Fran has been chosen to work with Jim Clark, a big-time Vice President, on a bid for a new account, Mitchell’s Commercial Cleaners, a new and growing popular franchise. It’s a very good opportunity for Fran; she feels honored to be chosen. She only had one day’s notice that Jim would be in town today to meet with her, so she stayed up late last night, reading and learning all she could about Mitchell’s.
Even though she went to bed very late, she’s awake before the alarm goes off, with the adrenaline pumping. She feels too excited to sit still but knows that she needs some quiet time with Jesus to center herself and her thoughts before this day begins.
She says to the Lord, “I’m so thankful you’re going to be with me, Lord. Will I ever need you!” She re-reads the verse in Isaiah 50:7, which the Lord gave her for this very situation.
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.
“I’ll keep that verse in mind all day, Lord,” Fran says, as she excitedly starts to get ready for work.
She arrives at the office half an hour earlier than usual and reviews her notes. She remembers what the Lord showed her this morning through his word: “Your future does not rest on this job, Fran,” she says to herself, “or on this new prospect, or on this meeting with Jim. Your future is in the Lord’s hands, not his.” This really helps Fran get her eternal focus, and she feels very prepared and ready.
She heads for the conference room, where Marilyn introduces her to Jim, who doesn’t look like Fran imagined he would. He’s about six feet tall and quite good looking—maybe five or six years older than Fran.
As she shakes hands with Jim, he looks straight in her eyes and gives her a disarming smile. All of a sudden she is self-conscious. They take their seats, and Fran gets out her notes. She feels herself getting nervous, and sends up a quick, quiet prayer to Jesus for calmness. Once again she is reminded that he is always with her; that really helps a lot.
And with that, a long morning of discussion begins. Just before lunch, Marilyn explains that she must leave because of a prior commitment with another client, which surprises Fran. She had expected her to be with them for the day.
As she leaves, Jim turns to Fran and says, “Well, where do we go for lunch?”
“Lunch?” Fran responds. “Well, I suggest we order something so we get the most out of our time today.”
“Well, I think we need to get away for lunch, Fran. You can choose the restaurant,” Jim insists.
Fran feels uncomfortable and suggests inviting a coworker along for consultation. But Jim doesn’t want to include anyone else, and he insists they leave immediately.
Fran has this knot in her stomach about being alone with Jim in a non-business setting. As they are seated at the restaurant, she again prays silently, “Lord, stay close by. I may need some help before this luncheon is over.”
She is reassured of his presence and remembers that her first allegiance is to God. There’s no reason for her to be intimidated by Jim’s position.
As their meal is almost finished, Jim turns to Fran. “Marilyn tells me you are a single mom; your husband died not long ago, I believe.”
“Yes, a few years ago. He was killed in an accident, and I have two children,” she replies.
He hasn’t taken his eyes off her. “Well, you certainly have a promising future, Fran. I would say if all goes well, you can expect to be moving up fast and making lots more money. This account alone could increase your income by $10,000 this year—easy, maybe more.” Jim waits for Fran’s reaction.
She gulps hard and says, “Well, there’s no denying that the money would be helpful.”
“And if we pull this off, Fran, you’ll get top level exposure in the company. I’ll be executive in charge of the account, and you and I will be working very closely together,” Jim says, with an emphasis on very.
Fran wiggles in her chair and quickly asks the Lord for wisdom. Change the subject, she thinks.
“Well, I know Marilyn plans to put a lot of time on this account, too. I’ll just be thankful if we get the opportunity.”
“Fran, Marilyn has lots of other balls to keep in the air; she’s not going to have time to put on Mitchell’s. Basically, it’s me and you, babe,” Jim replies as he leans closer to Fran.
“Well, all I can tell you is I’ll give it my best shot,” Fran responds, nervously.
“When I’m out here, just wipe your calendar clear, day and night. We’ll be spending lots of hours together,” Jim says to her, and the tone of his voice is definitely bothersome to Fran.
She thinks to herself, What have I gotten myself into?
She can sense an instruction from the Lord to take her stand right now, before it goes any further. But that’s not easy to do, and she gets even more nervous. Again, silently she prays for wisdom.
Take my stand, she thinks. I have to take my stand. I have to let him know that I can’t give this company all my time.
The thought of standing up to this vice president really frightens her, but she can just hear Jesus saying, “Do what’s right, Fran, and I’ll take care of you.”
So, Fran turns to Jim, who is smiling at her in a very non-business like way. “Jim, this whole thing has happened so quickly that perhaps I didn’t ask enough questions at the beginning. Maybe I’m not the best person to work with you on this, because as a single mom, my first priority is to my children. I spend my evenings with them, almost without exception. I can take work home, I don’t mind late hours, but I can’t stay at the office late night after night.”
Jim pulls back a little. “Hey, Fran, this account is very important and you have to be willing to put in the hours.”
“Jim,” Fran responds, “my experience is that after nine or ten hours at the office, not much is really accomplished. I believe I can work with you on this account and still be home with my kids, but if that’s a problem for you, it’s good we got it out now, so you can decide if you want to switch reps.”
“You mean you’d give up this opportunity, Fran? I thought you were smarter than that. These kind of deals don’t come along every day,” Jim warns Fran.
“I know, Jim, and I’ve been very excited about the possibility. But if you need someone who can work with you late night hours at the office on a regular basis, I’m not the right person. That would be too much of a hardship on my children,” Fran can’t believe how calm she feels as she says it. She knows she had to say it.
“Look, Fran,” Jim says with a changed tone, “there are other – eh – side benefits that come with us working together, too. It’s not all hard work, you know. After all, you’re single and I’m separated from my wife…no reason we can’t enjoy each other’s – eh – company, right Fran?” There’s no denying that Jim has great charm when he chooses to turn it on.
The danger signals go off in Fran’s head, but at the same time, she is flattered by Jim’s suggestions. She whispers to the Lord, “You will have to take over for me; I’m losing control. Please, Lord, come to my aid.”
And then she is amazed at the words that come out of her mouth. “Jim, I recognize in our society that being single to most people means you’re available for all kinds of relationships. But I have to tell you that I don’t see it that way.
“You’re a smart man and I want to work with you on this account because I know I could learn a lot from you. But one thing I will never do is compromise my personal standards of conduct. There is not even the remotest possibility that you and I could have any kind of a personal relationship. If you think I’m the best account rep for this job, fine. But beyond that, you’re barking up the wrong tree.” Fran looks Jim straight in the eye.
Her words hang heavy between them. “Lord,” she silently prays, “where did that speech come from? Are you sure that’s what you wanted me to say?”
She feels the Holy Spirit telling her to just be still, don’t say a word. Again, she remembers the verse from Isaiah where she was promised that she would not be brought to shame. This gives her great comfort and calmness.
It seemed like an eternity before Jim said anything, and when he did, she saw that his face was red. It seemed to be a combination of anger and embarrassment. “Fran, I don’t know what you think I was implying, but let me tell you that you have chosen to read it all wrong. Never did I even breathe the idea that you and I could have anything but a professional relationship. I’m telling you, you women have your feelings on your sleeves these days. Well, let’s set the record straight, Fran. I was not in any way suggesting anything other than working late on this proposal.”
Fran realizes what Jim is doing—protecting himself from any possible allegations, worrying about what she might say or do. She says, “Jim, if I’ve misinterpreted your words, I apologize. You can relax; none of this goes beyond this table.” Again she looks him in the eye and speaks with confidence.
He seems to relax. “Well,” he stammers a bit, “I think it’s all just a misunderstanding. Let’s forget it and get back to the office. We’ve got lots to do and I want to catch the 6:00 flight.”
And with that, the current crisis ends for Fran. But she still doesn’t know what the long-term effect will be on her career. She could have chosen to dance around the subject with Jim, but anything less would have left the door open for misinterpretation on his part. As difficult as it was to state her position, it was much better for Fran to do it now and clearly.
Many times, when faced with these uncomfortable situations, we seem to want to avoid embarrassment more than anything else. But you know, sometimes we can’t worry about feelings or consequences. We simply have to do what’s right, if we want to obey Jesus. The good news is, Fran can be certain that Jesus can take care of her and he’s promised she will not be brought to shame. We’ll have to wait and see how it works out for her, but she’ll sleep good tonight knowing she did the right thing.