PROGRAM W-1787 – Part I

For many years, I’ve been telling this on-going fictional story of a woman named Fran and how she learns to turn to Jesus for wisdom and guidance in every area of her life. If you’re dealing with a boss who doesn’t seem to be up to the job, I’m sure you’ll find today’s episode instructive for your own life.

Since her husband’s untimely death, Fran has been blessed with a good job and a good boss. She and Marilyn had a few rough spots at the beginning but that is all behind them. Marilyn has proven to be a very effective manager. Even more importantly, Fran has shared her faith with Marilyn and actually led her to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Marilyn’s growth as a new believer has been a bit slow, but it is clear that she has truly had a life-changing conversion. So all in all, Fran is more than pleased with her current situation at work.

Today Marilyn comes into her office and sits down.

“Uh oh,” Fran says half teasing, “when you come in and sit down, I know we’re in for something serious. What’s up, Marilyn?”

Marilyn smiles. “Well, I have good news and good news. Which do you want first?”

“Oh, please, the good news first,” Fran laughs.

“The good news is I’ve just been selected as Vice President of Marketing for the entire division,” Marilyn reports, with obvious great pleasure.

“No kidding?!” Fran exclaims. “Marilyn, that is awesome. Congratulations!” And with that she gives her a big hug.

“Well, I’m a bit overwhelmed,” Marilyn says, “but I am excited about the opportunity.”

“You deserve it, Marilyn,” Fran says, “and I couldn’t be happier for you. But wait a minute,” she pauses. “Does this mean you’ll be moving?”

“Well, that’s the other good news, Fran. You won’t have to put up with me as a boss any longer. You’ll have a new boss starting next Monday.”

Fran plops back down in her chair. “Sorry, Marilyn, but that is not good news. You’re the best—and you’ve been such a great help to me. What will I do without you?”

“Thanks, Fran, but you’ll do fine. I’m not worried about you one bit,” Marilyn assures her. “In fact, you’re the first person I’ve told, so keep it quiet until I announce it this afternoon.”

“Sure, okay,” Fran agrees. “But who is going to take your job?”

“They’re promoting a guy from the Boston office. His name is Ben Mason. I don’t know him personally, but evidently he’s done well there in sales so they’re bringing him here as a manager.”

“You don’t know anything about him?” Fran asks. “How long has he been with the company?”

“I think about five or six years,” Marilyn answers.

“That’s all?” Fran is amazed. “Why didn’t they choose someone with more experience? And why didn’t they choose someone right within our office? There are several here who’ve got more experience than that.”

“Look, Fran, this was all decided before they announced it to me, so I didn’t have an opportunity to put in my two-cents,” Marilyn informs her. “My guess is that this man is a young guy on his way up, and they may have him on a fast track. I admit it’s a little unusual—but wait and see. He must be good or they wouldn’t promote him this quickly.”

“You can be sure I’ll be praying for you, Marilyn,” Fran assures her.

“I really appreciate that, Fran,” Marilyn says. “Knowing you has really made a difference in my life. I never would have believed that I would be a real Christian—you know what I mean. But thanks to you, I really am. I prayed about this promotion and I think it’s what God wants me to do.”

“Then, you can be sure he’ll be with you every step of the way,” Fran assures her as they part.

For the next few days before Marilyn leaves, everyone talks about the upcoming changes and tries to find out who this Ben Mason guy is and what he’s all about. It seems he is indeed quite young—late twenties—and has done well as an account manager—brought in lots of new business. They collectively hold their breath to see what kind of a manager he will be.

Monday morning arrives, the day for Ben Mason to join the department. Fran talks with Jesus about this change. “Lord,” she prays, “please help me to accept this Ben without any prejudice. I want to be helpful to him. Please be with him in this transition period. I need your help, Lord, and I cast all my care on you because I know you care for me.”

After a time of prayer and Bible reading, she begins her day. Upon arriving at work a few minutes early, she meets Louise, her good friend who is also a believer. “Hey, Fran, we’ve got a few minutes. How about praying with me for this change?”

She and Louise pray together every week for the company and their department, so they’ve learned the power of taking every detail to the Lord and trusting him in every aspect of their jobs. “Absolutely,” Fran replies, “come on in my office.”

They shut the door and spend five minutes in prayer together for the changes that are about to take place in their department. “Lord,” Louise prays, “we pray Ben Mason will be the right kind of leader and that Fran and I will be able to work with him effectively.”

At nine o’clock Ben Mason is introduced to the department.

Young? Fran thinks. He’s a baby. I wonder if he even shaves yet! Indeed, this new manager looks even younger than he is, and everyone is a bit shocked when they see him.

Ben begins his opening remarks: “Well, I’m glad to be here and look forward to a very successful year. I’ve been looking at your numbers and we’ve got some work to do, don’t we? Seems to me we haven’t secured enough new clients. Maybe some of us are just too contented to rock along the way things are. Well, you’ll see some changes in the next few days because I think it’s time for a shakeup. We want to be the number one sales office in the company, and I intend to make it happen this year.”

A silence falls over the department like a wet blanket.

Whoa, Fran thinks, what an opening shot he has fired. She goes back to her office with some fear and trepidation, and not a few of her colleagues give her the lifted-brow alarmed look as they pass.

Before she has time to sit down, George walks in. He’s been an account manager for over ten years, and he really knows his business. “Fran, can you believe that guy? What a stupid thing to say on your first day in a new office. Where did they dig him up? He must be connected with somebody somewhere to get this job. Man, life is going to be difficult for us.”

Fran shakes her head. “I know, George,” she says, “I was shocked at what he said. He looks like a child; how old can he be? And how much experience can he have? You’re right; we’re in for some tough days.”

They commiserate together a few minutes longer and George leaves. Fran feels a cloud of discouragement descending upon her. “Lord,” she prays silently, “I don’t like this guy. What am I going to do? This guy is going to make my life miserable.” She prays a couple of minutes more, but somehow it doesn’t seem to help.

As she goes home, she lets her mind run wild with imaginations of how awful it is going to be to work for such a young arrogant man. By the time she arrives at home, she feels like the world is on her shoulders.

She does the minimum that needs to be done to get the kids fed, do their homework and get them into bed by 9:00. Then she heads for the telephone to express her feelings to Louise. “Louise, what did you think about Ben Mason? Pretty pitiful, right?”

Louise is quiet.

Fran continues, “Did you ever hear such an awful opening message? I mean, it has to break all the rules of being a good manager. Where did they dig this guy up anyway?”

Louise remains quiet.

“Louise, are you there?” Fran asks.

“Yes, Fran, but I just don’t think we should be talking about him. . .”

Fran feels the sting of her brief remark and knows she is right. But she’s not there yet. “Well, I’m just telling you how I feel, Louise. I mean, you have to tell someone, don’t you?”

“Yeah, we do need to tell someone, I agree,” Louise says very quietly, “but I don’t think we should be gossiping.”

“Gossiping?” Fran becomes defensive. “I don’t think this is gossip. I’m just reporting on the facts. Oh well, I know you’re busy; don’t want to keep you, Louise. See you in the morning.” And with that abrupt ending, she hangs up the phone.

But her face is glowing red as she does—both from anger and from shame. She is initially angry with Louise for confronting her so forcefully, and also ashamed at how she behaved. She knows all-too-well that this is not the way Jesus would handle the situation.

She steams around the house for half an hour, the two battles going on inside of her. Her old nature wants to get angrier and angrier with Louise for putting her on the spot and calling her hand, and her new nature is urging her to sit down with her Bible and talk to Jesus about it.

Finally, she sits down with her Bible and tries to pray. But few words come out before the tears start. “Lord, I’m so sorry. How could I behave so badly? How could I?” Fran cries out to the Lord. She is so disappointed in herself. She knows better than to gossip. She knows how wrong it is to have such a rotten attitude. She knows to take all her concerns to the Lord and not complain to people. She knows all that, and yet she has done just the opposite.

Opening her Bible to Romans 7, she reads again the familiar words of the Apostle Paul which seem to echo her feelings, beginning in verse 21:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)

“Wretched, Lord,” Fran sobs, “that’s exactly the way I feel. I want to do your will, yet so easily, so quickly, I go back to my own self-centered way of responding. Please forgive me.” After a time of prayer, Fran thinks about what her next steps should be. “First, I have to apologize to Louise and then to George, too. Then I have to change my attitude toward Ben. He is my manager and no one is in my life by accident.”

She turns to Romans 13 and reads again the passage about those in authority:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)

Fran prays this passage into her heart, asking God to help her respect Ben and his authority over her.

Before going to bed, she phones Louise with a sincere apology, and the two of them covenant again to hold each other accountable.

The next day at work Fran finds a moment alone with George to apologize for her participation in the bad words about Ben. George looks puzzled, but Fran feels she must make it clear that she was wrong, hopefully without pointing any fingers of blame at George.

But now the challenge begins: She must deal directly with Ben Mason, her new boss, as his assistant has told her that he wants to see her at 2:00 this afternoon. She determines to spend her lunch hour fasting and praying for this meeting.