“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” —Jesus (Matthew 22:39)In the midst of all of my activity of moving into an apartment during the month of October, I have still found time for one of my favorite activities–reading. Today I read a devotion in a book I found this past summer at a used bookstore titled, “31 Days of Encouragement as We Grow Older,” by Ruth Myers (1928-2010), who was a missionary with The Navigators, a popular conference speaker and beloved author, best known for her perennial favorite, “31 Days of Praise.”
I have to say that I hesitated when I first thought about buying it as I still find it hard to think of myself as being in the “older” age category, but there is no denying that I have reached an age that isn’t considered “middle age” anymore. However, I did buy the book, and I’ve been reading through it this month. Today’s devotion (Day 28) brought to mind something that I’ve kept thinking about all month since my move to this apartment on October 5th began.
During the time that I lived in hotel rooms while searching for affordable income-based senior housing for over six and a half years (and I never did find it), it has been very hard to let go of the incident that caused this living in hotel rooms to occur in the first place, along with a six-year long job search previous to and overlapping when living in a hotel room started back in September 2014. It all started when I lost my job in April 2009 and I never found another job in spite of a six year-search for another position in my career field.
During these past dozen years I have come to understand some things going on in our society that I never had a clue about during the years I worked. When I lost that job in April 2009, I had excellent credentials in my career field, and I was still looking at ten years left to work before normal retirement age. I never dreamed I would not find another job after I lost that job in 2009, but that is exactly what happened.
If you’ve read some of my earlier posts on my main blog you know the story behind how I ended up living in hotel rooms for six years which started at the end of September 2014. I had been living in a furnished apartment in the upstairs of an old house for over four years, and it was sold to new owners who wanted to use my apartment for their own purposes at the beginning of 2014. When I moved out of that apartment I stayed with a friend for a few months while searching for affordable senior housing, and that is when my living in a hotel room started.
I began a search for a low-income senior apartment in a senior apartment complex starting in January 2014 when the new owners bought the house where my apartment was located. I never dreamed that I would not find an apartment fairly soon, but that, like my job search before it, is exactly what happened. My only housing option was living in weekly-rate hotels, and it lasted for six years until I found and rented the apartment I am now living in (which is not a senior complex) at the beginning of October once I finally gave up my search for affordable senior housing.
Reflecting back on these years going back to when I lost that job over 11 1/2 years ago, as I mentioned above, I have come to realize a whole lot of things going on in our society that I never had a clue about before I lost that job. And the things that are going on are far bigger then me losing my job and never finding another one or even my hotel living saga. You could call it a paradigm shift.
However, even knowing that it is far bigger then my own personal experiences, I still had a tendency to go back to what happened to me at that job I lost 11 1/2 years ago. I still felt some kind of need to hang on to the anger I felt at what happened to me that so drastically changed my life from that point on. My anger and frustration needed a focal point, and that focal point was the people involved in how I lost my job.
As I traversed these past 11 1/2 years adding more and more knowledge as to what is going on in our society, what frustrated me the most was that no matter what I tried to do once I got shuffled into hotel room living, every door was closed, and I mean closed tight. I remember a phone conversation I had with my father back in March 2015 when I was going broke fast after living in hotel rooms for six months at that point in time. My only income back then had started in the summer of 2014 when I received my first Social Security check, which I was forced to apply for at the age of 62 just to have any income again. My Social Security check didn’t even cover the cost of the hotel room, let alone any other living expenses, and the small savings I had at that time took a major hit during those first six months of hotel room living. I told Dad I was going to be broke by the end of that year if something didn’t change, and I wasn’t finding an affordable senior apartment no matter how hard I looked for it. At that time he decided to start sending me money to help pay for the hotel rooms, and he made a statement to me that I never forgot. He said he thought I’d have a really hard time finding an apartment, but he didn’t say why he felt that way.
Dad died in June 2019, and he was still sending me money for my hotel room rent right up until he died. In all of that time no matter what I did or where I applied for affordable senior housing (in two different states, too), I was put on waiting lists that I never heard back from, and I was given nothing but excuses when I called to inquire where I stood on their waiting lists.
I knew of no one who even began to have the issues I have had with first looking for a job for six years and never finding it, and then getting stuck in hotel room living (which is hardly affordable for anyone living on a low income) for another six years. In fact, at one very large income-based senior apartment complex where I tried three times to get into it over five years (on three different occasions and I was told all three times that the waiting list was at least 1 to 1 1/2 years long), a friend of mine living on Social Security was able to rent an apartment there the very first time she applied without ever waiting on waiting list. In fact, she encouraged me to apply again, so I did apply again, and that was in July 2018. When I inquired after I applied that last time, I was told the same thing I had been told previously–that the wait was 1 to 1 1 /2 years long, even when I asked how my friend was able to get into an apartment there without ever waiting on a waiting list.
2020 has had it’s own challenges for everyone starting with the coronavirus pandemic that is still ongoing. I applied at yet another senior apartment complex in the area where I am living back in April 2020 shortly after the pandemic started. For the first time in six years I was called back after applying and I was told that I could rent an apartment there, but the day before I was scheduled to move into it, I was sent an email stating that their compliance department had reviewed my financial statements and they determined that I could not move into that apartment after all as I did not qualify for it. This was getting to be unreal after six years of looking for an affordable senior apartment, and when I was finally offered an apartment in a senior complex, the day before I was scheduled to move into it in May 2020 I was told I didn’t qualify for it after all.
Even though I realized at this point in time that the paradigm shift going on in our society was much greater then just my own personal circumstances, I was still living in hotel rooms after six years of looking for affordable senior housing and getting the door slammed in my face no matter where I looked.
With all of that being said, I am a Christian and I believe God is sovereign. And because God is sovereign, nothing happens by chance, even these past dozen years in my life. Once I let go of trying to find an affordable senior apartment in a senior apartment complex at the end of September, things moved very fast, and through an apartment locator who sent me a list of apartments in the area where I wanted to live, I ended up finding an apartment in an “all ages” apartment complex right in the middle of where I wanted to live.
I think one of the toughest issues Christians deal with is the issue of forgiveness. I have struggled with it for the past 11 1/2 years after I lost that job and never found another one. But I also realize that what happened to me is not just happening to me but that there are things going on all across America that are having very adverse effects on large numbers of people in major, life changing ways. Just look at the upheaval caused by the pandemic, and not just here in America, either.
During the past three plus weeks since I moved into this apartment, my thoughts have gone back to what happened at that job I lost in 2009. In looking back over these past dozen years, I can see that I have actually been given a gift–a gift that has been more valuable than I ever could have imagined. And it never would have happened if I had not lost that job and encountered all that I have encountered during this time. And the most amazing thing of all is that I have finally found myself on the other side of forgiveness. I no longer hold anything against anyone who was involved in my demise at that job back then.
I have now written over 1,700 words to finally get to the devotion I read today that I mentioned at the start of this blog post titled, “Now Is the Time: Love and Forgive,” by Ruth Myers. Here is what she wrote:
In our later years, we need as urgently as ever to look on the bright side, not the dull side–in our attitudes toward the people in our life–and to offer them that smile, that word of admiration or appreciation or kindness they need. Perhaps this is more urgent, more important to our own sanity and joy then it was when we were younger.
We need to maintain this growing edge in various ways, especially in loving God and other people. All through life the Lord’s first and second greatest commands to us are to love Him with all our being and to love others as we love ourselves (see Matthew 22:37-39). So our most earnest and constant prayer should be that we will love as He desires. And our most urgent need is to know Him better and to experience more deeply His love, His power, His sufficiency. Regardless of our age, He’s so eager to assist us as we seek to reveal His love and favor to others.
Our loved ones may care deeply, but they may be limited in time and energy to give all they’d like to give to everyone God has put in their lives. Or they may lack the true, expendable love that gladly gives and serves. How often we should praise God that His love is limitless and that He’s available for loving fellowship at any time, day or night.
So we have a special, challenging task–to daily become more like Jesus in His most important attributes! Let’s make it our goal to send our roots deeper into God’s love and to love others as He loves us.
It’s a love that should lead us to forgiveness. We’ve all had years in this fallen world to experience love and joy–but also to experience hurts, injustices, rejection. We may have a few negative memories or a large collection of them–memories that eat at us when we allow them to rise up within us. Let’s be mature.
Let’s choose, by God’s grace, to forgive.
You may find it helpful to list each negative memory and emotion on a memo pad–each thing you feel hurt or angry about. You may find hurts that you’ve already let God into, and He has healed them, freeing your from negative inner reactions. Or you may need His fuller working. Perhaps you’ve never freely brought these negative emotions and experiences to God. Instead you’ve denied or hushed them. Or nursed them. I pray that you will detect each hurt and angry response that hasn’t yet been healed by God. In no way does He condemn you for these responses. Instead He longs to free you into greater growth and joy.
So bring each memory to God, choosing to forgive the person or people involved, and asking Him to heal your heart as you put the memory into His hand. And ask Him to meet the needs of the person involved.
If your old negative emotions return, put them back into God’s hands and reaffirm your choice to forgive. And thank Him for all the times He has forgiven you.
Thank you, Lord, that in Christ Jesus I am “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Thank You that Your mercies toward me “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Teach me more and more how to extend this fresh mercy to others around me. (Quote source, “31 Days of Encouragement as We Grow Older,” Day 28, pp. 134-137.)
I’ll end this post with the Jesus’ words from John 15:12: This is My commandment, that you…
Love one another . . .
As I have loved . . .
YOU . . . .
YouTube Video: “Love One Another” by the Newsboys: