October 30, 2013

Adventist Life

Good morning. We’ve been expecting you,” the supervisor said, ushering me to the desk in a small room where I would work with several other employees of the telephone company.

I was beginning a new job within the same organization for which I had worked for years. I was anticipating challenges and was excited about meeting interesting people;
I also was expecting the atmosphere to be inviting. 

For most of the first day nearly everyone was friendly and helpful. I listened to the chatter among the office workers. They seemed close, like family, telling humorous stories of weekend happenings. Several of the younger women, like me, were single and had no children. They appeared carefree and fun to be around, except for one particular woman—Tia.1 She avoided me, never responding to my friendly attempts to get to know her better.

Throughout the next few weeks I saw the gap in our relationship widen. She would walk past me on the way to the copy machine, acting as though I didn’t exist. I was perplexed, because I usually was able to break the ice with small talk when meeting people for the first time. But with Tia, it didn’t work.

Tia’s attitude might not have bothered me several years ago, but I had since committed my life to the Lord and strive to love others as Christ taught me through Scripture. I remembered the verse in John 15:12 where Jesus says to “love one another as I have loved you.” Was I naïve? How do I love this woman? I began to pray. “Lord, please help me overcome these feelings of rejection by this woman.”

I would lie in bed at night trying to understand this kind of behavior in an office where everyone else seemed most compatible. Why do I allow this person to bother me? I wondered. As the days wore on, however, I wore down. I finally stopped trying to befriend Tia.

An Answer to Prayer?

One morning a few weeks later I was certain the Lord had heard my prayer. The supervisor announced, “Our office will be divided into two departments soon, with some of you moving across the building to a new division.”

Wow, I thought. God must have arranged this so I can escape the situation with Tia. When the moving day arrived, I could hardly wait for our names to be announced. Surely the Lord would separate us, and I would be free from this frustration.

Instead, when the supervisor read the list of names moving across the hall to the new division, Tia’s name and mine were both called. How could this happen? This isn’t the way God works! I thought.

Carrying notebooks, folders, and worksheets, I trudged across the hall and peered into a huge room as large as an auditorium. Surely my assigned desk will be across the room from this woman. Again I was bewildered when I learned that I was assigned a desk directly in front of Tia. To make matters worse, Tia and I were selected to take the 1:00-2:00 p.m. lunch break, so we were the only two left in the room for the entire hourlong earlier lunch break. There seemed to be no way to avoid this uncomfortable situation, so I decided I would mind my own business, tend to my work, and ignore Tia.

Seeking Wisdom From God

I soon began to rely on another of God’s promises in the Bible, one that my pastor had used in a sermon on temptation: “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape” (1 Cor. 10:13, NKJV).2 Was my seeking to find a way to avoid this uncomfortable circumstance a temptation? I wondered.

One day not long after that, during the noon lunch break, I was quietly working on a project when Tia’s phone rang. Tia talked softly on the phone and then began sobbing.

After she hung up, I turned around and asked, “Are you OK?” I was expecting her to say, “Mind your own business.” Instead, she spoke to me for the first time. 

“It’s my dad,” she said. “He has lung cancer.” Tears streamed down her cheeks. Having the same lunch break with Tia in light of God’s providence now began to make sense. 

“I’m really sorry,” I said. “I understand how painful your dad’s health must be for you and your family. We lost our daughter from a brain tumor just before her ninth birthday. I will pray for your dad. God hears our prayers.”

Tia wiped her eyes and then opened up—letting go all her pent-up emotions. She talked for nearly an hour, and I listened. She then blew her nose and wiped her face, and after promising I would pray for her dad, we returned to our work.

A Growing Relationship

Each morning after that I would ask Tia how her dad was doing. I sensed that she too had prayed and seemed more comforted.

A year passed and Tia’s dad died, but we continued our newfound friendship. Our department was consolidating with another office in a city some distance away, and I accepted a different position in the new branch office. On my last working day with Tia, I returned from lunch to find an orange-colored rose in a bud vase on my desk with a card. “I’ll miss you,” it read. “Love, Tia.”

Tears welled up. I turned around to face Tia and whispered, “Orange was our daughter’s favorite color.” Tia stood up and we hugged. In unison we shed tears. 

Expect the Unexpected

The Lord did not answer my prayer in the way I initially wanted; instead, He worked out His greater purpose for both of us. With Christ’s help I had met the challenge. While I had been tempted to ignore Tia, the Lord enabled me to love her.

After leaving to take up my new duties, I kept in touch with Tia. We continued to talk and meet occasionally. A few years later, however, Tia also was diagnosed with lung cancer. Our conversations began to center on Jesus in our lives and our dependence on Him. At 47 years old she went to sleep in Jesus, and I now look forward to our eternal friendship in heaven.

  1. pseudonym
  2. Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.