Karen is among the best and the brightest. She graduated at the top of her class and, even during a pandemic, managed to find work in her chosen field. She feels like she’s on top of the world. In reality, however, with no on-the-job experience she is, for all intents and purposes, the person on the lowest rung of the ladder.
The good news is that Karen’s boss knows what that feels like. As one of the few women in her field, she knows because that’s what she faced 15 years ago. And because she knows what that feels like, she can help Karen over some of the rough spots.
She knows what it feels like to have three phones ringing at once, a backlog of emails waiting to be answered and a project due when, unlike her male colleagues, she has no assistant to help her. She knows what it feels like to have a potential client argue that a male competitor is cheaper. Karen understands the temptation for her to quote a lower price in order to make the sale, knowing that by the time the client finds out that the final cost is more than they can afford it’ll be too late for them to back out.
The good news is that Karen’s boss has “been there” and “done that” and because of her experience Karen’s introduction to her new job will be made easier. “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert” – a lonely and dangerous place – “and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted” – to lie, to cheat, to steal – “by Satan.” Jesus, too, has “been there” and “done that.” Jesus knows what it feels like to be alone, and he knows what it feels like to be tempted to do whatever it takes to make the sale. Jesus understands because he’s been to the desert. He’s gone from being at the top to being at the bottom and he knows what it feels like.
Someday Karen will realize just how lucky she is. We’ve just entered Lent. When Easter arrives, will we be able to say the same?
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the Diocese of Green Bay.