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Who Am I, Really?

Who Am I, Really?
By Steve Schmutzer

It’s Monday – the start of a new work week. I got out of bed this morning at my usual early time and I made my family coffee and breakfast like I always do. I got myself ready for the day. Per our normal routine, my wife went in one direction to her work and the kids and I went in another. I dropped off one kid at school and the other at work.

Now what do I do?

Normally, I would head to my office for a full day’s work. Normally, my day would be filled with meetings, new product development tasks, and various regulatory and marketing commitments. Normally, my day would follow the same patterns I’ve had for the past few years.

But I was let go from my company last week. I’m not at the office, and my normal routines have gone “poof!”

It’s a bit ironic seeing as I started that company 12 years ago. As a former critical care RN, I had seen the need to revolutionize equipment that is used every day in patient care. As I saw it, the right equipment would have a high value proposition. It would be designed to improve the safety of patients and caregivers, improve nursing efficiency, and improve patient mobility.

Well – I ended up starting a company to do just that, and I’ve learned a ton since then. It was no easy task to raise millions of dollars in a historic economic downturn – and in hindsight, I admit it was no walk in the park to constantly adapt to the myriad changes that came with the company’s growth and success.

My company’s debut product won a couple of prestigious awards, and it was lauded in the healthcare industry as a much-needed breakthrough. I was called out as a visionary and a true entrepreneur. More recently, as a major opportunity arrived, my company restructured in order to continue its upward ascent. That meant I’d reached the end of my run with it.

It’s business. I get it. It’s not like I didn’t see it coming. I am moving on, and it is with my head held high that I do. I have other ideas I am eager to chase, and I wish those that remain a part of that company the greatest possible success.

But I confess, it’s a surreal place to be – the spot I’m in now. Some of my friends say I’m “grieving.” I’m not sure that’s correct, but maybe that just confirms I’m in the first stage of denial.

I feel sort of detached from reality, like the ground is shifting under my feet. I’ve driven to a couple locations these last few days and I’ve not really recalled the drive there. I’ve left the refrigerator door open and I’ve misplaced things that I typically keep a close eye on. It’s not like me. My family tells me I seem “quiet and sober,” and I suppose they’re right.

It’s all to say I’m in a strange spot. It has me wondering, “Who am I, really?”

I’ve reviewed a checklist in my head multiple times the past few days:

Am I a failure? Nope. I’d built and sold two companies before this last one. Being let go the way I was last week is not an indication of shortcomings on my part, but rather an indication of my company’s ongoing success. I’m good there. Check.

Am I directionless? Not at all. I’m a die-hard entrepreneur, and I have several other ideas in the hopper, some of which are larger and more impactful than this last one. After a breather here, I’ll probably hit “replay” and do it again. I have a great network and a lot of people that believe in me. Check.

Am I still being responsible to my wife and kids? Absolutely! The terms of my termination have enabled me to move forward without worrying about this issue. I am so grateful to God for that. Check.

Will others perceive me unjustly? Who knows? Some may, but that’s not my problem – that’s theirs. I announced my change the right way to a large circle of friends and associates, and I’ve received an outpouring of praise and support since. I’m not responsible for how others may choose to see me. So, again – check.

That’s all the head games stuff. Those are the easy things to wrestle with. But it’s the checklist from my heart that I’m more concerned about these last few days:

Am I a failure? Are you kidding me? I am a child of God! He chose me from the beginning of time (Eph.1:4), and He wove me together in my mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13). He’s numbered every one of my hairs (Luke 12:7), which – admittedly – is getting easier these days. God knows more about me than I know about myself. Any questions I have concerning my life and my direction already have answers that God is ready to provide.

He’s also adopted me (Eph. 1:5), and so I am secure in that honor because it comes by way of Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for my sins and who remains the only “way, truth and life” (John 14:6). My future as a child of God is guaranteed and glorious beyond my wildest imaginations (1 Cor. 2:9). Check.

Am I directionless? I am not. I am “….pressing on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). Let me translate: I am not pressing on towards the goal of winning man’s accolades and the achievement of his ideals. If I was doing that, I’d be lost.

I recognize that I am on earth for a short while only, and everything I do and strive for here on planet earth is subordinate to my primary position in Christ Jesus. Far from being directionless, all of my life’s challenges are designed to reorient me towards a focus on my eternal destiny (James 1:2-4). Check.

Am I still being responsible to my wife and kids? I hope so. Some things are out of my control, but I’m doing everything I can to be the right example to them.

My kids are old enough to know life’s journey has its potholes, and my family has already hit a few of those with me in times past. Launching a major vision as I did was not easy. I know my reactions in these present moments will provide life-long lessons for them. I am being careful with my decisions in this space since I know my responsibility is to provide for my family financially (1 Tim. 5:8).

All that confessed, I wish most of all that my wife and kids look forward to the prospect of being with Jesus Christ in His kingdom as a direct result of my influence in their lives. I know they see it that way. Check.

Will others perceive me unjustly? You bet. I’ve chosen the high road plenty of times where I could have taken a different route. I’ve often sacrificed where others have gained. Choosing virtue has not always earned me reward.

I’ve had sufficient chances to defend myself and to correct assumptions that did not tell the full story. But none of that is my problem. I serve Jesus Christ above all others, and His example of servanthood is always in front of me (Phil. 2:6-7) to guide me in my own responses. It doesn’t matter if I am perceived unjustly, and honestly – I probably will be (John 15:18-19). It’s part of being a Christian. So – check.

In the process of bringing my head and heart into compliance with the divine truth of God’s Word, I am released into full peace. I face the future less sure of temporary things than I had been, and more sure of eternal things as I ought to be.

Above all, I realize the beautiful truth that God alone is my portion (Lamentations 3:23-24). May His great name be constantly lifted up in my life.

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