Mike Berry wasn’t prepared for his last day of work, but now he wakes up each day excited to be living his dream.
A little more than a year ago, I was suddenly fired. The experience was devastating and embarrassing. But one year later, I’m living a bigger purpose than I could have imagined.
Numb. That’s the word I would use to describe the feeling I felt when my supervisor looked at me and said, “We’re releasing you from student ministry.”
Actually, numb communicates a feeling. I had none. No expression on my face either. After the HR Director finished his spiel about what I had to sign, what I had to agree to, and what I had to leave behind, I shook their hands, and quietly walked out of the office we were meeting in. In my right hand were severance papers. Never in a million years would I have dreamed I would carry severance papers!
It took me a few minutes to reach my office, but in that time I had already sent a text to my wife, and my two best friends. All sent back prayer offerings and encouragement. For the next hour I wrapped up important details my team would need upon my departure which, by the way, was the end of that day. Over the next few weeks, I struggled to find my purpose. I had spent 17 years working in the church. Seventeen years! It’s all I had known in my adult life. Ask anyone who has spent anytime working in a ministry context …. it kinda sorta becomes your identity. Try as you may to not let it, it just does.
So there I was, jobless, purposeless (or so I thought) and searching.
The search didn’t last long. A few weeks later, I sat on the side of a mountain (actually on the side of a mountain in Colorado) and heard a voice speaking to my heart, telling me to write and speak full-time to parents all around the world. I was terrified but excited, dumbfounded but assured. I climbed down from the mountain and began my career as a writer and public speaker. I’ve never looked back. As I think back to that experience, and this past year, there are several valuable lessons getting fired taught me.
• It taught me how to fight. I decided I would not be defeated by this. Frankly, when you go through devastating moments in life, there’s a part of you that feels directionless and that leads to feelings of wanting to quit. I learned how to beat this feeling- change direction! That’s what I did. I changed my direction and, in the process, decided that I would never stop fighting to overcome adversity. Nothing, and I mean nothing, would stop me from succeeding!
• It brought my dreams into focus. For three years my dreams of being a writer had been, well, just a dream. Nothing more. I had even had several people look at me over the years and say things like, “You’re supposed to do something bigger than work in a church. You’re supposed to write and speak to families like you do in your blog.” I ignored them. But suddenly this dream came into focus and I realized it was more than a dream … it was my calling!
• It showed me the power of silence. It’s been said a billion times, “Silence is golden.” Silence is actually way more powerful than the most eloquently spoken words. Let me tell you what I mean by this: I could have gone on the defense and spent my time and energy trying to make a point after I was fired. Frankly, I could have shared information that I had learned in my time in ministry there, that would have been damaging to the reputation and credibility of the church. But I didn’t. I chose silence. I literally said nothing. It wasn’t easy but my reason was simple: Silence is power. Silence, especially in the midst of turmoil, shows character.
• It reminded me that integrity wins. There is also power in maintaining a high level of integrity. A long time ago a friend told me, “They can accuse you, blame you, even try to ruin you! But if you have integrity, they don’t have a leg to stand on.” True! When I was fired, a letter went out to the congregation saying that I had been let go because of “Job Performance Issues.” Honestly, it stung a little when I read that, but then I realized something. My job performance wasn’t bad. In fact, it was really good. I had done an exceptional job in my two years there. Many others confirmed this. As hard as it was to not speak up, I said nothing, and I did nothing. I wanted to though. But integrity said no, keep your mouth shut. That proved to be a good move.
• It made me better. I’m a better person, better father, better husband, better friend, better writer, and a better human. I won’t give up on the dream that God has placed in my heart. As long as there are overwhelmed, tired or weary parents in this world, my fingers will tap the keys on this laptop. You see, you can let tough circumstances make you bitter, or you can let them make you better. I don’t have any bitter or hard feelings toward the church, the people who pointed fingers, made accusations, or even delivered the news of my termination. I have gratitude, actually. They made me stronger, more resilient, and more determined than ever before. They made me better.
The month after I was fired our blog soared into the stratosphere, with 185,000 visitors from all over the globe. The month after that … 541,000+ visitors. We’ve never looked back. We receive emails every week from people looking for hope, searching for one thread of encouragement. They’re looking to us! I’m overwhelmed and humbled when I think of this. Never underestimate the dreams that you have in your heart.
The future is bright, there is hope, and I have a clearer purpose for my life than ever before. I have one devastating experience to thank for this!