How I Saw It – my Testimony at the Worship in a New Key Service March 13, 2011

March 14, 2011 by
Filed under: Job Search, Religion, Work 

At my church, our alternative service is called Worship in a New Key.   One occasional element of this service is personal testimony by someone from the congregation about their own experience that is relevant to the scripture or sermon.  I was asked about a year ago to tell my wilderness journey story but the time didn’t feel right – my journey wasn’t far enough along.  I was asked again to speak this week, and it felt right. Below is the text and audio of my story.

Barren WildernessAudio: Mark_Smith_WINK_Testimony_2011-03-13

Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11

Today’s scripture talks about Jesus’ time in the wilderness.

Each of us at times ends up in the wilderness.  Sometimes we’re there for a short time, sometimes we’re there for a while.  We each have our own path into the wilderness, and we each have our own path out of the wilderness.

My wilderness time is recent.  Some of you know my story but for those who don’t, here’s a brief summary.  On August 12, 2008 – a few days after the mountaintop experience on the youth trip to Montreat – I was laid off from my job … suddenly and without any idea of what was coming.  For 18 months I searched for another Information Technology job with little luck in this difficult economy.  Throughout that time I periodically got a sense – louder every time – that I should be looking to attend seminary and go into ministry.  Ultimately that message got so loud that it was impossible to ignore and I will be starting my Master of Divinity degree at Princeton Seminary this fall.

But this story is about the wilderness.  And this particular wilderness was very hard.  Losing a job these days is like a quadruple edged sword.  In one shot you lose your income and your security, part of your circle of friends that you’ve seen every day, your 40+ hours a week purpose in life, and likely a huge chunk of your self-esteem. If you’re like I was, a lot of your sense of self is tied up in what you do and how you do it – and all at once you are told that that no longer desired.  Even when you’re told that it was an economic decision – for the good of the company, nothing personal – that sense of failure is there.

The first thing that I did was to start looking for a new job. I was offered outplacement services, and when you go to these outplacement services they teach you how to find a new job. And one of the first things they teach you is that finding a new job requires having and showing a good attitude. In other words, you have to hide the feelings that you’re feeling so intensely in order to make those feelings stop.  For some that might be possible – for me it was painful. I think the hardest part for me was the isolation and purposelessness – the change from being in a small cubicle but surrounded by neighbors and noise and conversation about work and other things, to being alone at home in a room in front of my computer for hours at a time doing what I felt was accomplishing nothing. …

I’m an Introvert, and even introverts need people contact from time to time.  The networking with strangers required by the job search was stressful for me, and on the flipside, the excessive time alone was also stressful.  One-to-one time with trusted friends was incredibly valuable to me.

Leigh [Leigh Stuckey, who gave the sermon before I spoke] spoke  about the character of the human Jesus – about faith and how God expects us to be.  With a few notable exceptions, I have most often experienced God through other people. In my wilderness time I was not alone.  There were times that I didn’t see it or didn’t believe it, but God was with me.  God was with me, often in the form of the people who surrounded me.  My wife, who was and continues to be incredibly patient and caring while I go through heavy emotional weather.  The staff of this church who took time to listen to me and encourage me – particularly Jill and Rich Richards.  My friends in the church.  The youth and advisors of the Sr. High group, who told me quietly that they were praying for me and how I inspired them throughout this journey.  Now I’m a heavy Twitter and Facebook and Internet user, and I found that my Twitter friends and Facebook friends far away and local were absolutely wonderful when they gave me advice, words of encouragement, face to face time, and occasionally something productive to do.  All of these people were the face of God to me, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes just by being themselves.  They let me be me, let me know that I was loved and valued, through a time when circumstance and rejection told me otherwise.

I’m almost out of the woods now.  I can see the path that I will take, and I can see the edge of the wilderness from here.  It’s been a difficult time and a growing time for me. I am ever so thankful that God let His presence show through the people around me, and I thank God for them.


One Comment on How I Saw It – my Testimony at the Worship in a New Key Service March 13, 2011

  1. Church ministry on Sat, 31st Mar 2012 12:12 am
  2. Loved how honest your blog is! Many people feel the same way when a job ends. Good luck to you!

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