When my dad suddenly lost his job at fifty-two years of age (his boss needed a place for his nephew), Dad just took it as part of God’s plan for his life. He wasn’t sure where the mortgage, college tuition for my sister, or car payments would come from, but with weak faith he humbly prayed, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” God heard and answered that prayer.
A few months after this loss, my mom received a call from her former boss, the elementary principal at her former school. He had just been hired as the new superintendent of the district, and wanted mom to be the elementary principal. However, Mom was not certified to take this position. “The state of Arkansas allows you two years to be on the job while you’re gaining your certification,” he said in his beautiful Arkansas accent. Mom was doubtful, nervous, but open to what God had for her. It seemed to be God’s will; He was opening a door. My dad had lost his job, and now my mom was about to receive a tremendous promotion. After prayer and discussion, she accepted the job and began working on her principal’s certification that summer at the University of Central Arkansas. I have fond memories of helping her study after dinner. I made it my goal to make her laugh at least once in each study session.
It didn’t take long for word to get out that the school board had hired a principal who hadn’t yet met the standards for the job. Sure, she was an award-winning teacher in that very district, was beloved by every student (and their parents) who had the tremendous blessing of finding their names on her roster, and obviously, the leadership trusted her – but so what? She didn’t have her principal’s certification. Sure, Arkansas’ law had spoken, my mom was completely legal, but this wasn’t enough for “Mrs. Donahue.” (Name changed to protect her privacy.) Mrs. Donahue was wealthy, and her children were brilliant. She demanded a better leader for the elementary school. She got her cronies involved, and they, too, demanded it. They bombarded the local newspaper with editorials expressing their outrage. (Mom purposely chose not to read a single one.) They protested her hiring at a special school board meeting. Mom attended, with a support group of her own, though I’m sure it seemed to dwarf the opposition’s. Her boss, the new superintendent, came to the table, opened his briefcase and pulled out his Bible, laying it in plain sight for all to see. Mom was scared. She had been scared in the days leading up to this, but she showed up, her faith firmly planted in the One who rules all things. She won. The school board voted to let her stay. Thus began nine of the toughest years of her life. She was principal, Title I coordinator, food services director, football game gate-keeper, and so. much. more. (Hats off to all school administrators!)
After she got the job, one of her first acts was to meet with Mrs. Donahue and show that she was there to serve all the students in the school, yes, even those who wrote angry editorials about her. Mom was practically shaking as she sat in her half-unpacked office, pen suspended over a blank notebook, ready to write down dozens of suggestions, complaints, and ideas from someone who was against her. But Mrs. Donahue wasn’t so bad, after all. Mom’s warmth, love for children (and the Lord), shone brightly, and Mrs. Donahue left mom’s office as a friend, not a foe. Mom leaned back, praised the Lord, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. When the meeting was over, she glanced at the notebook: she had written down nothing. Mrs. Donahue left, saying how she had never felt that an administrator had cared more for her than my mom.
What was the secret of this victory? It wasn’t that mom had prepared perfect remarks, or that she was smarter or wiser than anyone else. It was prayer and dependence on God’s Word.
I was about thirteen years old when these events occurred. I had no idea how God would use them in my life. I was an eye-witness to my mother’s agony, but also her faith. Behind the scenes, I heard her talk about this drama. I heard her pray about it at every meal in which we were together. I heard her say, “God has given me what I need! It’s Proverbs 16:7, ‘When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’ I must concentrate on doing right, on striving to please the Lord, and not worry about the rest.” This passage was her song, her thought, and her prayer in the days leading up to the school board vote. It remained her go-to passage in the years to come. She completed her certification early, and served there for almost a decade. Her farewell party was epic, all themed around The Andy Griffith Show (Mom’s favorite!). Dad was there, her fellow teachers and retired ones, too, who were more than just faculty and staff, they were her friends, they were her inspiration to keep going. In her farewell speech, she honored them. “I came to work with a cold,” she said, “you came to work with cancer.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
You might think I want to credit my mom with this astounding turn-around, and I do insofar as to say that she simply did what all Christians should do when their back is against the wall: Ask yourself if you are doing what you can to please the Lord, trust the Lord to help you please Him, and take another step of faith. She did what the Psalmist did in Psalm 118:5, “I called upon the LORD in my distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place.”
I’m not sure what enemy you’re facing today, but the Lord knows, and He is ready and able to see you through. Win or lose, I can promise you that it will be for your good and His glory.