Blessed Are the Unemployed

So this is a blessing? We're blessed in being dependent, jobless, without resources, without status?

Reprinted from the June/July 2000 issue of Reality magazine, New Zealand's Christian bimonthly, with permission. "Reality" is available by subscription from

In November 1999, after two decades of missionary work in Bangladesh, the author and her family returned to New Zealand.

Six months ago [my husband and I] finished our former job. It was a highly polished finish with multiple farewell functions, tears, prayers, and eulogies. For us, a good ending to twenty years with the same organization. We left with a feeling of being loved, valued, and appreciated. Six months down the unemployment road, those feelings have eroded almost down to bedrock.

We used to be busy all the time. Consulting colleagues, called on to give advice. Making plans and actioning plans. Thinking ahead to large future strategies, as well as coping with minor daily chores and a variety of not-so-minor crises. Always interacting with people, always challenged, always taken out of ourselves.

Our colleagues were also our friends, our employees were also our fellow church members, our home was also our workplace, our hospitality was also our job. We were useful, we were tired, we were stressed, we were fulfilled, we were employed.


Now we contrive our routines to fill our days with what feels like an artificial busyness. We do what you're supposed to do.

We've been to the employment agencies. We scan the paper and the Internet for job opportunities. We call up for job descriptions, study them, choose the possible ones. We fill in the application form, sculpt our CV to the scope of the job, craft the letter to go with it, mail it off with prayer and hope and anxiety.

Sometimes there is no reply at all. Sometimes a polite regret that the position has been filled. Three times, an interview, then the wait with heightened hope, and the disappointing letdown.

We didn't want to do it, but after a fruitless month we decided we'd better apply for the benefits we can claim. That felt like a big lump to swallow. We've never even been entitled to family support before now. Venturing into this world of WINZ [Work and Income New Zealand] and IRD [Inland Revenue Department] feels like trying to push our way up a hillside covered with thick gorse. We collect pamphlets and booklets and forms and try to puzzle them out. We put off applying because we keep thinking that next week we'll have a job.

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