In the first 7 days (give or take) after I was let go, I paid attention and have learned a few things.  This is not everything I have learned, there will be much more.  But for now, here are 7. 

1. Identity
I am a follower of Jesus that does youth ministry.  I need to keep that straight.  Many, many times I have had that all confused and in those times something like this would kill me.  Learning that didn’t come easy. It took a lot of hard work and a wife that isn’t impressed with the youth pastor persona (and also doesn’t listen to my podcast, can you believe that).  My identity is not in what I do. I am unemployed at this moment, I may do youth ministry again, I probably will actually.  For a season I might do something else to support my family.  I can go to church and not work at a church (I did that this past weekend and it was hard, but it was home). Why? Because I’m a part of the body of Christ, even when I’m not in leadership of it.

2. People care about me
I could do a whole post on support, and probably will.  But people care about me.  After it went down on Feb 27th, the first 3 people I called all answered their phones and spent real time talking with me as I drove home, thinking over how to tell my wife.  Have you ever heard the saying “You know your real friends by who will help you move.”? Well it’s 40% true.  You know your real friends by when your life explodes out of nowhere and they stop their life to help you.  Colby, Karl, Tony, Kurt, Doug, Beth… all people that put their every day on hold, some of them MANY times on hold, to be there for me. One side note, the people that reached out to me were great too. The president of the college I went to called me. I went to a small school (Central Christian College of the Bible) and he still knows me and knows what’s happening in my life. To make the time to call me, that’s a great thing.

3. No Regerts 
No Regerts… I want to get that tattoo some time just for fun (if you don’t know me, I have a lot of tattoos).  But what I’m talking about is regrets.  I don’t have any regrets for how everything went down, starting with leaving Mariners to go to this new church in the first place.  I talked to someone who said, “I bet you wish you didn’t leave”. The immature person would have said yes to this, but the reasons I left were for 3 things: to be close to family (we still are); to own a house with a yard for our boys (we do); and to be closer to my wife’s work as a psychologist (yep, 3 for 3). All those goals are still as important as they were before.  Regrets leave little room to learn.  There is a lot to learn about this whole thing, clinging to regret is not one of them.

4. Excuses are easy, ownership is hard!
Full disclosure, if you talked to me the day after, or 2 days after it happened, I was not feeling the humble self-awareness.  I was making a lot of excuses.  If you want to, feel free to call me (714-600-0354) and I’ll tell you all the excuses I had, but be ready to be on the phone for a while.  It’s so easy to make excuses. Ownership is hard. To put all the excuses aside and just own it.  I could go on and on about ownership. There is a book called “Extreme Ownership” that has been key for me, also a podcast I listened to from the author.  I am sure when you are wronged you could go down the list of the people to blame and leave yourself off the list. It’s hard to have a list with one name: yours. My name is on it, I own it and embrace it and that (not excuses) will make me a stronger leader.

5. Empathy
I lack this, but I got a big dose of it for sure.  In the past I have let people go.  To my count I have let go of 5 people.  One of them for serious cause, the other four because I deemed them “not a fit”.  Some of them were single, some newly married, some newly married with kids on the way.  I was a terrible leader.  I think that all of these experiences have changed me.  Experiencing the drive home after “the meeting”; having to tell my wife, her parents, my friends.  My mom passed away in December 2017 and this was the first time I have ever said, “Thank goodness my mom isn’t alive to see this.”  I have NEVER said that before about anything but calling my mom and telling her would have been the worst.  I know I lacked empathy around people and their jobs.  I know I was quick to deem them “not a fit” without thinking of all those aspects of a person’s life.  Having this experience changed how I will fundamentally work through these things in the future.

6. Grieving is good.
I did grieve this loss, but because I need to find a job I haven’t fully grieved yet.  Some would say I haven’t fully grieved the loss of my mom yet either (BOOM THAT’S REAL), and they are probably right.  Its ok to spend a day in bed to think about everything, its ok to fill up a journal you’ll never read again with your feelings just to get them out there.  It’s even ok to paint your whole room black and darken the windows and not leave the house and skip shaving or bathing, well, that’s actually not ok, don’t do that.  But grieving is ok. I started seeing a counselor again to work through some stuff, that’s a good thing. The help will help. If the job is great, and they treated you great, and you lose it- its ok to grieve. If the job is terrible, and they treated you terrible- its ok to grieve. Anywhere in between- its ok to grieve.

7. Enjoy this time.
One of the best pieces of advice I received was from the dad of a couple of my former students.  He received this advice early in his career when he was between jobs.  He told me “Enjoy this time with your family”.  Yeah, it sucks to not have a job, it sucks to be looking and looking, but the time you have with your family, enjoy it! Time with my kids, time with my wife.  He said, “You’re a talented guy and you won’t be unemployed forever, but you won’t have this time back that you were not working every day”.  So far, this advice is the best I have received.  I am learning to enjoy this time, enjoy cooking my boy’s lunch, staying home at night – every night, going out to eat after church…. I am even enjoying getting my kids ready for church! My wife does that every weekend, I have never done it, but I am enjoying it.

Listen to Episode 0054 of the Controlled Chaos Podcast with Kurt where I go in detail about this experience.

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– Justin Herman

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