My good friend Terrance Moore and I got laid off from our jobs in 2018 within weeks of each other. Our circumstances were different but I could tell that some of the things we were experiencing internally were the same. During this time, I bottled things up and kept up appearances so that others would think I was OK. But when Terrance and I would get in the same room, it was almost as if he was wearing the emotions on his face that I was holding inside. We encouraged each other during this time and were prayerful and then something funny happened…
It worked out for us both. Better than I think we could have imagined.
Recently, I declined an offer for a job that I applied to well over a year ago. The offer took an unusual amount of time because of the security clearance it required. More than the amount of time it took to receive the offer, I was most surprised at the feelings I experienced in declining the role. Yet, it was another reminder of how trauma (even minor trauma) can affect you in ways deep and unrecognizable. Although I wasn’t interested in accepting the offer, I had an unreasonable hesitation in turning it down. It’s almost like I wanted to keep it in my pocket in case any other surprise layoffs came one day. Almost 5 months into a new job, I seldom come across moments like these that remind me that I was more affected by my layoff and subsequent unemployment than I thought. I was laid off in July of 2018 and was unemployed for almost 5 months as well. At the time as a newly engaged person, I had a wedding and wife and new house to think about being financially stable for. As a Black man, I had to process and healthily navigate the feelings, notions, stereotypes and pressures that I would face not having a job. Individually, most people who know me would characterize me as resilient, but how would that manifest in this particularly unique hardship? As a Christian, I've always been one to have confidence in God's sovereignty, but would my trust, thoughts, walk, and peace be judged as equally faithful in the journey to come? I couldn’t walk you through how I felt for most of these questions. Maybe because I was numb, maybe because I minimized the importance of acknowledging these feelings in lieu of doing what was practical. I can’t tell you if this practice served me or not, I did what I felt at the time would get me through day-by-day. The more I do life, the more I seem to adapt from a place of intentional and strategic living to focusing on what’s helpful toward getting me through day-to-day. Maybe that’s another way the layoff caused lapses in my intentionality and undermined my fullness… People tell me that they observed growth in me during this time from how I handled this period. While I may agree with some of it, I’d like to expand on two reflections from this time.
A note on God's provision – I hate how cliché this sounds but God's timing, though confusing, is perfect. There are several potential scenarios to fix things that were seemingly ideal in my mind during this time. They spanned matters of timing, job openings, finances, hardships, emotional margins and more. Reflecting on it now, how things resolved was better for me, for every.single.factor. Drawing out those factors is a testimony that could take up another post by itself. What's important to understand here is that we look to God for providing our needs while having a short-sighted view of what's on that need list. Our perspective is one-dimensional, while He sees all of our current and future needs while having a full comprehension of how to best address them. Our limited view is nowhere close to either of those elements. One of the names of God, Jehovah-Jireh, means "The Lord will provide." Because of the holistic, timeless, and omniscient nature of this title, while we have ways in which we want God to provide presently-perceived needs, in God's provision He is acting in the interest of both your present and future needs. God's provision is italicized by His sovereignty; what He does addresses both present & future needs beyond our limited view of what we see as presently ideal. Call this to mind the next time you feel uncertain about God’s provision in a circumstance. Then realize that if God met you in the exact way you were expecting Him to, that He would be selling you short of an even fuller sovereign plan that He has in the works. Is that worth meeting your short-falling expectations?
A note on why you should be encouraged – A primary takeaway from my experience is that there existed negative effects from my layoff that were deeper than what I perceived and positive workings happening beyond what I could also perceive. In retrospect, that amounts to a testimony but in present tense it's pretty scary. I'm not a fan of not knowing or having control over how deeply something is affecting me or the good that something amounts to. Thankfully, Hebrews 11:1 has an entirely different perspective on both. You should be encouraged because "faith is the substance of things hoped for & the evidence of things unseen." Faith is the primary mechanism by which Jesus reached me. It's also the primary means in which He works in my life. If my saving faith was the evidence of things unseen, I'm sure the redemptive faith evident in God working in my circumstances can also be unseen, yet still evidence of hope. To put it another way, comprehension was never a requisite for greatness in my life, faith is. That's reason for encouragement.
If I added a third note, it'd be on how we're more mentally and emotionally delicate as human beings than we think. We're needier and more impacted by daily life than we acknowledge. Being laid off in July really impacted me more than I'd like to admit. After 2.5 seasons with the Redskins, I wanted to leave but in my own way and on my timing. Never so abruptly, or months before my wedding. The testimony ended with a beautiful wedding and a new prosperous career that came just weeks before the wedding. But before that, was struggle. If I'm transparent, while the layoff didn’t affect my confidence in God’s goodness, it affected my daily demeanor. I was much more emotionally volatile, I felt disempowered, it was more difficult to be kind and empathetic to my wife (fiancée at the time), joy & focus didn’t characterize me. I was confused and discouraged from being declined for positions several times after making it to final rounds and doing intensive assignments. Though hope didn’t escape me, the hope I did retain wasn’t perfected by love. It was undermined by confusion, fear, disempowerment, discouragement. The testimony isn’t that a job eventually came into view, it’s that the Lord allowed me in His grace to endure until His unchanging character and grace eventually remained central in my view.
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:57-58