When Mike Berry was dumped from his day job, he had to reinvent himself and reset his priorities. And his family won.
A little less than 2 months ago I was suddenly fired from the church I served with on the Northside of Indianapolis. While I won’t go into the details of the firing, I’ll only say that I did nothing morally or ethically wrong. It simply came down to a difference in philosophy. In the weeks that have followed I’ve learned several important lessons about life, my family, and the world around me.
It’s not really the firing itself that gets you. You’re kind of numb when you walk out of the room the moment after it happens. You can’t really think straight. It’s the day after, and the day after that, that are especially painful. It’s the thoughts you have as you wake up to the realization. It’s the moment it sinks in, after a few days, or a week, that causes the most nausea. It’s the rush of emotions that sneak up on you when you least expect it.
Embarrassment. Anger. Frustration. Loneliness. Pain. Desperation.
Over the course of your adult life you play out in your mind how you think a situation like this would go down if it were to happen to you. You play out whom you will talk to and what you will say. You envision telling your wife and your children the painful news. You wonder how you’ll recover, how your family will survive, and whether or not you can pay for health insurance on your own!
You also learn a lot about yourself when you have a moment to breathe and take stock of life. You learn that you’re not invincible, people are going to fail you, and nothing in this world is guaranteed. I’ve learned so much I could write a book. Maybe I will someday. For now, however, here are six lessons I’ve learned from this experience:
1 I missed my family. I love the church. Always have, and I always will. But it can be an all-consuming place at times. If you’re a regular congregant and not part of your church’s staff, you don’t always see it like this. Of course there’s a personal balance that every person must seek. You choose how much time you give to your job verses the time you give to your family. The demands of ministry are large. At times it’s a juggling act. It’s the reality of caring for broken people in a broken world. In any case, I missed my wife and kids. For the past 13 years I have missed so many important moments with them. Losing my “day job” has given me the chance to be with them and reconnect. It has helped re-prioritize my life. I’m not saying that losing your job is the way to achieve this. If you have a job you love, don’t quit to make this happen. But, take a moment to look at your priorities. Mine were a wreck. Something had to give.
2 Integrity wins. Several years ago I watched a close friend go through a divorce. One day his wife told him she didn’t love him anymore and left. It was incredibly painful. He wasn’t perfect but he wasn’t at fault either. I was amazed as I watched him walk this hellish road. He kept his composure, only speaking openly and with transparency to a very small circle of trusted friends. When he was faced with tough decisions and moments of confrontation, he spoke gently, but firmly and he surrounded himself with accountability. He maintained his integrity through the entire process. I was told later on, by one of his superiors, that his integrity saved him. What I learned from him, and what I’ve learned from getting fired is that integrity always wins. If you keep your integrity, through the darkest moments, you will win. Nothing formed against you will stand. As a flesh and blood human being, I’ve felt the urge to lash out, write a nasty email, and call people on the carpet, but I haven’t, and I won’t. I believe in living by integrity.
3 Nothing is guaranteed in this world. It’s been said that the only two guarantees in this world are death and taxes. No material possession, or career is forever. Nothing we own will go with us when we die. So, hold loosely to the things of this world. Hold tightly to your family, your friends, and the things that really matter.
4 My calling is clear. There’s no question, this has brought my calling into focus. I love to write and connect with parents around the world. This blog was already doing that but now it’s on a larger scale. I’m excited for the future. I’m excited for the opportunity to reach frustrated, overwhelmed and tired parents with a message of hope!
5 My kids love having me around. They’ve asked me a few times, “Do you have to go to work?” and I answer them happily, “No, I work from home now, remember?” They smile. It warms my heart. They missed their dad, and I missed them. They love having me around and, frankly, I don’t want to trade that. I love being with my kids everyday!
6 Sometimes life is unfair! When you least expect it, life can slap you in the face. It’s the nature of being a human being. We are never promised that the road will rise to meet us, nor are we promised that everything will go exactly how we planned it. It’s quite the opposite. In this world, unfairness runs rampant and we have no other choice but to accept that and live the best life we can in-spite. Anything else will drive us crazy.
Bitter Or Better?
When the unfairness of life hits us, we’re faced with a choice on how we continue to live. Bitter, filled with angst toward an unfair world? Or, better, choosing to live life to the fullest everyday? It’s a decision that has come into focus for me through this experience. In fact, it came into focus for me just a few days after I was let go. We decided to attend a large church closer to our home. Ironically, the title of the message that morning was, “Life Is Unfair.” Yes, God has a sense of humor :-).
I will never forget something the preacher said toward the end of his message- “You can choose to let your tough life circumstance make you bitter. Or you can choose to let it make you better.”
His words pierced my heart. “That’s absolutely right,” I whispered to myself. My choice: Better! All the way.
I’ve discovered some valuable truth from this whole experience: this is a chance to re-invent myself. A few weeks ago I met my friend Chad at a local Starbucks. As we usually do when we meet, we talked about life, Ohio State football, and our families. We also talked about getting fired. As I gave him the detailed version, he looked at me and said, “Maybe this is a chance to re-invent yourself?”
Those words spun in my mind as I drove home that afternoon. He was right. This is my chance, I thought.
I’m not going to say that everything turns up peachy after you’re fired, because it doesn’t. Just three days after it happened I had one of the saddest days of my life. It was hard. I wanted to give up. In fact, I’ve had a few of those days over the past two months. I’m also not going say that miraculously, awesome opportunities suddenly started beating my door down, because they didn’t. The opportunities I have are the opportunities I’ve created. There’s no substitute for hard work. No one else re-invents me. Only I can do this!
What I will say is this: There’s hope! If you’ve got breath in your lungs and a heartbeat in your chest, you’ve got hope. You can overcome this and move forward. The reason I know? It’s simple: I’m living proof.
Yes, I got fired! Yes, it hurt! Frankly, it was awful. But I believe there’s hope, and I believe in myself. I love my family and I know they are with me on this journey. It won’t be easy, but we will succeed!
Originally published on confessionsofaparent.com.