As a first year principal I have experienced many “firsts.” I did not anticipate that one of those “firsts” would include not renewing a teacher’s contract. This decision was made over a period of 5 months and it was without question one of the most difficult decisions I have made as principal of the school. As I began to entertain the need to make a decision, I immediately thought back to when I was “that teacher”. I was beyond hurt when my contract was not renewed. Didn’t they see the hours I had poured into my class? Didn’t they know I had a family…a little girl? It was a confusing, painful time for Jaime and me. I blamed myself and literally hated those who I felt had stabbed my family in the back. Even more painful, at the time, was the “encouraging” words of colleagues and friends, who told Jaime and me, “God is going to work all of this out. He has something better for you.”
Things would actually get worse before they got better. But as I look back to the experience of losing my job through the loss of earthly possessions and the loss of my wife, I can see that God was working His good through each moment. My time at The First Academy was not a loss. I maintain contact with many of my former colleagues. Former students wrote beautiful condolence messages to me when they learned of Jaime’s death. My time at The First Academy was full of growth as an educator. I have already drawn upon many of those experiences in my role as principal – most recently on how you should balance grace & truth when letting someone go from their position. This didn’t happen when my contract wasn’t renewed, but I now have the opportunity to treat people with respect and genuine compassion. To say that I was frustrated in my role at the school in Virginia is an understatement. However, I was exposed to accreditation and curriculum procedures that have aided me in my first year as an administrator. Through the experience of losing earthly possessions and ultimately my wife, I can look back and see that God was patiently and lovingly showing me that my education wasn’t as important as knowing Him and loving my wife and daughter; my desire to climb the ladder of success paled in comparison to being present and leading my family. God used Jaime’s cancer to strengthen our marriage – stronger than it had ever been. All we had was Him and each other – literally!
I admit that for a time I viewed God as vindictive. And for a short time, I was antagonistic towards Him. In the summer of 2012, as my wife’s cancer took over and our bank account emptied, I openly said, “My wife has cancer, and we are poor. I don’t believe God cares and I don’t care that He doesn’t.” I am so grateful that God understood the words were spoken from the heart of a scared, hurt, lonely child. He waited patiently for me and all the while continued to work on our behalf. When I resigned my position of principal of a school in Tallahassee, He provided a position as an adjunct professor. When we couldn’t afford groceries, childcare, gasoline, or the bills, He stirred a community to action. My family never went hungry. Felicity attended private school tuition free. Jaime’s doctors were giving us gas gift cards, and so many helped with our living expenses.
Today, three years after I was let go from my teaching position, I can say with a smile on my face, I am so glad I was let go. I am thankful that God used that experience to get me out of the classroom full time. I am beyond thankful that He took care of my family and that even in the darkest moments of my wife’s illness, He revealed His great love for us. I promise I am not crazy. I am not thankful that we couldn’t pay our bills or that my wife had cancer. But I am thankful to stand on this side of all of those experiences to know without a doubt that (1) God is for us and not against us, that (2) nothing can ever separate us from His love, and (3) that all things…especially those that bring us to our knees and keep us crying for hours…will work towards His good in our lives.