Seeing Grace: Reflecting on Hurt with Hop

I tried to take a deep breath. “Her position’s been cut,” I sniffled. “I just found out this morning. Her position’s been cut.” My mother tried to console me over the phone as I stood outside the building her office was in. I turned my face in an attempt to conceal my tears from those who passed by, and when I could not hold it up any longer, I hung my head.

In the days that follow, I smile as I recall the department parties she has hosted at her house. I think of her unbounded hospitality on the occasion I arrived late, missing the party entirely. That night, she fed me in her kitchen while we talked about my rotten night, discussed theology, and laughed together. I chuckle as I suddenly remember the DVD of mine she still has — we have shared our stuff as we have shared our lives together.

The same is true for many other students who have bonded with faculty, staff, and administrators here at Eastern. Inside and outside of the classroom, on and off campus, members of our community have shared their lives with one another. These people have become our mentors and our confidants. These are the people with whom we have connected; these are people we trust and love. They are our friends, and to lose them is to lose an irreplaceable part of this university.

I am sad that 45 people have lost their jobs, but I am perhaps even sadder that we are losing them.

The human cost of the decision to lay off these employees is immeasurable, and no amount of underlining our institution’s financial situation or attempting to explain the necessity of these actions will make this any easier. At the end of the day, perhaps there is not much more to be said. Forty-five faculty, staff, and administrators have been let go, and the dance major and the French minor are being phased out and eliminated.

But no matter what happens, we will not lose the friendships we have formed with those who matter to us.

I recently ate lunch with a few of the women I had the pleasure of dancing with last spring. Their talent is immense, and their hearts are kind. Speaking honestly about the elimination of the dance major, they were sad but had no ill words to say. Similarly, professors who have been laid off are willingly finishing out the year. I know they will continue to do what they have always done well because this is the right thing to do and because, I think, they will always love Eastern.

This – this is grace.

What is grace? Grace is given to us by God in forgiving us when we sin. Grace is showing kindness and compassion to others in everything we do in spite of our suffering and disappointment. When I look into the faces of those who have been hurt in some way by these decisions, I see grace. I see a resolve to keep doing what they have been doing well, a commitment to taking appropriate action, a desire to understand and show empathy to others, and a willingness to love and search for the light in the darkness.

What, then, is left to do?

Listen before you speak. Listen to others, and do not assume you know what they are going to say. Give them a safe space to speak what is on their mind and express their feelings without fear of judgment. In this, be understanding and empathetic to all parties.

Then, speak. Speak as kindly as possible, but do not neglect to speak the truth. Speak only for yourself, and respect the opinions of others. Take responsibility for what you say (and write). Yes, now is the time to make your voice heard. And yes, now is the time to act – especially if you seek an alternative course of action. This might mean signing the petition to keep dance as a major, writing a proposal outlining an alternate plan, or taking any other action you think might, by the grace of God, bring about change.

Finally, pray. Pray a lot, and look to God for refuge during this time. This cannot be overstated: we need God to strengthen us, we need God to give us wisdom and we need God to comfort us. He feels our pain, and He suffers with us even today as He suffered for us on the cross.

Because of the confidentiality surrounding much of the decision-making process, I do not fully know why these decisions have been made. I do not know what else can be done at this point, as I do not have the knowledge or expertise to offer any viable alternative courses of action. I do know that there are no easy answers, and I know that there is no easy way to live with this.

Grace is being sanctified. It is not being perfect, but it is being the best humans we can be, which can only be done with the help and love of the only One who is perfect.

     In the middle of a difficult time at our university, there is grace.

“And we’ll always be friends forever. Won’t we?”

“Yeah, forever.”

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