When Unemployment Hits Home
by Constance B. Fink
Wednesday, January 29, 1997 is one of those rare days that become a point of reference for the rest of life, when events are explained as having occurred either “before” or “after”, and when a relationship may take a turn for “better” or “worse”.
It started as a typical winter day. But by night, it was quite different. After seeing my husband off to work, I looked at my calendar. Not too busy a day. Just a few errands and, if I get an early start, I can even curl up with a good book and a cup of tea. So, with grocery list in hand, I headed out. But eight hours later, everything changed and neither I, nor my circumstances, were the same again.
At 5 p.m.., dinner was almost ready. Dave should be home any minute. But an hour passed. Where is he? The phone rang, startling every nerve in my body. The caller, an office associate, asked for Dave.
“Isn’t he at work?” I asked. The associate answered vaguely, and my heart started beating fiercely. A foreboding picture began to form: a husband drained and stressed from several difficult weeks at work and the ominous cloud of downsizing.
The caller said, “When I left I saw a stack of empty boxes outside Dave’s cubicle and the personnel director was with him.”
The blood drained from my face.
I immediately dialed Dave’s number. He answered professionally and politely. Everything seemed normal. “When will you be home? Are you okay?”
He replied, “I’ll be home in an hour and I’ll explain then.” He sounded calm and composed, but “calm and composed” did not belong in the picture that was painted.
What am I going to do to get through the next hour? I couldn’t grasp what I might soon have to face emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Lord, I need Your help to deal with this in love, wisdom, and strength.
Finally, the garage door opened. As Dave walked toward me, he calmly said, “I don’t work at my job anymore. Look, here are all my things.” The back of his truck was filled with boxes containing five years of memories and effort. He was so calm; it seemed so surreal.
As we sat together, Dave shared the details. Reality began to sink in—fear for the future, sadness for the loss. A list began to form in my mind of all I would lose. Just the previous weekend we finished unpacking and hung the last of the pictures. “But I love my house!” I cried uncontrollably.
Would we have to move after recently finding the home that seemed so right? Would I have to go back to work? That night, fear, resentment, anger, hurt, embarrassment, and sadness, set up residence deep within my heart.
Then I noticed the sadness in Dave’s eyes—sadness that came from his heart, that reached out to me, and that drew us together. Even though this night was one of our most difficult nights, there was an understanding that drew us together. We cried for ourselves and for each other; we cried outwardly and inwardly.
That night marked the beginning of a long path of what felt like steep inclines, rushing waters, gnarly trees, dark clouds, and loud thunderstorms. The day turned to weeks. The weeks to months. The months to years. It was a time of intense financial, emotional, and spiritual stress. Instead of much-needed relief, disappointments continued. We dealt with unanswered prayers and questions, rejection letters and bills, sleepless nights and tear-filled days.
Friends showed care in many ways, but most did not touch my heart. If only someone had asked how I was doing…and stayed to listen. Instead, an optimistic friend told me, “You’ll have a better home, a better church.” Inwardly, I protested, but I don’t want anything better! This is home!
A concerned friend asked, “What are you going to do?” I answered in panic, “I don’t know; I can’t think past lunch!”
A compassionate friend would ask, “How is your husband?” From deep within myself I heard the cry, Please ask how I am and acknowledge that I am struggling, too. Sometimes I felt lost and afraid, sometimes alone and sad, most times exhausted.
Living in a rural area made it difficult for my husband to find employment. Although a clerical position opened up for me in a short time, it took Dave over a year to find a job in his engineering field. The job was three hours away. For personal reasons, we decided not to relocate. Dave would have to stay near his job during the week and came home on weekends. Though employment was necessary, the living arrangement did not seem fair.
Despite panic-filled questions and unsettling concerns, Dave and I started down the new trail. Overwhelming emotions, conflicting thoughts, and unfocused faith flooded me, and the path grew darker. I no longer enjoyed carefree days of activity. Instead, the nights seemed long and, as the weeks dragged on, my body grew wearier.
Until one tear-filled night when I began to see my situation from a different perspective. I discovered a treasure in being alone. Quietness! Four evenings all alone. I may never have this time again, I admitted to myself. I must cherish it. So, over the next two years I retreated to this haven and place of refuge and I discovered the richness of God.
I saw that He was always with me. He was my Shepherd, giving me guidance. He was my Rock, upholding me. He was my Haven, giving me rest. He protected me. He gave strength and confidence. He was my Husband, the One with whom I could share my deepest hurts. He was my Father, the One I sought for comfort. He was my Brother, the One to whom I turned to for companionship. He knew every tear, every need, every hope, and every loss.
He provided. He was faithful He caught me when I fell. He delighted in the details of my life because He delighted in me. He heard my unspoken whisper and calmed my stormy emotions. He awakened me in the morning with a song in my heart. His love was unconditional. His grace was sufficient. His will was clear and His promises true. And through it all was His reminder to “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).
Through the years of questions, discoveries, and changes since that winter night, the faithfulness of God has prevailed, bringing a measure of security that has set the pace for the rest of my life. Walking each step with the Shepherd and finding a quiet place with Him in the midst of chaos has been more vital than finding a way out of it. For with Him, are found stability, rest, and hope no matter what the path.