Workforce reductions hit way too close to my comfort zone this week. Amid all my glorious spirit- and prayer-filled, sunshiny recent days, management at my workplace was moving behind the scenes to deal with some harsh economic realities. And the result was a round of layoffs that seemed to catch everyone by surprise.
The great news for me: I still have a job. No way would I want to be among the ones who don't. But a difficult reality for me is that I don't understand why I'm still there and some other skilled, productive and loyal people are not. As I said when my sister was laid off earlier this year after less than a year on a job after more than a year of unemployment before that, "There but for the grace of God go I" doesn't seem to apply at all. I have to believe the ones who are now unemployed are just as much in God's grace as I am -- and as I would be in that situation.
The layoffs were announced just hours after I had experienced a joyous "Seeking Hour" that started at 7 a.m. Wednesday at my church. The rest of Wednesday, all of Thursday and most of Friday, I just felt stunned. Not that cuts had occurred -- I keep up with the news and know that although the recession was slow to reach Oklahoma, it's now here with a vengeance -- but just something about the process.
During those days, I kept praying and asking for prayers (from a pretty close circle of people). I prayed and asked for prayers for the people who had lost their jobs, but I also wanted prayers for me and others who might be struggling to get their minds refocused to go forward in a positive but humble way.
I experienced a visit from an old, familiar acquaintance: "survivor's guilt." I distinctly remember how, less than a week after I bought my first convertible on April 15, 1995, I was driving from Norman to Oklahoma City for work, and just as I reached the part of my drive where I pass downtown, my radio station was interrupted by news of a bombing downtown. As the reality of that horrible April 19 tragedy unfolded -- including that 19 young children had perished -- my flood of emotions included a twisted guilt. That's because, after I had finally accepted that my husband and I would choose not to have children, I said, well then, I'm going to get a convertible. In the warped mind of a thirtysomething, it seemed that I was being punished for thinking a fun car could replace the void of not having children. It took well over a decade to get some of that emotional mess straightened out for me.
So, let me just say when this past week's sudden sense of loss followed such fun and uplifting days, and I was visited by that strange sense of guilt, I was grateful to find that my faith is more firmly rooted. Near-daily Bible reading and prayer are bringing about true change in me. I can't remember how it fit in with the sermon, but just this morning, I think I heard the pastor say faith and salvation don't mean we will no longer face obstacles, but they do give us what we will need to face it. They can help us bring moments of grace and healing amid some of life's harsh realities.