Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
There have been a number of life-changing events in my six decades of living. Some were happily anticipated, like my wedding day and the days my daughters and grandchildren were born. Others caught me by surprise and not in a pleasant way.
Two events in the latter category cleaved my life into before and after segments so that what followed wasn’t just a new chapter but a whole new volume in my life story. Each year when the anniversaries of those events come around, I intentionally look back at what’s happened since, remembering all God has done.
My reflections remind me that His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9) and that He is able to do far more than I ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Telling and Retelling the Story
Sometimes I wonder if I should keep discussing these events or writing about them. Maybe others are tired of the repetition. Then I remember Elisabeth Elliot talking about how many times she told the story of losing her husband, Jim, and four friends in the jungles of Ecuador. Yet that was the story entrusted to her, and she faithfully told and retold it, always wrapped in a message of God’s sovereignty and providential care.
Author and friend Sharon Betters refers to such stories as our credentials, i.e., the very things that allow us to speak credibly into the lives of others because of God’s faithfulness to us in hard times. Scripture itself instructs us to comfort others with the same comfort we’ve received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
The anniversary of one of the life-cleaving events occurred several days ago. January 26 marked 12 years since my 30-year career came to an inauspicious conclusion in a windowless conference room. My manager filed in with her manager in tow. Not a good sign. My heart rate increased as she calmly pronounced the death sentence on my career.
“I know you’re expecting to have your annual review, but you won’t be having it because your job has been eliminated.”
Thus ended the saga that had begun the previous year when she became my manager. In the intervening weeks, she systematically removed most of my responsibilities, excluded me from meetings, and barred me from customer visits. Things became so stressful I wondered if God wanted me to stay or leave. I asked friends to pray for clear direction and wisdom to know what to do.
As the day of my review approached, I became increasingly convinced I’d be fired or put on probation. Even so, hearing my manager’s words stunned me. My first thought? “This is real.” My second? “Thank You, Lord, for giving me a definite answer.”
A Fateful End
The HR Director came in as my manager and her boss departed. She described the severance package and legal details surrounding the abrupt end of my job. She also instructed me to turn in my badge, company credit card, and computer and leave without saying goodbye to anyone.
I followed her directions, each step feeling surreal. I exited the building, entered the misty chill of the gray winter afternoon, and walked to my parking spot one last time.
The following morning, I awoke to brilliant sunshine streaming in my window. Though I still couldn’t fully grasp my new status – unemployed after working over 30 years for the same company – I clung to my belief in God’s goodness and His sovereignty. I posted on Facebook, “30+ years of continuous employment came to a halt yesterday when my job was eliminated. God obviously has something else for me to do. I can’t wait to see what it is!”
A New Beginning
Even so, I couldn’t imagine the gift God had planned for me. Two days after I was let go, I contacted the local technical college and began the process of returning to school to study horticulture. Six months later, my first grandchild, Joshua, was born. Eighteen months after that, he and his mother (my daughter Mary) and great-grandmother (my mom) were at my graduation. They watched me realize my dream of receiving an Environmental Horticulture diploma.
In the years since graduation day, my granddaughters were born. I’ve had the joy of spending time with them and Joshua on a regular basis since their earliest days, something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I’d been working full-time.
The intervening years have held some hard times too. Mom’s health declined as she progressed through her 80s, and then she passed away several months shy of her 90th birthday. Six months after her passing, Dad experienced a stroke.
Being happily retired has allowed me the flexibility to help my family members, both young and old, pursue my passion for horticulture, become involved in women’s ministry at my church, and develop my writing skills. Though some may have meant evil against me, God surely meant the job elimination for good (Genesis 50:20).
Telling of His Glorious Deeds
We’re in good company when we retell our stories. The Israelites repeatedly told the story of God’s deliverance. In fact, God commanded them to tell the story to future generations so they would know the glorious deeds of the Lord (Psalm 78).
And what story did they tell? The story of God’s rescue, how He brought them out of slavery in Egypt by sending plagues, sparing the firstborn sons of families whose houses had lambs’ blood on the door frames, and drowning Pharoah’s army in the Red Sea after the Israelites passed over on dry ground. He gave His chosen people laws to live by and provided for them as they wandered the desert for 40 years. Disobedience brought about consequences, yet throughout the Israelites’ history, God faithfully preserved a people for Himself, even grafting pagans and Gentiles into His family.
Our Common Story
No matter the details of our individual stories, believers share the story of God’s rescue. We weren’t enslaved to a human task master but, dead in our trespasses, we were enslaved by sin, in desperate need of a Savior (Ephesians 2:1-3). God sent His Son, the spotless Lamb, whose blood made it possible for God’s wrath to pass over us as it did the night He rescued His people from Egypt. Unlike the Passover lambs and subsequent sacrifices performed year after year, Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all time (1 Peter 1:18-19).
So, dear readers, let’s continue to tell our unique stories of God’s goodness and faithfulness as we seek to encourage others in similar circumstances. But even more, may we recognize that our little stories are part of God’s great big story of redemption and point others to the hope we have in Jesus, the One in whom all God’s promises are yes and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Dear Lord, thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your beloved Son to save us from our sins and make us alive in Him. Our lives have meaning because You chose us to be your treasured possession. May we honor You by giving You the glory in all of our stories.
 One day after I graduated, I was at my Mary and son-in-law Justin’s house. I commented, “I guess I’m unemployed.” Justin quickly replied, “No! You’re happily retired!” I’ve gone with that ever since. 😊