Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Not Conformed but Transformed

My past life intruded when the mail was delivered this morning. An envelope arrived from my former employer, a financial institution that has undergone the trials all financial institutions suffered since 2008.

It was a reminder of some stock options that were close to expiring. I'd need to exercise them before they expired...unless, of course, the strike price of the award was higher than its present market value.

Stock options were one of those ways that employers rewarded employees in the lush days when financial institutions made money. Since they did not want to give us cash to reward us for the hard work that pumped up the stock price, they gave us what amounted to a lottery ticket made up of stock. When the award of options was made, it was tied to the current stock price. When the "lottery ticket" matured, one could make a lot of money, assuming that the new stock price was greater than the one in place when the award was made. The ultimate Wimpy "I'll gladly pay you tomorrow for the hamburger you give me today."

So I got a letter saying my lottery ticket was about to expire, and I should call them to exercise the options...assuming the strike price was less than the market price.

The award of options occurred when the stock price was $188 per share. What's the stock price today? $38. No, you didn't read that wrong. Thirty eight smackeroos. So there was nothing to exercise, since the value of the stock is now less than the price when they awarded me the possibility of making some money.

We could have used a boost, since we're still paying off student loans for our youngest, but it was not to be.

Here's the funny part. It didn't bother me. I looked at the numbers, and remembered the way we were lured into believing that we'd all be rolling in it when we were given the award of stock options, and all I could do was to laugh.

In those days, if someone had said, "You know those sweet options they just gave you? My crystal ball says they'll be worth bupkus when it's time to exercise them," I'd have been furious. I'd have complained to my boss and to the CFO and to anyone who might be able to lend me an ear.

But now? Nothing. No stress. Am I rolling in cash? C'mon now...I'm clergy. I make a reasonable salary, but we are not rich by any stretch of the imagination. Could I use some more? Yes, just like everybody else. But I've got enough, and I am very grateful for it.

Paul says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom 12:2)

Somewhere on this path to ordained ministry, I stopped being conformed to the world, which measures things by means of ephemera like stock options and pay grades and zip codes of our homes. It wasn't anything I did - just something that happened. Somehow, with grace from the Holy Spirit,  I was transformed. It feels good.

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