Volume 12 Number 2
Monday Morning With Nowhere to Go
01 April 1999

The experience of unemployment has changed a Canadian's approach to people who are going through hard times.

In 1989 my husband and I made two big decisions, to which we believed God had led us. I left my career of 13 years in order to spend more time with our two young sons. We also sold our house without knowing where we would go. After several months in transition, we moved to a home we loved, surrounded by trees and a skating pond -- a great place to raise our children.

Within a year of all these changes, my husband, who was vice-president of a financial services company, called home with bad news: 'My job is being eliminated. I'll be out of work in two months.'

In the nine years since, we have lived through two periods of unemployment, each of about 18 months. Each time friends have reminded us that there was no stigma attached to losing a job -- it was not an assessment of worth, character or ability. But doubts crept in and confidence eroded as the months passed by.

On a rational level, we told ourselves not to worry. We had our health and our children. We knew others had survived much greater losses. And we knew that there must be jobs available for one or both of us. We had faith that God was with us, but we also knew that was no guarantee that the road would be easy.

'Don't panic,' warned the advice books. 'Avoid drastic life changes,' said the career counsellor. But as time marched on we had to face the reality that our finances wouldn't go much farther.

We had both practised listening prayer, seeking in silence for God's leading, but we had rarely done this together. We started experimenting with this, together and with some friends, especially on the issues of whether we should sell the house and whether I should go back to work. (With my engineering experience, the prospects were good.) In each case, we had a clear sense that we should stay the course.

As a result, we accumulated some financial debt. Other friends and our parents questioned our judgement and we wondered ourselves at times. But with hindsight we feel that keeping those parts of our life unchanged provided an important routine and security for our children and for our marriage during a time of so much uncertainty.

At one point, my husband had been interviewed several times for a position that we both hoped he would get. He had heard indirectly that he was one of two final candidates but indications were that he was not going to be offered the position. He called the manager and asked for another short meeting.

We invited two friends to our home to talk about how to approach this. My husband explained that in his previous interviews he had spoken about his past experience in the most positive light and very briefly about why he was changing jobs.

The four of us sat in our living room and spent several minutes in silence, hoping for inspiration. When we each shared some thoughts, a clear theme emerged: the interviewing process so far had not given the two men a chance to get to know one another and, even if he didn't get the job, my husband wanted to initiate a more transparent discussion. He wanted to reduce any barriers between the two of them.

He felt he needed to be more open about his two job losses -- both about the business conditions he couldn't control and about his own role and what he had learned. The thought was daunting, but its clarity was undeniable.

He returned home from the meeting with no sense of whether the job was his, but with the peace that comes from acting on conviction. Not long afterwards, the offer came. The two men will soon begin their third year of work together.

There are some practical lessons for me in all of this. I learned from those who offered continual encouragement and support just how much it means to stay with people through the long run, especially when I can't 'fix' their problem. My husband had a former colleague who called many Sunday evenings throughout the year and a half to set up a breakfast date for that week. This was especially helpful as we felt we were living a 'normal' life during the weekend and the reality of 'Monday morning with nowhere to go' loomed heavy each Sunday night.

Some neighbours joined us in a monthly book club. Here stimulating discussion and friendships developed in a setting where conversation revolved more around what one thought than what one did in life. And borrowing library books suited our budget. The group continues nine years later, and we have seen one another through many a crisis -- and a lot of great books.

We tried to understand when some people kept their distance. Some of those who care most for our family found it terribly difficult to talk about our situation. I recognized that I had at times avoided people who were suffering, especially when I felt helpless. I want to become more like those people who moved toward us, even as the months wore on, and asked how we were, how they could help. I learned not to ask an unemployed person if she or he had found a job yet.

I've been asked if, having been through these experiences, I feel more fearful or more secure. That is the tension. One hopes that security in what God has done and provided and promised will be the overwhelming feeling. And on most days it is. But there is also the wounded side of me that fears being hurt again. And on those days I return to Jeremiah: '"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope."'
The author wishes to remain anonymous

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