Facing a layoff

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

It's perfectly understandable if you don't want to face it. It's scary – particularly if you've never faced a layoff before, and especially if you've been at your job for a long time. And the more so if your company lets you go, say, at Christmas time. Nice handshake, thank you, and goodbye.

Platitudes from well-meaning friends, such as "it means there's something better around the corner" or "you're better off without them" can sound hollow. People may shuffle from one foot to another, embarrassed. They may avoid you.

Maybe it's time to shift thinking from dependency upon familiar surroundings to taking a more radical look at life.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote: "Losing her crucifix, the Roman Catholic girl said, 'I have nothing left but Christ' " ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 238). Taking a spiritual approach, depending on Christ rather than the crucifix brings inspiration and practical solutions.

Long-term employees faced with a layoff can feel a loss of identity. The feel their job has defined who they are. But identity is the effect of our relationship with God. Jesus' ministry was based on this premise.

In the Gospel of John, foretelling his crucifixion, Jesus establishes his relationship with God and gives great encouragement: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (14:1). It's a meaningful promise, especially if you're facing what looks like a blank future. Your place is prepared, and your purpose and ability to contribute cannot be sidetracked or terminated, regardless of what's going on around you.

People often feel panicked when losing a job. How will the bills be paid? Did you know that panic is derived from Pan, the Greek mythological god of the woodlands, who could scare anyone wandering through the forest by spooking them with his sudden appearance? Thomas Bulfinch wrote in "The Golden Age of Myth and Legend:" "Hence sudden fright without any visible cause was ascribed to Pan, and called a Panic terror."

At a time when terrorism seems to be the order of the day, it's helpful to be alert to all forms of terror. And it's useful to remember that the origin of panic is in mythology. It has no substance or reality.

Age is another issue that may be threatening. It involves a limited view of life – you're too young, too old, too middle-aged. But instead of being rigid, you can be flexible. Age does not delineate your experience, and it is not a benchmark. One man I knew who was laid off used his professorial skills to research and create a theatrical performance. And, this newspaper came into being when its founder, Mary Baker Eddy, was 87. The Bible states, "And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning" (Job 11:17).

This is God-inspired thinking – thinking that is open to opportunity and newness. It's a challenge to start afresh, but it's not impossible. I do freelance work on different projects, so I'm perpetually faced with a sense of "redundancy" when a project comes to an end. But trusting God and relying solely on His guidance, I've found it rare not to have work, and sometimes I've even been double-booked.

Establishing our identity as the offspring of God – purposeful, independent, ageless and openhearted – we can ascertain the words spoken by Jesus 2,000 years ago that ultimately nullify redundancy as well as panic: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17).

Except the Lord build

the house, they labour

in vain that build it:

except the Lord keep

the city, the watchman

waketh but in vain.

Psalm 127:1

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