A couple weeks ago, I told this story to a close friend of mine. I made it clear I didn’t have plans to share it publicly. He exhorted me to share it with all of you. I don’t share this in order to puff myself up or put myself on any kind of pedestal. It may do the opposite, I don’t know. I share it in the hopes that it will help or encourage somebody, even a little. Most of all, I hope it glorifies God and spreads the truth.
The two weeks following the loss of my job in mid-January 2009 were the darkest of my life. I did a fairly good job of keeping up a confident face for the world to see, but internally I was mentally and spiritually in shreds from constant worry. My thoughts were a stream of this type: What happens when the little money we have runs out? How will we feed ourselves? Will Caleb suffer due to decisions I’ve made? Will Stephanie suffer due to decisions I’ve made? What happens if we lose our house? If we sell this house now, won’t we lose money due to the state of the economy? If so, we won’t be able to afford to get another one, will we? Will I live with my parents for years to come? Shouldn’t I turn the heat down and just endure constant cold to save money? Shouldn’t we go hungry a little to save money? Is this the beginning of the end? Have I made some mistake that I’m being judged for, and there’s nothing I can do to save myself and my family now?
Everything everywhere was covered in a thick layer of doom.
I went out and purchased thermal pants (i.e. long johns). I wore them every day under my jeans. That’s the state of mind I was in. It was almost as though I was afraid I would freeze to death somehow. (In my defense, it really was extremely cold outside for those two weeks, but I agree the fear was entirely irrational.) At the time, I was desperate for anything that would reduce my worrying to any degree. If I had to find a dozen little anti-worry solutions that were highly effective when taken together, I would do that. Having interviews for new jobs helped. Talking with loved ones helped. Watching anything (especially funny stuff) that pulled my focus off our dire situation helped.
When Steph would ask me what would make me happiest, my answer was something like, “a big, fat, consistent paycheck.” Whichever job offered me the most money and seemed reasonably enjoyable, that’s the one I would take. Emotionally, that’s where my trust was. Money would make everything better. If only I had money, I would be happy and I wouldn’t have anything to worry about.
I’m writing this entry to convey one thing: those thoughts about money are horrible, devastating lies. I believed them, and I placed my trust and my security in money. Losing my job hurt me so deeply because it cut off my bi-weekly flow of security. That’s why the worry started, and that was the root of my problem.
I have a feeling I’m not the only one who has struggled with this issue. Think of it this way: pull some American money out of your pocket if you have any. Bills or coins, it doesn’t matter. You’ll notice every single piece has one phrase in common: “In God We Trust.” Why do you think, of all the places that phrase could be written, they chose to put it on money? I don’t know why they did, but I think it’s both amazingly wise, and incredibly ironic. Wise because that is the one place in which that reminder is most desperately needed, and ironic because it is true of so few people. For most, including myself at times, it is a total lie. (I honestly don’t care whether they keep the phrase written on American money or not. I care most whether or not we keep it written in our hearts.)
For me, the moment of testing came down to my job acceptance process. I had two job offers: one from a large, well-established, for-profit company, and one from a small, new, non-profit. The for-profit company was offering me more security than the non-profit, but the non-profit’s work was extremely exciting to me, I loved the people, and it seemed to be the closest to ministry I would likely get while still using my Computer Science degree every day. Something about that lit a fire in me, and I took the job with less security.
Listen, I am not saying this to toot my own horn. Please, if you’re getting stuck on that, you’re missing my point. My point is that I’m still here. I survived the decision, and God is taking care of me and my family. God is our security in a more real way than ever before. Does that mean I’ll be perfectly wonderful forever? No, especially not by American cultural standards (which, take note, are not the same thing as Christianity). What it means is that I’ll always have everything God wants me to have. When I’m in the midst of difficulty, it’s brought by God. A lack of money or health or anything is brought by God.
I think I can live with that. Worry-free.