In the midst of upheaval and opposition, it can feel like a miracle to survive, let alone accomplish any of the goals before us. Here, though, as she reflects on the path that led toward the founding of The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, Becky Allender writes about a greater miracle: the unlikely thriving of love in the midst of the most difficult circumstances. This post originally appeared on Red Tent Living.
It was during my parents’ annual summer visit that it all became real. Students had already sold houses, quit jobs, and moved their spouses and children to Colorado to begin a Master’s in Counseling. Just a few days before, Dan had been “dis-invited” to be a professor in the 1997 cohort. It was still surreal. It was the third time we had experienced job-related upheaval.
In our home there was a flurry of activity, with summer activities winding down and a new school year about to begin for all of us. We had just finished dinner when the phone rang, alerting us to an impromptu gathering at the school for questions to be answered. My dad quickly put on his sport coat to go with me to the meeting. Dan obviously could not go, but I wanted to be there to be a presence that silently stood against any words spoken against my husband.
Before I grabbed my car keys I quietly said a “breath prayer” and tried to remain calm with our children, Dan, and my mother staring at me. “Why don’t you clear the table and go outside for a game of kick the can with our neighbors.” My heart was pounding and my knees wobbling when the laundry room door closed and I got in the car with my dad.
I was currently enrolled in a Master’s program, and my main professor was the man who had fired my husband! To make it worse, his wife was also a professor of mine, and classes were in full swing. How in the world was I to go to class in a few days with this horrific situation? Would I be able to finish the degree or would I need to look for a job? Would I have the forgiveness in my heart that I needed to sit in class with this couple teaching?
Too many unknowns can cause your mind to swirl. And swirling it was. There was nothing I could do but trust that Jesus would show us the way as he had done before in our marriage.
Too many unknowns can cause your mind to swirl.
Our first experience with a job earthquake came when I was near to delivering our firstborn when we were living in Florida. The elders and pastoral staff of our church met the second Monday of the month. Dan and the pastor had just finished playing tennis together, and during a quick dinner before the meeting, a phone call from an elder came saying what the first agenda of the evening was: firing Dan! He said that he was shocked with this news and assured us that this would not happen, especially so close to the birth of our baby. Dan and I prayed swiftly together before he grabbed his keys to drive to the meeting.
A second time “dread came knocking” was when I was pregnant with Andrew. There was a scheduled faculty meeting while Dan was out of town. My friend called the next morning to inform me that a decision had been made to end the counseling program at the seminary we were at because of theological issues raised by another professor. We had been here before. With a pit in my stomach I picked up the phone to call Dan and let him know what Melinda had told me! Life does go on.
When crisis hits us we have two choices: freak out or continue on with hope and Jesus alongside. Dan’s dis-invitation had just happened and we had only told my parents. There were still too many unknowns to begin the conversations with friends and neighbors. So many friends over the years have said how they long to work in full-time ministry. I try and keep my mouth shut at those moments. Our lives are odd enough. Silence is a safer wisdom.
When crisis hits us we have two choices: freak out or continue on with hope and Jesus alongside.
Weeks unfolded, and the firing had breached the contract and was illegal. Dan was given full salary and an off-site teaching venue for him and another faculty who resigned. I remained in my Master’s program and was even allowed to keep my “spouse discount” through the university. My heart with my professors was sometimes not so great, but as things often go in Christian institutions, they too were fired when a new president was hired. It was odd to have my thesis appointment with the faculty wife as she said, “Can you believe how they have treated me and my husband?” “Yes,” I answered calmly, “Yes, I can.”
My husband hoped, along with other faculty members, to start a seminary that allowed for training in counseling. His desire to have pastors to be trained in understanding of the human heart and not just the scriptures had been a dream for many years. Most hours that Dan was not traveling or counseling or teaching he spent on the phone fundraising.
Our hours together were few. My days became long with a teaching job to help fund this dream seminary. I was a “week ahead” of my students at Colorado Institute of Art teaching four-hour block classes of “Intro to Sociology.” Twice a week I had 13-hour days (or evenings) while finishing my Master’s course work and writing a thesis. I also was selling our house “FSBO.” Dan was “on the road” more than ever. It was a time of great uncertainty. Our children learned to care for one another in new ways since we both were gone more than ever before. They learned to understand why their dad was on the phone during their tennis matches and soccer games. The fundraising, to this day, has never ended.
It takes great faith and hard work to launch a dream.
I wish that I could say that once we moved to Seattle we were “home free” with a new school and new job. Our accrediting seminary that “hired” seven faculty had failed to inform their board! We lost funding when a new president was hired at that institution. We lost health insurance and we lost friendships. We lost faculty. We went without paychecks. Twice Dan and I went to bed with knowledge that this “dream school” would be dead before we awakened. Miraculously it still lived through those two long nights.
But that is not the main miracle that remains. It is the fact that through thick, stinking, squalid darkness, we remained in love. Somehow we have known that nothing on this earth is bigger, better, more beautiful or compelling than love for each other. The greatest miracle love offers is the freedom not to let any idol, love, or distraction compete. Miracles are gifts. And wherever love continues to grow, miracles bloom.