Tough Times

At a recent meeting there was a short discussion about how life can sometimes make you doubt your faith. This is fairly common and can happen multiple times in a person’s life for a multitude of different reasons. My personal experiences over the last 18 months would surely qualify as some of those reasons, but strangely enough I have felt my faith strengthening rather than weakening. Let me give you a short (okay, maybe not so short) rundown of the last year and a half:

On a Friday afternoon in June of 2010, while on holiday, I found out that the plant I had been working at for over 25 years was going to close it’s doors at the end of September. To say I was devastated would be a bit of an understatement. Here I was, 48 years old with two barely adult children and a mortgage with no job. I was pretty much a basket case on Saturday. On Sunday morning I had been asked to lead the children’s focus with a review of what we had studied during the year. I began the review with the first story we had discussed, the story of how Abraham and Sarah had been told by God to pull up stakes and head out to an unknown place and future, with only their faith to keep them company (and sane). As I spoke these words my own situation snuck up and slapped me in the face. Here I was, a Sunday School teacher saying these words to the children I have dedicated a fair portion of my life to teach. And suddenly my own situation seemed pretty small. If I was going to talk the talk, I really needed to walk the walk. With that decision I put myself fully in God’s hands.

As time progressed we found out that they were closing the plant in London but moving the operations to a sister plant in Brantford, where some people would be given jobs. As it turns out, I was not one of the people who were offered a job. But strangely enough, it didn’t seem to bother me all that much. I actually became a calming force for all the upset people who were being faced with a radical change of their lives. I joyfully explained to anyone who asked where I was finding the strength to remain calm and accepting of my fate. With only a week to go before the plant closing I volunteered to go to Brantford for a couple of weeks to help with the integration and training. Management couldn’t believe that I would offer my services this way but gladly accepted my offer.

Strangely enough, after those couple of weeks they found other things for me to do and finally realized that they should have kept me on after all. Unfortunately, being part of a huge corporation meant that there was no place for me and they were forced to let me go at the end of September of 2011. Again, rather than being upset about losing my job I was happy that I had managed to pull off another year of employment.

So I start looking for job but at the same time throw myself into things at church. Being unemployed gives me time to put together a really good Advent season for the children. I also joined (re-joined?) the Mission and Ministry team, went to a conference – discovering the Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations – and found a new direction for my efforts.

Just after Christmas a family situation developed that could have literally been deadly. Luckily I was unemployed and was around to see the signs before things got out of hand. Because I was unemployed I was available to help someone I love with all my heart through a very tough time. That person is now well on the road to recovery and life looks extremely hopeful again.

And now after all these things have happened, I get an interview for a job that seems perfect for me; a job that was not available a year ago, or even four months ago. This job allows me to use all the things I learned through my years at my old employer with a new, small company. I start the job next week and I’m really excited.

So – after all that rambling – you can see the last 18 months has been a roller coaster ride that would have been much harder without my faith. After being reminded of God’s love and presence talking to the children, I put myself in his hands and went for the ride of my life. In hindsight, it looks like a choreographed dance with all the steps falling into place at the exact right time. How could I possibly doubt the wonder and splendor of a loving God after these experiences? Some people say that God no longer talks to us, but I think if you keep your ears open (and your mouth shut) sometimes you can hear a whisper on the wind, a quiet voice saying “the times when you see only one set of footprints, is when I carry you”.

Cecil Merriam

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