I turned down the opportunity of a lifetime recently. And I’m so thankful I did. Let me explain. And when I’m done, I think you’ll see why it’s one of the most important Thanksgiving-themed messages I could ever share.
About a month ago, I got a call from an old colleague. She wanted to pass my name on to someone who was building a new media company. My background is in building news networks and digital content creation, and the organization wanted someone experienced to lead their content department. The leader was a prominent figure. It sounded exciting, and I love building things so I said, “Yes.”
After having a series of conversations, however, it became clear that this job would require a lot of time away from my family. Long hours. A long commute. And the type of availability that encroaches on nights and weekends.
There was just one thing: They were offering me a lot in return. I mean A LOT. Money, notoriety, access, experiences — the total package. It was the type of offer that only comes along once.
Can I be really honest? There might be a lot of people at this point who would tell you, “The decision was easy. I would never choose those things over my family.” But I am not one of them. What I mean is that it’s not just a simple “family vs. money” scenario. For example, we’re considering putting our kids in private school for a variety of reasons. Taking this job would make that possible. Isn’t that a decision, then, that would serve my family, at least in some capacity?
Also, couldn’t being in a position of influence to help lead a new media company with integrity and in a direction that honors God be a great thing? I think it could be.
That said, after weighing everything, I decided not to take the job. In the end, I did determine that the cost to my family would be too great. And honestly, when I prayed about it God did not give me a peace about saying “yes.”
So, I said, “No.”
For a couple of weeks, I was pretty confident in that decision. But then…
Recently, our family has been hit with some hard times. My wife’s health hasn’t been great, to say the least. The medical bills have started to pile up. On top of that, one of the reasons we’re considering private education is because my daughter has been struggling with the environment at her current school. That has deteriorated more in recent weeks. And finally, when you run your own company, almost like clockwork starting November 1, you get used to hearing one particular phrase whenever you send out a proposal or talk to a potential (or current client) about a project: “Let’s talk after the holidays.” In other words, there’s a lull that happens in business and revenue every November through January.
When you add that all up, I started to second-guess the decision to turn down the job.
“What if I could make it work? Yeah, I know it would be hard on the family, but what if we could make it for just a year? We all have to make sacrifices, right? They’d understand. I’d be able to take care of the bills. My daughter would have a better school. My wife could focus on her health more. Did I make a mistake?”
All those thoughts started flooding in.
So, this week, I brought it up at my therapy session with my Christian counselor. I thought maybe she’d tell me to pray about it more, ask me some pointed questions or remind me why I said no in the first place. But she didn’t. Instead, she pointed me to the Bible – and to an obscure story that I hadn’t thought about in years.
In the Bible’s first book, Genesis, there’s a story about a man named Abraham. He’s kind of the first big figurehead in the Bible. He’s the one that all Jews descend from and is the true patriarch of God’s people. In chapter 13 of Genesis, there’s a story about Abraham and his nephew, Lot.
At this point in their relationship, Abraham and Lot are at a crossroads. Their families have been living alongside each other, and it’s causing conflict. Their animals are getting mixed up, their people are starting to argue, and it’s just messy. You know, kind of like your Thanksgiving get-together.
Anyway, Abraham is a pretty upstanding guy. So he gets together with Lot and they walk out to the field together. Abraham tells Lot (in my words): “Take a look around. Pick wherever you want to go, and I’ll take my family and go the opposite way. You can have the best land if you want it, I don’t care. I just want to be a good person to you and stop all this bickering.”
Lot is blown away. And he does what a lot of us would do. He takes a look at the land and sees some prime real estate. There’s a beautiful area “over yonder,” with lush valleys and green grass, and lots of water. “I’ll go over there,” he says.
“Done,” Abraham responds. And he lets Lot take the incredible land and then takes his family and goes to the much more desolate area and sets up camp.
You might think, then, that Lot got the better deal. He got everything he could want. He was set for life. But that’s not how the story ends at all. See, while Lot got a lot on the surface (pun intended), that land also came with a lot of baggage. It butted up next to one of the most wild towns you could imagine, a place where nothing was off limits. There were also people who were really hostile towards Lot and his way of life. And that ended up causing him and his family immense trouble. So much so that Abraham had to eventually come rescue him.
What ended up happening to Abraham? Well, God honored his decision and his approach. That rundown, half-working shack of land? It became a vibrant and prosperous area for him.
That’s the story my counselor told me. And then she made this point: “Jon, the grass may look greener over there. It may seem like it will take care of all your wants, needs and desires. But God looks at things differently. If you honor him in your decision, and in the way you made it, it always works out better.”
That hit me right in the chest.
OK, so why am I telling you this? And what does it have to do with being thankful, especially around this time of year? That ancient story and how my counselor framed it gives this Thanksgiving a renewed meaning.
Friend, I am prone to want to thank God for all I have. For all he’s given me. To list off all the “good” things in life and thank him for them. That’s not bad. We should do that. But this week, I was reminded of thanking God for less. For thanking him for the things he hasn’t given me — for keeping me safe from myself and my desire to be comfortable above all else.
I was given Lot’s choice last month. I could have taken the “easy” way out – the way that looked so good on the surface but would have come at a cost. I said, “No.” And when I second-guessed it, God reminded me that when I choose based on his criteria, he’s either got so much more for me, or he’s protecting me from the perils associated with what I see as “good.”
I want you to think about that this Thanksgiving. What are those things that God has kept you from, protected you from, shielded you from? How can you be thankful for “less” and realize that “more” isn’t the end-all-be all?
I’m learning that lesson: one “no,” one therapy session and one Bible story at a time.