On Monday, June 3rd, my life forever changed as I was told by my employer of 36-years that my services were no longer required… and that I had until Wednesday to be off the property. As I sat stunned in my manager’s office, I couldn’t help but think of how God’s hand was at work in my life at that very moment.
I made my way out of his office and while returning to my office; stopped by a good friend’s office to show him my red folder. How ironic it seemed that each person who was being let go was handed a red folder.
After walking into my office, I shut the door and called my wife to explain to her the events that had just taken place and how our lives would soon be changing. I shared the news with a few of my close friends and then began the task of gathering all of my personal affects.
Over the next three days, I spent time talking with many friends who stopped by to offer condolences and words of encouragement. Some just sat in silence — too stunned to know what to say. I just let them know that everything was going to be alright and that God had a plan for me.
In the coming days, the realization of the abrupt loss of employment began to settle in and depression stopped in for a visit. In the stillness of my house, I reflected upon the kind words and smiles that were shared with my now former colleagues. So, like most people these days — I decided to share my experience on social media. I chose to speak from the heart and let my Christian faith guide me. With so many in our state facing reduced wages, hours, and benefits; as well as total loss of employment, I wanted to be an encouraging voice to the readers. The responses were so kind and thoughtful with the overwhelming sentiment being, “When one door closes…” and “God has other plans…”
I was reminded of the tragic suffering of Job and how he was considered by God to be perfect and upright. Job was a man who feared God, and abstained from (all) evil. Oh, the tragedy that hovered over this righteous man. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Book of Job; it is only after a brief introduction of Job, his family and wealth that we notice he is about to lose everything — children, property and wealth, good name and even his health.
I thought of this scripture because the Book of Job asks us to consider our faith. As Jesus commands us in Matthew 22:37-38 (AKJV): “…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment.” Can I continue to trust God, to love God with all our heart, soul and mind – while suffering for reasons that I don’t understand? I felt that I could; but I quickly found that when that “one door” closes, it does so with such a resounding thud that you find it hard to look away. Your mind replays the event on a continuous loop leaving you wondering where things went awry and just what you could have done to prevent it. “What were the indicators that I missed?”
What I missed was the fact that I was being given a gift… the nudge that I so desperately needed. On September 7, 2014, I was given the opportunity to be the pastor of the Pecks Mill United Methodist Church. An answered prayer! Each day at work felt like a hindrance for me being able to fulfill my responsibilities to God and the congregation. I had begun planning my exit strategy with my job. My thoughts were that I would retire and begin my full-time ministry. Then my timing slipped a couple of years; and then a couple more. My timing wasn’t in line with God’s timing.
In His sovereignty, God chooses to not tell us everything. This could indicate that God is in all things going on in this world. When my “door” closed — I began looking for the door God had opened for me. I didn’t ask “why me”. In fact, we should never ask “why”, but we should ask “what”. “What are you trying to do in me, God?” “What would you have me do?”
It is as God said in Isaiah 45:9 (NIV), “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’?”
The story of Job has an incredible ending as he ends up much better off than he was in the beginning. As for me — that story is still being written.
Rev. Charles Mays is pastor of Pecks Mill United Methodist Church and a member of the Logan Ministerial Association.