Wednesday, March 4, 2015
“Getting fired is often the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we quit treading water and do something with our lives.” ― Chuck Palahniuk
I have been fired, let go, terminated, told there was no funding for my position next year, and told that the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee had decided it would be best if I was not offered a position for the coming year. They all amount to the same thing, I was no longer employed by that organization, company, church, or business. Some gave me a little something as a going away present, some guilt money, and some severance pay. The most I ever got was enough to go for two months without any other income, but most of the time, I got nothing—no going away present, party, or anything to represent that whoever had hired me was sad at my departure. I must also add that I have also quit more than one job because of the situation—like they were doing illegal things and I didn’t want to go to jail with them if they were caught. One such company in Los Angeles did get caught by the U.S. Government after I had been fired and the two attorneys involved got disbarred permanently and all six of my fellow board members and officers served a minimum of six years in a federal penitentiary—but not me, I had been fired. The world is not full of perfect places of employment (although Google is really nice) or perfect bosses or even perfect working conditions. We all have to make compromises in order to continue. Sometimes, these are minor, but many times they are in direct conflict with our moral code, our basic Christian ethos, and if we are not fired, we must quit. If quitting, or being fired means that I have no worth as an individual then I guess I should have committed suicide years ago, but I know better. In fact, almost every single time, if not every single time, I went on to bigger and better and more ethical and productive things. Obviously, one time, it meant I didn’t go to federal prison while all the others who had fired me did. Most times, I went on to do things that were more in keeping with my Christian faith and my understanding of what God wanted of me. I have said many times that I once swore I would never be a Christian, and then that I would never teach Sunday School, and then that I would never be a part-time pastor, and then that I would never go to seminary, and then that I would never pastor a large church, or become an evangelist, and, God help me, never become a missionary. If there is a message there—it is not to swear. All of the things I swore I would never do ultimately came true because my wife insisted in the fall of 1981 that we go to church once we had moved from Los Angeles to Fayetteville, Arkansas. I assumed everyone in Arkansas were racist bigots so took my wife to a church I just knew would be full of them. We sat behind an African-American family and heard a sermon on racial intolerance. It was at that church that I later became a Sunday School teacher and from that church that I entered the ministry. Years later, it would be because that church didn’t want me to stay as an associate pastor that I would ultimately find my true calling as a missionary to Africa. Once again, what looked bad at the time, turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. That church, by the way, supports our mission here in their budget, and individual members of that church continually support us through their prayers, encouragement, and financial gifts. I love that church. It’s where I started, and it’s where I still feel my strongest connection. I’m proud of it. Of course, there have been less than wonderful things that have happened there, but that is true of every institution everywhere. I know of no other place where there are so many people who fill my heart and my prayers, yet if a few hadn’t wanted me gone, I wouldn’t be here, so I pray for those who sent me away with true sincerity and love. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. My former seminary recognized my work as a missionary here a couple of years ago by making me a distinguished alumnus and flying me back to the campus to be the “missionary in residence” for a week. God bless all those who helped me along what was God’s intended path for me whether they knew that was what they were doing or not. Never take being fired, downsized, or laid off as a sign that you are of no worth. Most of the time, it is God making a course correction in His plan for your life. When the door closes, look for the open window—it will always be there, and you can take that to the bank.