Thursday, June 22, 2006

God and Getting Fired. Some friends of mine are in a business that suffered from layoffs this past week. "Layoffs" is a nice way of saying that a bunch of people were fired. It conveys the idea that maybe some of those fired will be rehired someday. "Downsizing" is another euphemism. Fortunately, we have institutions like to remind us, if in an ironic tone, that life is tough out there. My friends survived the firings, but it upset them. They also don't have the anger that those who were fired have to sustain them. In fact, there may be some guilt instead.

It made me think of the times I had been fired in my life. There was my girl-friend during the late fall of my senior year in college who dumped me. That was a sort of firing. Then the big Atlanta firm that I worked for as a summer clerk while I was in law school: at the end of the summer the hiring partner said that the firm would not be offering me a permanent job when I graduated. That was a sort of firing. Seven years ago, the managing partner of the big firm in which I was a partner walked in one day to tell me that, after 27 years of loyal service, I needed to go.

Of course, those things destroyed me.

As to the girl friend, as a result I became a reclusive bachelor for the rest of my life. After Atlanta, I mainly kept to small towns and less competitive places. After I was fired from Kelley Drye & Warren, I retired from the Bar and became a homeless person.

Tonight I get to give the devotional at the monthly board meeting of Greater Miami Youth for Christ, and I have been thinking about this for some time. Specifically I have been thinking about Acts 15: 36-41, when Paul and Barnabas entered into a "contention that [became] so sharp that they parted from one another" right at the beginning of Paul's second missionary journey. They broke up because Barnabus wanted to take John Mark with them, but Paul refused to do so because, on the first missionary journey, John Mark left the two of them not long into that journey. I know that this argument over John Mark must have upset Barnabas and Paul, but can you imagine how John Mark felt? I would say that he was sort of fired. I have chosen this incident for the devotional, because it teaches so much about how enterprises work and how getting fired, as difficult as it is for everyone, is one of the ways God works out his will.

My guess is that Barnabas was a better mentor of leaders than he was a missionary. When Paul first comes to Antioch, Barnabas takes him under his wing and introduces him around and thereafter helps Paul grow into the great leader he became. By the time the first missionary journey is over, the scripture refers to "Paul and Barnabas" and not "Barnabas and Paul" as it referred to them when the journey began.

My guess is that Paul, for the second missionary journey, needed a Silas and not a Barnabas. And that John Mark didn't need a second missionary journey, he needed the close companionship and mentoring of Barnabas.

We know it came out all right for John Mark. In II Timothy 4:11, Paul calls for John Mark to be brought to him "for he is useful to me for ministry". And in Philemon 24, Paul identifies him as one of his "fellow laborers" who is with Paul. He was such a help to Peter that the great man refers to him as "Mark my son" (1 Peter 5:13), and, finally, he was published (the Gospel of Mark).

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose". (Romans 8:28) Even getting fired (or not) works out God's purpose.

"Thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (1 Cor. 15:57)

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