I got some bad news yesterday.
My boss, Jesse, stopped me as I was preparing to leave the office at the end of the day. “Can we talk before you go?”
We went to a private room and sat down. “I have bad news,” he told me. “I’m sorry, but I’ve been told I have to lay you off.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. On my list of worst-case scenarios, this was certainly near the top. But at the same time, it was sort of an answer to prayer.
I guess I can finally make it public: Until yesterday, I worked for Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. magazines at Focus on the Family.
But for several months I’d felt misgivings about working at Focus. There were philosophical, environmental and practical considerations that made me doubt whether I really belonged there, and I was taking the situation to God for His direction.
I have long disagreed with Focus’ political involvement. If Focus had just stuck to its stated mission of “helping families thrive”, it would have enjoyed a positive reputation and access to a broad potential audience. But instead, Focus became a figurehead in “the Culture War,” and it alienated a huge portion of its potential audience, particularly young people. That, along with cutting their teen magazines Brio and Breakaway, cost Focus its credibility with an entire generation—a generation it needs to engage if its going to have any sustainability in the future. CEO Jim Daly has since admitted that Christians have lost the culture war, but such admissions are simply too little too late.
There is also the ever-present threat of arbitrary layoffs which creates a toxic atmosphere and low moral across the board. Those in leadership say they invite feedback from their employees but publicly shoot down anyone who dares to give it. And Daly even yelled at the entire staff for “complaining” during a recent monthly chapel service—in front of guests. (I’m not joking.)
And of course, there were the practical considerations. My position didn’t present any significant opportunity for promotion or career expansion. So if Ashley and I were ever going to have a house and kids, I would have to find a better job—and a more secure one.
Despite all this, I wasn’t willing to give up on Focus just yet.
I had grown up listening to Adventures in Odyssey and reading Clubhouse and Breakaway magazines, and I had even attended the Focus Leadership Institute after college. I knew the potential Focus had to be a positive influence on our society, and I hoped with all my heart it would abandon the culture war and return completely to its mission of strengthening marriages and equipping parents.
I also loved my team in the office. The editors and designers at Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. are some of the finest and most professional people with whom I could hope to spend my days, and I was proud that our small staff managed to consistently create quality material to help children grow in their faith. My work was meaningful, and I knew that was no small thing.
And finally, I was invested in bringing teen magazines back to Focus. Last year I wrote a proposal urging Focus to relaunch a teen ministry, and it actually got to Daly’s desk. Financial considerations put it on the back-burner, but a friend with some influence was planning to help me push for it again in the fall. At one time, the teen magazines had blessed kids going through a difficult season of life, and everyone at Focus agrees it was a mistake to cut them. So it was worth it to me to stick around and try to bring them back.
With all these things on my mind, I had been going to God in prayer every day for months. Do I leave? Do I stay? What do you want me to do, God?
“I’ve been told I have to lay you off.” …Guess I had my answer.
I was late getting to the car where Ashley was waiting to pick me up.
Jesse explained that he hadn’t known about the decision to let me go until that morning, and he had spent all day fighting it. He said Focus would pay me to the end of the month and give me a severance package. …He almost seemed more broken up about my layoff than I did.
After I told Ashley the bad news and we drove home, I held her and we prayed. Then we talked, and I tried to get a grip on what I was feeling. It seemed like I was experiencing all five stages of grief at the same time. But one thing stood out in my mind: I wanted to honor God in this situation.
This isn’t my first time being unemployed. I was job searching for nine months when I returned from the mission field in 2011. Though I was faithful to responsibly send out my resume, I wasn’t as faithful as I should have been in trusting God to provide. Instead, I had struggled deeply with despair and depression. And looking back, I decided that if I ever found myself in that position again, things would be different.
One thing about the layoff culture at Focus was that it gave me the opportunity to see how different people handle it. And I consciously tried to learn from them …just in case.
One example that didn’t come from Focus was Micah from tumblr. He had blogged about being laid off some months before, and I had been impressed by his peace and positivity on the subject. He recounted to his readers how his supervisor had been surprised by his calm response, and he gave all the credit for that to his trust in God’s provision. I took note of that, and I remembered it when Jesse gave me my own bad news.
“Thanks for taking it so well,” Jesse had said. I gave him a hug. So far so good.
The other example came from Focus. About a year ago, my friend Leon was let go. But like Micah, he was calm about it. He also had an evident peace and positivity brought on by his trust in God. And what really caught my attention about Leon was that he had this peace throughout months of unemployment. He believed that God would provide for his family, and he lived like it. I took note of that as well.
So on my first day of re-unemployment, this is my hope: That I can honor God in this season by calmly, peacefully and positively trusting Him to provide. Instead of fearing the job market or our financial situation, I will fear the God who has brought me through this and other troubles before. He controls the storm, and He controls my life. I will trust Him no matter what.
So if you pray for me, pray for a job. But also pray for that.
Trusting God won’t be easy, but it is much easier with Ashley.
I’m a worrier. Even when I was employed, I worried constantly. I worried. A lot. About everything. And I can feel that temptation toward anxiety now. I have no appetite. My mouth is constantly dry. And it took me forever to fall asleep last night. …of course, it’s still the first day.
Ashley is the complete opposite. Her ability to trust God to provide continues to astound me. Even in the wake of our bad news last night, she was unconcerned about our financial situation. She just wanted to know that I would be OK.
Part of why getting laid off was a worst-case scenario for me is that Ashley and I are newlyweds. We’re still in our first year of marriage, and I feel the weight of my responsibility to take care of her.
But she reminds me that I never really provided for her in the first place—God did. He will continue to provide whether I’m working or not. We can and should trust Him. She feels secure and confident, and for that I am grateful.
I am also grateful for her example of trust. I’m grateful for her support and her positivity. And I’m grateful for her love—and the love God shows me through her.
God has brought us through through car wrecks, family drama and immigration nightmares. He will bring us through this.
So I’m slowly wrapping my mind around what has happened: God answered my prayer for direction. He presented me with a chance to grow in my faith. And He blessed me with a partner to walk through this with me.
I messaged Micah for some insight last night. He encouraged me to take initiative in pursuing work but to also give my situation to God in constant prayer. So that’s my mission statement for this season: Trust God and seek His plan for our future.
For all I know, this might just be how God leads me to a much better job opportunity. Within 12 hours, I had applied to five new jobs, and I already have a phone interview tomorrow for a temp position at Compassion International.
So please pray for us. Pray for me to find a new job. Pray for God to continue to provide for our needs. And pray for us to honor Him by peacefully trusting Him throughout this season. I love you guys.
God is good.
Peace, love and Jesus,