Written by Jamila Holder
In the chaotic hallway that follows a normal Sunday service at my church, an elder I only knew by sight asked me, “Young lady, where do you work? Retail, huh?”
Slightly insulted by his assumption that because I was young I must be in retail, I readied my response. Shoulders back, armed with the confidence of enduring a four-year degree and gaining God’s favour, which had landed me a job before graduating, I calmly replied, “No, uncle, I work for the Ontario government.”
His silence was my first of many pick your jaw up off the floor moments whenever I told someone where I worked. The validation was so satisfying. I basked in the glory of that moment and settled into the expectation that my amazing career path would silence my insecurities.
I was one of the few who didn’t have to stress over sending out job applications. I had secured the bag. Or so I thought.
After two years of multiple renewed contracts, the chance of becoming a full-time staff looked promising. They needed me; no one else was trained in my role, which was extra job security. I’ll never forget the day it all crumbled. My manager seemed like she was avoiding me, but I was completely oblivious to what came next.
“Jamila, can I see you in my office?”
Inwardly I responded, Yes, let’s talk about me becoming a full-time staff member.
As I closed the door behind me, she said, “I am sorry, I meant to let you know sooner, but we won’t be able to extend your contract. Your last day with us will be on Friday.”
Everything within me shook, but I was determined to keep my composure. “I wish you had told me sooner,” were the only words I could muster.
Huh? How could she betray me? She knew all along and said nothing! I sat at my desk as thoughts of rejection overwhelmed my mind. No! We’ve done this dance before. They say they can’t extend my contract, but they always do. I’m going to leave with my dignity intact, enjoy two weeks of needed unpaid vacation, and wait for the phone to ring. They need me.
Two weeks later, I realized it was over. I had been let go. In the weeks that followed, I went through stages of grief. Who was I supposed to be without the security of a job to hide behind?
I had forgotten who I was. I had laid down my life at the altar of a 9-to-5 job that stripped me of creativity and taught me to colour between the lines.
Financially I knew I would be okay. But I had lost more than a job; I had lost my attached identity. That job had been a saviour in awkward conversations. It shielded me from instability and validated my insecurity of not being enough.
And that’s the issue: when anything outside of Christ becomes the anchor of our identities, prepare to ride the turbulent waves of uncertainty and disappointment.
I hid behind the assurance that the company needed me. But in the words of Uncle Mordecai, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14).
These words jolted Esther back into perspective and they did the same for me. We all have been given time and a chance. It rains on both the just and unjust. Jesus does not exempt me from trial or being let go. However, an identity anchored in Christ will make me risk it all like Esther—even if that means losing the thing God gave.
We can rest securely, knowing that the one who gives is more important than the gifts He gives. It is this kind of reckless faith that will allow us to say with a smile, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).