being let go

The end of the workday is near and Monday was not as bad as it seemed an evening ago.  Another year under his belt and a great week off for family vacation to the beach and then Monday came. 

Just like any first day back after vacation he was busy taking care of business and getting brought up to speed with the work of the week before.  All in all it was a productive day and the routine of life was resuming.  Just before 5:00 pm, 2 visitors came to his office bearing tidings of the “we are restructuring your department and letting you go” sort.  “Nothing personal, no hard feelings, by the way I need your keys to the building.”

Meanwhile, the family relay of going from one practice to the next was picking up pace and we were en route to hand the baton to Dad for the next leg of the race.  My cell phone rang as I moved east on Grelot passing the library.  The news was unexpected and my response surprising.

I was ok.  I was better than ok.  Sound crazy?  Disillusioned?  Okay, to some maybe.  No, don’t play the poor-frazzled-mommy-Queen of Denial card on me.  I was prepared for this a long time ago. In the moment I needed Him, His words hidden in my heart came to mind. Peace settled over me. A calm reply came out of my mouth. 

Honestly, this surprised me too. 

Typically, I want immediate answers and justice for the one wronged!  Explanations!  Assurances! Demanding the righting of the wrong!  Not this super human peace.  Ah yes, but that’s the power and authority of Jesus, our Prince of Peace.  My training kicked in and my sword of justification lowered.  The double-barreled locked and loaded verbal shotgun is back on the gun rack…safety on.  My fist relaxed, peace of heart and soundness of mind came followed by the ability to reply calmly and speak in faith fearlessly. 

“We are going to be taken care of, we will be ok. God is faithful and He has this.”

I’ve been here before a time or two, but I was much younger and my mother was on the other end of my Dad’s phone call.  My Dad is an award winning (I’m proud, yes.) electrical engineer and his work was based on work in the plants up and down the Mississippi River and in the parishes of southwest Louisiana.  This work supply was driven by the demand for chemicals &/or refined petroleum products.  When that market experienced severe lows in the 80’s and 90’s the lay-offs came.  How my Dad and Mom handled these seasons with their family of 5 equipped me to handle what would come this fall with my family of 5.

Mom and Dad would want you to know they didn’t handle this perfectly, and I’m sure I wasn’t privy to every private moment of overwhelming stress and grief.  I texted my Mom today and asked her this:

Mom and Dad would want you to know that their faith wasn’t wishful thinking and their joy wasn’t puffy-heart happiness.  It was tough. Hard. It was the dirt under the fingernails kind of hard.  This faith worked.  It worked because it was real and not just a drive-by greeting card sentiment thrown around carelessly by people who don’t know what else to say.  “Praying for you! (Insert sad face and shoulder pat.) Y’all just hang in there and have faith!” (Good deed done, heels click down the hall on to the next opportunity.)  Bless her heart.

Faith in whom we have believed puts one foot in front of the other and gives us strength to breathe in and out His promises.  Is your faith weak? Are you distracted?  Shore up your defenses and assess the walls before an attack so that when the unexpected comes you are equipped and your family will be too.  Note to Parents:  Your initial out loud reaction to bad news will be watched and repeated.  Guard your hearts and your minds and yield your tongue to be controlled by His Spirit.

Do you truly, no matter what, trust that the Lord is good?  Do you trust His promises?  Do you trust His plans for you?  Then don’t stop doing what He has called and commanded you to do.  Tithe faithfully.  Period.  Because He said so.  Be obedient and trust Him.  If you find yourself imagining cutting out your tithes and offerings during a season of unemployment and you are justifying it because this is THE time to cut back, better check your trust and obedience quotient.  I believe God honored this obedience of my parents and I believe it is still bearing fruit two generations later.  

From one of my brothers when I texted him that same question:

*Note that he said he always ate before mentioning 
the roof over his head and the etc.  Priorities man. 

I encourage you to have this discussion with your spouse before anything unexpected comes up and decide together, no matter what, we obey and give our first fruits, our whole tithe, and offerings to the Lord with gladness.  Do not think for one moment your needs have escaped His thoughts.  Tithing isn't buying favor from God, it's pure simple obedience.  You can trust Him to be faithful to take care of His children.  He is our loving Father.  Be on the watch for greed and fear to crowd out your hope and trust and cut off your obedience.  Remember the spoiled manna?  You can trust Him to meet all your needs according to His riches.  Breathe it in and breathe it out.  All together on the 3rd stanza:  Trust and obey.

One thing that stands out to me in my memories of these seasons as a kid is praying with my parents and hearing them pray privately.  My brother and I were texting about our memories during this time and we both had heard our Dad praying privately for us.  Hearing your Father pray is so powerful that it has impacted us as parents today.  

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 
James 5:16b

The Weymouth New Testament has this translation:  The heartfelt supplication of a righteous man exerts a mighty influence. James 5:16b  Parents, do you hear what that means?  When we are in right relationship with the Lord we can pray to Him and influence the heart of God.

Dad and Mom would pray with us on the couch, around the kitchen table, and it mattered.  It mattered that we heard our parents verbalize their faith, trust, and requests to the Lord.  It mattered that they didn’t pretend every trouble away.  It mattered that over and over again I heard my Father say He believed The Lord and trusted Him to take care of us.  It mattered then and it matters now.  Pray privately.  Pray as a couple.  For the sake of your children’s futures with their families, pray specifically with them.  It’s ok that they know the reality of being out of work.  You do not have to pretend you have things all under control.  You don’t.  You do know the one who does and you need to pray to Him like your life depended on Him, because it does.

If this is out of your comfort zone, that’s ok, practice makes perfect.  Don’t know what to say?  That’s ok too!  Look up a verse on trust, for instance, and literally pray that out loud to the Lord.  Ask Him to honor His word and thank Him for being faithful.  Pray for protection and provision.  Pray for the Lord to bring His peace that passes all understanding.  Pray for Joy!  Pray for specific needs of others you know.  Invite your kids to pray, it will be amazing to hear their faith voiced from the depths of their hearts.  There is not a word to fully convey the importance of praying as a family, just revisit James 5:16b.

It is for freedom that Christ has made us free, so don’t go slip your head through the hangman’s noose of despair and defeat and tighten up your own knot.  Live free!  Look around you.  Go take care of the widow on your street.  Go serve the homeless at the downtown mission with your church group.  Go watch your friend’s kiddos so they can take a long overdue date night.  Go call a friend or 10 and invite folks over for dominos or a hot dog roast.  Go to church.  Go to the park.  Go home with your family and have a game night in instead of dinner out. 

Look around you with opened eyes for where help is needed at church on Sunday mornings.  Stack chairs.  Rock babies.  Wrangle youths.  Pray with a friend in the hall instead of saying, “I’ll be praying for you.”  You’re busy, I’m busy, we’re all busy and I get that.  Ashamedly we are on the whole too busy.  So now you’ve got more of your greatest asset, t-i-m-e, at your disposal what will you do with it?  Ask The Lord to show you what He is already doing and catch that train.  Rest assured He is actively pursuing hearts and always doing a new thing we often just don’t perceive it!  Open our eyes Lord and help us to LIVE the life you have given us each day!

Your company may have let you go, your Savior did not!  Jesus loves you and He cares about your unemployment.  Connect with Him daily and throughout the day.  Rally your friends and family.  Have fun with your kids! I remember lots of fun during these seasons growing up.  I remember being told "no" when I asked for stuff too, and for heaven's sake that was ok!  Stay connected in your church family.  Iron sharpens iron and faith encourages faith.  Don’t retreat.  We are not super-Christians and this isn’t the tough row that many of you have hoed.  It’s real though, and it’s hard for us for now.  You know what though, it’s crazy how fruitful these hard seasons can be! What we hope you know in your head and believe in the depths of your soul is this:  You are chosen and dearly loved by God.

(Know some friends who were laid off recently?  Reach out to them even if they say they’re fine and decline a meal, getting together, or any help.  I’d encourage you to just show up with a dinner or a Redbox movie and some movie treats, or a bag of their favorite coffee...don’t even ask first!  Just call and say, “Oh good you’re home! I’m swinging by!” You know them and love them, draw close to them and just be near.  Be sensitive to how the Lord would lead you to encourage them during their unemployment.  Of course pray for them and with them too!)

P.S.  Please note the self-controlled effort it took to not reference or parody Elsa’s infamous solo.