After 35 years, 5 months in the banking industry, my husband’s steady, good-paying job was outsourced to an outside company, and he, along with his co-workers, lost their jobs. In his last position, he worked from home 3rd shift in the IT Department, processing the data for 100+ bank branches. We were warned about the outsourcing for months ahead of time, but when the night finally came for him to shut down his computer applications in his office space in our living room for the last time, we all gathered around and felt a tidal wave of mixed emotions.
This was a new experience. In our nearly 30 years of marriage and long before we were married, he had had a steady job and had only changed workplaces twice —once when we made a long-distance move and once after a departmental downsize reduced his working hours to less than we could afford. Both times, he stepped right into another position, so there was never even so much as a lapse between paychecks. I had left my own career in banking several years before to raise and homeschool our son, Zach, so my husband’s job was our only source of provision.
As Zach and I stood behind my husband that night and watched him close out application after application on his computer, the realization that we were, for the first time ever, without an income hit us like a ton of bricks.
We knew we would be more than okay for a while, due to a very generous severance package from the bank, but what would happen after that?
What we didn’t know that night, is there was a long line of unexpected health issues ahead of us that would keep both my husband and me from being physically able to work, along with several other life changes that would literally rock our faith to its core. I think it is for the best that we are not told the future ahead of time. It is enough to deal with what we need to face one day at a time.
The time of unemployment that began that night ended up stretching out for a total of 21 months to the day.
During this time without a regularly earned paycheck, our minimizing journey took on a whole new meaning as circumstance forced my family and me to take an even closer look at not only our possessions as we came to terms with selling things that were not true necessities but also at the people who were a part of our outer and inner circle. If you are going through a similar time of difficulty and uncertainty, I hope the sharing of what we have learned will inspire and enrich your own minimizing journey.
1. Hard times inspire a fresh examination of physical possessions.
There is nothing like a shut-off notice to motivate a minimizing re-start. The threat of homelessness will cause you to realistically look at that extra vehicle with a new set of eyes and ask yourself, “do I really need to cling to this just because it belonged to a cherish loved one when letting it go would pay two months’ rent?” Practicality and sensibility rise to the surface and overwhelm sentimentality during desperate times.
2. Hard times prove who deserves and who does not deserve to remain a part of your life.
Nothing reveals who truly cares about you more blatantly or powerfully than adversity. Pay attention to the one(s) still close to you when the chips are down, you are struggling to keep your head above water, and it seems all hope is lost. Identify who was there and who was not. Who proved their love? Who got their hands dirty? Who showed up when everyone else turned away? Who showed authentic compassion?
Cherish those who loved you when it was anything but easy. Treasure those who stuck it out, held your hand, and withheld judgment. The ones who show up and are still there after the storm has passed are the people who are true-blue and have earned the opportunity to occupy stall seats in your life’s gallery. Minimize relationships with those who minimize you and the legitimacy of your predicament. Shed liaisons with those who interject blame and condemn you for what they know nothing about. Just because someone is a part of your family does not mean they should be a part of your life.
3. Hard times draw you closer to the ones you love most.
Leaning on the “true-blues” in your life through times of suffering strengthens bonds. Drawing support from those who share your sorrow deepens connection. Crying alongside those who are loyal through seasons of difficulty cements ties. Simultaneously experiencing pain and hardship solidifies camaraderie and a sense of shared accomplishment when the trial is over.
4. Hard times generate gratitude. While that statement may sound contradictory, it is true.
Walking through days where it feels like your whole world is turned upside down makes you appreciate the immeasurable value of an ordinary day. There is a wellspring of truth in the words of the song recorded by Dennis Marsh that says, “The Hard Times Make the Good Times Even Better.” When dire necessity forces the sale of things you thought you could never part with, you realize you are left with what matters most because you still have each other. Thankfulness emerges from the realization that no matter what you have lost and given up, as long as you are still together with the ones you love, all is well.
While we would never have asked for the downsizing of my husband’s job, what looked like a disaster, in the beginning, has accelerated our minimizing journey in the best of ways.
About the Author: Cheryl Smith is the author is the author of the blogs Biblical Minimalism where she writes about minimalism from a Biblical perspective and Homespun Devotions where she writes devotionals and conducts “Inner Views.”