When I arrived at work on the morning of Monday, November 14, 1988, I was senior design engineer for a local manufacturing company.
By mid-morning, I was not. I had been fired.
For just a moment, try to imagine what that felt like.
Or perhaps you don’t have to imagine, because you’ve been there. You’ve known the feelings of shock, humiliation, helplessness, perhaps even anger and bitterness.
Wouldn’t you agree, though, that the worst part is the fear that follows? For me it would always invade in the middle of the night.
Consider my situation. The job I had just lost had provided the only income our family had to live on. Joanne and I had four children, a house with not one but two mortgages, and many of the usual monthly bills.
What if I couldn’t get more work? Would we lose everything? What would become of us?
Actually, my situation was way worse than just losing my job.
Let me explain.
Something I didn’t realize when I went into engineering was that engineers are supposed to eventually move into management. Technical skills become obsolete very quickly. I was 46 years old, and 17 years out of college. Companies can often hire younger, more recent graduates at a lower salary.
I had never aspired to management and to be honest, my heart was no longer in being an engineer. So not only was I out of a job, I was also out of a career.
I knew I’d have to start over.
Trouble was, I wasn’t ready yet with another marketable skill.
And so the torment of fear and panic would come. Night after night I would find myself half awake. For a tiny fraction of a second, everything would be all right… and then I would remember.
In my half-conscious state, I’d notice that the bed was shaking. Then I’d realize it was because my whole body was trembling as wave after wave of panic swept through my body. Worst of all, I felt completely helpless to do anything about it.
Let me ask those who know: do I exaggerate? Or do I paint an accurate picture of the torment that grips a terminated employee?
Of course, loss of a job is only one of many causes of fear. Perhaps your circumstance is the loss of a spouse, or a child who’s in trouble. Maybe you’ve just gotten a bad report from your doctor.
Whatever the cause, the fear is the same.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll skip over many details of the next few years.
I changed careers, going from engineer, to entry-level computer programmer, to independent consultant.
I also began what will be for the rest of my life the daily practice of learning and applying life-transforming principles from the Bible.
That is by far the wisest decision I have ever made.
By the end of 1993 I had ventured into my own software consulting business. Part of my step of faith was the realization that asking God to protect us from financial ruin meant we had to give Him control of our finances.
Of the many scriptures that instruct us about stewardship, Jesus put it the quite succinctly when He said, “Give, and it shall be given to you…” (Luke 6:38)
That’s when we started following God’s principles of stewardship. And for several years, our family enjoyed a degree of prosperity.
Then came the economic downturn of 2001. When the year began, I had several active projects and a couple of likely prospects. By mid-September… gone. All of it. As in… nothing… no work.
But instead of feeling let down, I had learned to trust God to the point where I was certain He was at work and was using my predicament to teach me something.
I was right.
In mid-December of 2001, God called me to make another change.
I’ll tell you about that in the next installment.