It was a moment that turned me upside-down. The crib was upended and I came tumbling out.
That's how I felt when I lost my job last year.
It had been a hard slog up to then. My job at the unnamed publisher had been characterised by stress and politics. I played a small role on the lowest rung of the department ladder, acting as a go-for and assistant. This was okay—I recognised you have to start somewhere—but it meant the role was not engaging or maintaining my interest.
Demoralising Christian virtue in the workplace
Some wise friends of mine had tried to encourage me to leave and one Christian mentor in particular was adamant that the toxic environment was unhealthy.
But I was deaf to these concerns. Editing and publishing—my background—is extremely competitive, and I hoped my managers were serious when they promised there'd be a full-time editing role for me in the future. A promise of an editing role in the hand is better than two in the bush, right?
And in terms of my spiritual side, that had never been a problem: so I thought. I'd been a Christian my whole life, was generally pretty well-behaved, and was hard-working and outwardly a good girl. I downplayed the bitterness and anger that I was cultivating in this workplace, and figured that I might just need to stick the job out. That was a Christian virtue, surely. So I dutifully kept following the carrot on a stick in front of me.
So it was tragic irony when my boss sat me down in an airless boardroom, flanked by two HR representatives, and told me matter-of-factly that he appreciated my "little contribution" to the team, but that my role was no longer required.
Hope in redundancy
The initial shock left me nauseous with stress and rejection. My hopes of progressing to a better role—to make me more employable—came crashing down. The redundancy was nothing to do with performance but, to a perfectionist like me, I couldn't shake the feeling of failure. Most of all, I had no idea where I'd go or what I'd do.
Redundancy happens to people every day, but it threw me for a loop at this early stage of my career. It was the first time I had ever had no idea what came next. No school to attend, no uni degree to go to, no job lined up. I was drifting and it was terrifying.
One of my favourite verses in the Bible is from Ecclesiastes chapter 3. It's actually a verse that brings tears to my eyes:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build...
That verse came to me on the first night of having my redundancy confirmed. The grim, jaded beauty shows how delicate life is and how everything has its place in life. It was strangely comforting to know that this time was all part of life's ups and downs—this verse acknowledged as much.
It was so powerful to have my heart prompted by God in this way.
Sometimes we have to learn the hard way
God needed to get my attention. I was counting on a job that was familiar but not ideal and I was unwilling to step forward into maturity; either in faith or in my work. I wasn't willing to go out on the edge and be what I should be.
Once I was cut loose, I had no choice but to trust God. Which was surely what God was trying to tell me all along. It was terrifying. In my head it felt like something was torn down, but, as the verse reminded me, there was also a time to build ahead.
And as it turns out, there has been a time to build. I was made redundant ten months ago, but I am now six months into a job I love. A job which, coincidentally, is at a wonderful Christian organisation (CMS Victoria), where I am challenged and enriched—both professionally and in my faith.
Now that I'm on the other side of losing my job, I can see how badly I needed this!
When I look back, I know it was a hard time for me when I was made redundant. It was hard for my sentimental heart to leave colleagues I cared about, to transition into a new chapter with no idea what lay next.
The following months were incredibly stressful, and recovering from that takes time.
But I can see God working through the heartache, and I have learned many lessons from what I experienced. He needed to get my attention to show me where I needed to be. He took me from something I thought I wanted, and gave me something infinitely better. I can't be anything but staggered by that.
Cheryl McGrath is a communications professional and has a background in editing. She lives in Melbourne.
Cheryl McGrath's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/cheryl-mcgrath.html