For those who aren’t familiar with these stories, Fran is a young widow with two school-aged children, who has a job in a marketing organization. We’ve been following her story since she went back to work after her husband’s untimely death, and several years have passed. She has found a good friend where she works, Louise, who is a strong Christian, and their friendship has become very close and supportive. It is a blessing in Fran’s life.
She and Louise are account reps with good track records and success. Their hard work and honesty have paid off, and they are respected by their management and co-workers. This Thursday morning Fran is really excited for Louise, because she expects she will be awarded a big new national account. She’s the right person for that account, and their manager, Marilyn, has indicated that she recommended her. The final decision is to be made today, so it’s been hard for Fran to stay focused.
The phone rings just about lunch time, and it’s Andy, a friend in the art department. “Hi, Fran,” Andy says, “just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for Louise.”
“What do you mean, Andy?” Fran asks with a lump in her throat.
“Oh, no, you haven’t heard! Oh, I’m sorry. Louise didn’t get the new account; it went to Lloyd.”
“Lloyd? Why Lloyd?” Fran asks in bewilderment. “Lloyd isn’t nearly as qualified as Louise—and Marilyn told Louise….”
“I know, I know,” Andy says, “nobody knows why Lloyd got it instead of Louise. I just feel so bad for Louise.”
“Thanks for letting me know, Andy,” Fran says. “I need to find Louise. Talk to you later.”
She hangs up and dials Louise’s number; no answer. Her office is up on the next floor, but she just can’t sit still and wait any longer. So she heads for her office, taking the shortcut up the stairwell. As she’s going up, Louise is coming down.
“Oh, Louise,” Fran says, “I was headed for your office. Andy just told me….”
“Yeah, can you believe it?” Louise looks at her with a slight grin. “Marilyn told me Lloyd was selected because of his quote ‘experience with entertaining large national accounts.'”
“What did she mean?” Fran asks.
“Oh, I think it’s clear; somebody decided that I wouldn’t be willing to wine and dine this client as they expect to be,” Louise replies.
“You mean because you’re a Christian and they know you don’t do the ‘party-thing’?” Fran replies. “Louise, that’s discrimination. Didn’t you protest to Marilyn?”
“Look, she feels as badly about it as I do,” Louise says, “and she’s a fairly new believer, so I’m not going to hassle her, Fran.”
“You mean, you’re not going to fight this, Louise?” Fran can’t believe her ears.
“No, I prayed about it, and I have to trust God and let it go,” Louise tells her.
“But Louise, this is a matter of principle. It’s wrong for the company to discriminate against you because of your convictions,” Fran says. “You’re just letting them get by with inappropriate—and might I add—illegal behavior. It’s not right!”
“Well, Fran, I have to do what I think is right, and this is one of those ‘turn the other cheeks’ times. I can’t prove they’ve discriminated against me, and even if I could, it would not be a good testimony for me to start demanding my rights,” Louise replies. “The company has basically been good to me, Fran, and I just have to deal with this disappointment.”
“But Louise, not only is this wrong for you, it’s wrong for the company,” Fran argues. “You’re much better at your job than Lloyd is; you’d do a much better job for that client.”
“Fran,” Louise says, “please, don’t take this so hard. I really appreciate your concern for me, but I just don’t believe this is a matter over which I should raise an issue. The Lord just keeps telling me to let it go, Fran, so that’s what I have to do.”
Tears come to Fran’s eyes and start down her cheeks, as she stands in the stairwell with Louise. She tries to cover up but Louise notices. More than anything, they are tears of anger because of this unfair thing that has happened to Louise. She finds it difficult to accept her way of dealing with it.
They talk a little longer and agree to talk again that evening. Both head off to their respective offices for the rest of the day. Driving home from work that Friday afternoon, Fran says to Jesus, “Lord, this is not fair. Louise should stand up for her rights. You don’t expect us to just lay down and let people roll over us when we’re treated unfairly, do you?”
“Fran,” Jesus quietly replies, “don’t you remember what I said in the Sermon on the Mount?”
“You mean the ‘turn the other cheek’ part? Yes, but Lord does that mean we’re supposed to be door mats? What kind of testimony is that?” Fran replies.
“Fran,” Jesus continues, “you should know by now that as a follower of me, you don’t live by the same rules as others. The weapons you fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”
“Yeah, I know,” Fran says, “but I don’t think you meant for us to just roll over. I feel so badly for Louise. She’s such a great person and she would handle that account imminently better than Lloyd. I just can’t see how this is the right thing for her to do. It almost seems like she’s…a little wimpy. I think she should be more assertive; she appears weak.”
“Don’t confuse acceptance and submission with weakness, Fran,” Jesus reminds her. “It takes a lot more character and strength to let go than it does to fight.”
Fran is not yet ready to hear what Jesus is telling her. Her sense of fair play and her anger at the way Louise has been treated seem to have boiled up inside of her, and so she ends the conversation with Jesus at that point.
That evening she and Louise talk on the phone, and she again argues with her to be more assertive about her rights. Louise says, “Look, Fran, we just don’t see eye to eye on this and I guess we’ll have to let it go at that.”
But Fran doesn’t want to leave it unfinished. She tries again to convince Louise, “Louise, I appreciate your position, but if you’ll stand up to the company about this, it will benefit other people, too. It’ll let them know they can’t discriminate against any employee.”
“Fran, did you ever think that this could be a gift for me. I mean, maybe God is keeping me from an account that will be nothing but headaches. I just don’t want to push this, Fran.”
Reluctantly, Fran concedes the argument as she realizes she is not going to change her mind. The conversation ends on a rather frigid note. Louise suggests they pray about it, and she does pray before they hang up.
It is a restless night for Fran because she is struggling against the voice of Jesus. On one hand she admires Louise’s submissive spirit, but on the other hand, she wants her to be more vocal, and rant and rave and make people at the office listen to her. Yet she knows that is not God’s way, but her competitive attitude and take-charge personality make it difficult for her to let go.
The next day at work, she still feels that restless feeling inside, as she has not settled this issue in her heart. Late morning Marilyn, her boss, walks in. “Got plans for lunch?” she asks.
“No, just working,” Fran replies.
“Well, let’s get out of here,” Marilyn says. “I need some fresh air.”
As they settle in at the diner nearby, Marilyn slumps in the booth. “Fran, I shouldn’t be talking to you about this Louise situation, but I wanted you to know that I fought it tooth and nail, and obviously I lost.”
“Oh, I knew you would stand up for Louise, Marilyn,” Fran replies. “She was the best person for the job.”
“Yeah, that’s for sure and she earned that account,” Marilyn says. “But my boss knows the senior vice president on this account really well, and this guy is a real playboy, if you know what I mean. He expects a ‘good time’ when he’s on a business trip. So, knowing that Louise would never compromise her principles and her lifestyle, he just figured give it to Lloyd and avoid the problem. I mean, Lloyd certainly qualifies for having a good time, I guess.”
“You mean, your boss knows Louise is a Christian?” Fran is surprised.
“Oh, everybody knows that Louise has certain principles which she will never compromise. She’s probably never told you this, but when she worked in our Texas branch, she turned down two huge clients because of the entertaining that was expected by them. And still she sold more business than anyone else,” Marilyn tells Fran.
Fran’s mouth is hanging open. “She never told me that,” she says.
All of a sudden it’s as though a veil has been lifted from Fran’s eyes. The whole situation looks so different. Jesus whispers to her, “Glad you put your Forever Eyes on again, Fran.”
Later back in her office, she closes the door, and spends a few minutes in prayer. “Lord, please, please forgive me for my rebellious and unbelieving heart. And please forgive me for having such an earthbound view of this whole thing. I don’t know when I’ll ever learn that your way is best, but please don’t give up on me.”
Afterwards she dials Louise’s number. “Louise, I owe you an apology. Can we talk right after work?”
“Sure,” Louise says. “I’ll come by your office on the way out.”
As they sit in her car for a brief conversation before going home, Fran tells Louise about her luncheon with Marilyn and how differently she sees the whole thing now. “I apologize, Louise, for being critical of you. That was not my place to do, and I was dead wrong. I really admire your ability to trust God even in the midst of a disappointment. I’ve learned a lesson by watching how you’ve handled this.”
“Gee, Fran,” Louise says, “I don’t feel like I’m handling it so great. It still hurts, but I believe if I fight it, I’ll just mess things up worse. Have to tell you, though, I was already spending that additional income. There’s something I want to buy and it costs a good bit…oh, well, in God’s time.”
“Well, I gotta get home to the kids. You’ve got a committee meeting at church tonight, right?” she asks.
“Right,” and they each head in separate directions for the evening.
Well, discipleship can be costly, but like Louise said, only God knows what grief she may have escaped or what an impact her principled life will have on those who are watching. Following Jesus is the biggest bargain we’ll ever have, no matter what it costs.