Melissa Fallen is a native of Richmond, Virginia, where she has resided most of her life. She spends her free time enjoying the great outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and following her niece’s and nephews’ sports endeavors. She also enjoys coaching high school basketball. Melissa is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and received both her M.Div. and D.Min. from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. After working in both the local church and academia, she is currently serving as the pastor of Glen Allen Baptist Church.
How did you come to write a book centered on job loss?
I lost my job in June of 2018 and went through the hard journey of sorting out calling and figuring out next steps. The experience was filled with both grief, discovery, and hope.
I began writing about it as a way to process my own experience and realized others might benefit from a companion to their own experiences of loss.
What can a struggle such as job loss teach us about our faith?
I think job loss teaches us to move beyond bumper sticker theology – that one liner that says “God is in control.” While many of those bumper stickers may be true, a fuller expression of faith is when we have thrown all of our theology on the table, wrestled with God, and emerged with a deeper sense of the person God created us to be.
Especially during this tumultuous past year, how do you suggest people find the constants in their lives when everything is changing?
Sometimes when the world seems to be spinning off its axis, we want to hit the pause button and rewind to an easier time. Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with a pause button so we have to drill down to the things that ground us in life. Loss strips away the things we thought we held most dear and exposes our true center. As people of faith, our relationship with Jesus Christ is the most foundational piece of our life. When the world seems overwhelming, it’s a good time to get back to that foundation and nurture the cornerstones that are most important to us. Our God is the Alpha and Omega and the one thing that will not change when everything else does. Finding ways to connect with our faith is a good way to affirm these basic truths and keep us grounded.
You mention the image of a ‘season’ in different contexts, what is the importance of the theme of ‘season’ in Lost & Found?
Sometimes when we are in the midst of loss, it feels like it will never end. When we can put it in perspective that events in our lives are for a season, it gives us hope that the intensity of loss will not last forever. Undoubtedly, we will carry scars from grief experiences, but we can emerge as people of hope who know that God is bringing about redemption.
Could such a guide help those who are not in the clergy?
I’ve been most surprised by the people who have read the book and said that it resonated with a particular stage of their lives. Many were not clergy and had experienced a forced termination or a job shift or some kind of vocational wilderness. They could point to a specific point in the book and say, “That’s exactly how I felt!” Those have been gratifying moments for me to see the book has reached well beyond the original intended audience. Though clergy loss has a unique set of challenges, loss is universal to all of us and the lessons learned can often be translated to various settings.
What is the central lesson that you can offer to ministers trying to survive the pain careers in ministry brings?
I think there are myriad lessons to learn from job loss, but one in particular is that our job never defines who we are. When we break free from seeing our identity as a beloved child of God completely dependent on our ministry calling, we can more fully embrace who God desires us to be. Vocational calling may be hard to rediscover for a while but our rootedness as people created in the image of God never changes. When we learn to rest in that identity, we can see greater opportunities for vocational work, and we are no longer confined to the job we did previously.
What is one thing you would tell someone going through job loss right now?
Take a deep breath. The world looks scary at times of loss. Loss leaves us disoriented and without firm footing in the world. It may take some time to sort through the things you will carry into the next phase of life, but know that sorting process will leave you more grounded and ready for next steps.