I enjoy a good plot twist. The most popular post in the eleven-year history of this blog was my most recent one. Thousands of people stopped by to read about my love for CCU, my sadness for no longer being employed there, and my sincere hope for its future. I have been overwhelmed by the sentiments of support. Even people I’ve never met sent me encouraging messages. It’s been a rough road, but I finally came to grips with moving on.
And then the Board of Trustees offered me my job back.
In a conversation with a board member, I was assured that my layoff was a business decision. This rather honest discussion spawned several other conversations surrounding my work, my credentials, and my abilities. There's an ebb and flow to restructuring, with much more fluidity than I previously understood. Ultimately, I was asked to return and accept an expanded, hybrid role that would include my overseeing fundraising, teaching a few classes and covering some other responsibilities at the university.
Yet despite my previously expressed desire to cross the Jordan, I never imagined that Mount Nebo could feel so hospitable.
You see, I received a few job offers over the past couple of weeks. I’ve networked with half a dozen of people who sent job connections my way. Despite spending most of my vocational life in the church/Christian non-profit sector, I learned my skill-set had merits in the broader professional world. It was flattering to see that there was life for me beyond CCU.
And despite my best efforts, I am still a little hurt by what went down. Even though I actually accept the rationale behind my termination, I still feel like a grade school boy who was friend-zoned by his long-time crush. I’m also still devastated for my other colleagues who haven’t been offered the same path to return that I’ve received.
So I asked some trusted individuals what I should do. Kelly was fully supportive regardless of what I decided. Kaelyn was less objective; even though she was OK when I said I was leaving CCU, she cried when I said I might not return after being asked to stay.
Yet one of the most compelling conversations about my future came from an unlikely place: from CCU’s new football coach. I grew up watching David Fulcher when he played for the Cincinnati Bengals. A solid man of God, he caught me in the hallway and asked me how I was getting along. I admitted to him my current predicament, and that led to this exchange:
FULCHER: “Oh, you’re coming back all right.” ME: “Really? You can tell?” FULCHER: “Oh yeah. You’re like me. You’re too loyal to walk away.”
I proceeded to ask him how it felt when the Bengals, a team with which he spent seven seasons, suddenly cut him. He said it hurt very badly, but he still loved the franchise despite the decision. He said he even would have worked for far less money if they had asked. The Bengals were his family and he couldn’t turn his back on them even when they caused him great pain. He's since been a two decade ambassador of the franchise and hardly anyone even remembers that small asterisk in his story.
Too bad David's better at practicing what I often preach.
In the pulpit, I continually speak for the value of sustained community. It’s often challenging to remain in a church for a long time because you get to know too much about your fellow parishioners; the longer you live life with people, the more comfortable everyone becomes, which increases the likelihood that they’ll eventually cause you pain. The easy thing to do when conflict arises is to simply move on for greener pastures. That’s why I urge people to hang on through these times because you will often learn valuable lessons when persisting with people despite their (and your) flaws.
God has taught me much in these last weeks. I have much left to learn and this undulation just affirms it. One thing I know: this is my family.
So I’m staying at CCU.
Thank you for praying for me. Continue to pray for my colleagues who lost their jobs. And pray for this school that I love.