My present job came to me through the intense ritual of prepping for, then succeeding in, a series of nerve-wracking interviews. But that hasn’t been the case with every job opportunity for which I applied. On some occasions, an odd connection or foot-in-the-door afforded me an interview that was more formality and less worthiness testing.
An example from some years ago: I was a few minutes into a phone screening for my possible big break into the New York advertising world — Mad Men land — when suddenly the HR rep on the other end interrupted her scripted questioning to ask if I was related to one of their senior copywriters. “No,” I replied; “Why?” She told me he shared my unique last name, and that out of curiosity she’d go ahead and set up an in-person interview between us. Score.
A week later I joined Mr. MyLastName in a small conference room. Just him, me, and my weak attempt at a portfolio, filled with amateur spec work and my favorite projects from the few creative classes offered in my university’s business-focused advertising degree program. But the anxiety I felt was for naught: instead of asking to see my book, the successful yet congenial copywriter across the table began engaging me in a back-and-forth of heritage comparison, to see if we could connect the dots on our potential familial ties. We couldn’t, but as finally began leafing through my book, rather casually, he declared, “We may not be related, but I bet I can find a spot for you here.”
That was then. This is now, and the professional position I’m proud to presently hold became mine through good old fashioned rigor, focus and discipline. I knew the opportunity before me could only be seized if I had a supreme understanding of what the role entailed, how my skills fit that description, how I could exceed those expectations in greater stride than my competition, and most importantly, my ability to communicate all of that effectively to my interviewer. So I studied, researched and rehearsed long and hard, making sure nothing was left to chance, that no unexplored topic or question could mean the difference between receiving the job offer and not.
I’m sure most of you can relate — we learn early the value of being prepared, and not just in interviews. It’s prepping for a big pitch or presenting to upper management in a job you already have, or ramping up to a first (or fifth) date with someone you really dig, or being an expectant parent and accepting every bit of advice and literature that comes your way — warranted or otherwise.
Why are we bent toward this behavior? Simple: we don’t want to be caught unprepared, ill-prepared, under-prepared, or wrongly prepared, right? More than avoiding looking foolish, we don’t want to blow it.. whatever “it” might be, because usually “it” is something extremely immediate as in the examples above, or something of vast importance, or both.
Well, what if there’s an “it” for which immediacy is unpredictable, but which has greater importance than any of these big milestones… or even all of these milestones combined? How do we handle this “it,” and is our reaction (or lack thereof) proportionate to “its” importance?
Specifically, I’m talking about the Big Man.
Do you, Mr./Ms. YourLastName, ever think about the fact that it’s entirely possible you might one day — whether sooner than you expect or after a long, full life — come face-to-face with your Maker?
Whether you’ve thought about it before, or whether (now that I’ve gone full Inception and planted the idea in your noggin) you’re thinking about it for the first time… what’s your knee-jerk reaction to the idea? Does it give you the same rapid heart rate and adrenaline-inducing anticipation as, I dunno, being called upstairs to your boss’s office without notice?
Have you considered the repercussions if this, um, other “upstairs” meeting does actually happen… and you bomb? Do you think it’s likely you’d get a do over when you had an entire lifetime to prepare?
If you have, and you are at least a bit concerned, do you plan to sit down as soon as possible to comb through research and preparatory notes, knowing that tomorrow or some unknown length of days from now, you might be sitting down to coffee with (or perhaps more classically expected, bowing at the throne of) the Sovereign Almighty of the universe?
If your answer is no, then, man… what??
To clarify something critical before I progress, I’m not asking whether God does exist and we do meet him/her/it some day. I’m also not asking, assuming the answer to the previous is yes, whether you’ve worked hard enough to please God or to earn whatever job someone gets when they’ve won God’s favor through hard work. My question comes way before these lines of thought, and it’s really a simple question:
Given that we do so much preparation for far less important, and much more temporary stuff, and given how many brilliant minds have been convinced that we’ll go before our Maker one day... have you given any thought or done any reading or research, any of that pre-interview/meeting/date prep, around what the meeting might entail, or expectations or questions that might be presented, if it happens? Have you taken even a cursory look, a quick LinkedIn-type dive, on who this God is that you could be meeting?
Blaise Pascal and his famous wager would certainly strongly suggest that it’s in your best interest to contemplate such an idea in earnest. And 1600 years before ol’ Blaise, there was this ancient Jewish people group called the Bereans described in the fascinating historical book of Acts. (As a quick intro, this New Testament book was an early church writing by a respected physician named Luke, who was hired by someone named Theophilus — likely a Roman official — to conduct exhaustive eye-witness interviews and put together a detailed account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and of everything that happened after his death and purported resurrection. The resulting work was two parts — what we call the Gospel of Luke to report everything up to Jesus leaving the earth, and the book of Acts to report on the first-century church.) In Chapter 17 of Acts, we find Paul and Silas, two of the first Christian missionaries, paying a visit to the people of Berea (in what’s now northern Greece). Here’s what these Bereans did when Paul and Silas shared their message:
These Jews… received the message, examining the [existing Jewish] scriptures carefully every day to see if these things [being told to them about Jesus] were so.
The Bereans understood the gravity of spiritual matters — metaphysical and existential things — when those things turn out to be true. These folks wanted to be sure that, were they to meet God tomorrow, they’d done their homework of using everything available to them to determine as much as they could about who God was and what God expected of them. And beyond that, they also wanted to find out whether this Jesus of Nazareth fellow, and his missionaries, offered anything worth their time and energy.
Notice, the Bereans didn’t leave it to chance. They didn’t assume these missionaries had nothing substantive to offer them. They recognized that their own intellect, the powers and laws of logic and reason, and the truths to which they already had access, could help them make a decision about the Christ-ian (about Christ) message brought to them by these missionaries.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll bet the Bereans were probably great at first dates, big interviews, important pitches, and meetings with execs.
Do you want to be like the Bereans, confident about how things will go if you meet God today, tonight, tomorrow, or years from now? Are you as well prepared for that as you are to meet your next “big” (relatively speaking) goal in life? Given the ease of instant access we have to facts about the life, teachings, and sacrifice of Jesus, the man who claimed to be the Son of God, have you put in any of the light effort necessary to mull over those things?
I’m not positing here that you’re going to meet God, or that Jesus is his son. Those are other topics that I intend to cover another day. But on the possibility, and the weightiness of that possibility, have you begun what could be your life’s absolute noblest pursuit?
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