the temporary lecturer position.” Ecstatic I jumped and shouted in the living room. I called my mother and my best friend. God favored me.

The following week at the faculty meeting, I learned one of the tenure track professors unexpectedly resigned.

For the next three years, a continual paycheck, medical and dental benefits were my gift of grace because teaching had not been my preference, but God’s provision. I’d rather write full-time, however in the midst of a divorce I needed steady financial support.

Three years passed quickly, I grew accustomed to having my own office and a book expense as well as connecting with students. The classroom had become my stage. I had fun teaching and talking about writing at any English level—remedial, composition or literature. Some students called me “psycho,” while others referred to my class as “101 boot camp.” Simultaneously, many undergraduates were inspired to enroll in higher-level English classes and participate in writing contest.  Moreover, my office hours metamorphosed into a safe haven for students as we chatted about writing assignments, the publishing world, divorce, Christianity, faith and relationships. They had nicknamed me Ms. B.  If I spotted a student off campus, sometimes that student would walk right up to me and give me a hug.

So at the end of my three-contract, non-renewable, two tenure positions became available. My colleagues encouraged me to apply. Not only did I apply, I also applied at another college. Through the interview process I remained humble, reminding myself the competitors possessed doctoral degrees, literary publication, and twice my community college experience.

Coworkers, friends, and students spoke encouraging words; however, I discerned flattery from truth aware that some praise was for deceitful purposes.  For example some colleagues wanted to know what I would do without this job, while others –-those also interviewing for the position–inquired how many call back interviews I had.

One interview. No callback. Two interviews. No callback. Heartbroken and bitter. Recommendations to return as an adjunct was not my preference. Instead I planned to live off my savings and write full-time.  However, when I looked at my budget I could pay the rent, but not groceries, gas, and utilities.  In addition, I had received eight rejection emails.

This place of bitterness turned rancid. Therefore I did what I knew best. I prayed. Lord, send me something to help.

A few days later, the head of the English department called and asked if I could teach two classes. I said yes recalling the adage: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Still, I did not want an adjunct position. I questioned, God: “Are you sure? Don’t you have something else?”

God provided my needs. Cynicism coursed through my veins, like Job I loathe my life;
I vented my complaint;
 spoke  clearly about my innermost bitterness (Job 10:1). As a result, I followed the adjuncts rules: no office hours, no desk in the department, and no union or professional staff meetings.

My sour attitude spilled into the classroom. Only months, earlier students could enter my office to voice their concerns any day of the week. Now, my availability included email and class time, Tuesday and Thursday, only, not one minute extra. When class ended, I headed straight to the parking lot.

On days that I did not teach, I wrote six hours straight.  I rationalized God’s provision believing if I taught five classes, I would not have time to write. However, during the past three years, I polished a novel, wrote a play, and shopped around a nonfiction proposal.

And then I heard these familiar words: “Are you holding on to something that God wants you to let go, so he can use you?” I embraced bitterness.

The following Tuesday, I quickly walked through the department to chat with a co-worker. The next week, I purposefully waltzed through conversing and sharing my new ventures with others whom I’d shared a meal with years before.  Although I didn’t have office hours or an office, I dismissed class a few minutes early to allow students to discuss their concerns with me.

That place of bitterness reminded me: It’s not about me. And if I stood on God’s promises …[he] will meet all [my] needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus Philippians 4:19.

What about you? Has bitterness coursed through your veins?