Imagine a lawyer appearing at a group of unemployed job seekers, to tell them that he can offer them a lawsuit to help in their journey going forward. Just what they need. “How does that help me find new work?”
I have made numerous presentations that describe employee rights. I can quickly and efficiently trace the elements that explain the several theories that routinely will produce a remedy and recovery for my clients. “Piece of cake.” I could make this presentation to this church group, but I am convinced that would be a waste of their time. I am after all coming to them, not they to me. I cannot assume that what I have is what they want.
This presentation exercise has forced me to re-examine own law practice, and how it impacts others. My clients are all wounded financially and emotionally by job loss. They must somehow find the resources to recover from that loss sufficiently to march forward in search of new work.
In many ways I have been an agent of “looking back,” but not “forward.” That is inevitable given that my clients are themselves “stuck in the past.” A wrong has been done to them, and now we are trying to make it right. Of necessity, we are focused on the old employment, and reliving the old wounds. But to what end?
I have started and aborted my outline of the presentation several times. So many “false starts” have been very frustrating. My usual topic title is “Do I Have a Case?” The question now has morphed into: “How Can a Lawsuit Possibly Help Me Go Forward in My Search for Work?”
I have never presented a Bible Study as a “Teacher” to a large group of people. I am not seeking out this role. It is not the role I have been asked to fill in this presentation. Yet, I am acutely aware I am speaking to a group of Christians. They have gathered at a Church because the Church offers a job-seekers ministry. They are a “people set apart” by their faith. It would be wrong of me as their brother to present a secular view of the world.
I resolved this “presentation conundrum” by prayer, and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead me toward an answer that has implications for me as well as them. I have taken the model of the Jews leaving their oppressors in Egypt as described in the Book of Exodus. This model describes a journey of “going forward” that presents the Jews with many decision points: what do they take with them on the journey; what resources do they take as “booty” during their raids of other nations, do they give up to return to Egypt, and do they dare to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land? The consequence of not taking boldly in faith what God offered them was that a generation was caused to die while wandering in the desert for 40 more years.
The Exodus Jews had to shed their identities as slaves and assume their new identities as a powerful nation ready to fight for their freedoms, including their freedom from the idolatrous cultures they were to conquer. The parallel for my clients is that they too are to “go forward” by “fighting through” the oppressive past that burdens them. They are to get past their old identities as “victims” and to assume NOW an identity as “victors.” A victor is a person of faith going forward despite the uncertainties, and who focuses on a better future.
I am not giving this presentation to persuade people to file lawsuits against their employers. I am there to help them go forward by either gathering an available resource for their journey to freedom, or “letting it go” if there is no likely legal remedy. The goal is positive closure. The goal is to reach the best human approximation of “justice” and “accountability.” The closure is not perfect. Neither was the Exodus journey, but at the end of their journey, a people had found freedom and dignity through their struggle.