So the past few weeks have been . . . interesting. I feel like the end of August was like a micro-2020 for the Spiegels. We were just going along like any other fall and “Wham!” out of nowhere came a life-altering event.
If you haven’t heard, on August 24, Jim was unexpectedly fired from his tenured position at Taylor University, after 27 years, countless awards and accolades, not to mention decades of relationships and investment. If you want to know more, you can read any number of articles on what happened. Several news outlets have covered the story, including the New York Post, The College Fix, Religion News Service, Ministry Watch, the Todd Starnes Radio Show, and Taylor’s student newspaper The Echo. All I will say here is that Jim is not guilty of any moral failing and has been given the support of an enormous number of Taylor faculty, staff, students and alum.
While I doubt that many of you have experienced the exact same scenario, I am sure you can relate to the feeling of the rug suddenly being pulled out from underneath you. The one-moment-everything-is-fine-the-next-you-are-falling-teacup-over-kettle feeling that comes with a late night phone call, an unexpected diagnosis, or a disappointing fall from grace.
It seems appropriate that I am writing this on the eve of one of our nation’s collective rug-pullings. Anyone old enough to remember can tell you where they were on September 11, 2001 just like generations before us could tell you where they were on December 7, 1941 (the Pearl Harbor attack) or November 22, 1963 (the JFK assassination). I was making pancakes and my sister called. She thought it was just a small plane, and then news started coming in on the radio (we didn’t have a TV at the time). To this day, when I am listening to the radio and I hear confusion in the background, a jolt of fear runs through my veins.
So I am only a few weeks into processing this major life event, which, as major life events go, I have to say is not my favorite. However, it has already taught me something that perhaps I should have learned years ago: “On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.” Think you have a solid career ahead of you? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe the company goes under. Maybe you underperform and they let you go. Maybe you post a song on YouTube and they fire you. Think you have a secure retirement? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe a pandemic breaks out and you get trapped in your assisted living facility for months on end. Maybe you get swindled out of your life savings. Maybe the stock market crashes, taking your dreams of days spent on the golf course with it. Think you have years of health and happiness ahead of you? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe the test comes back malignant. Maybe the other driver doesn’t see the light turn red. Maybe she decides she doesn’t love you anymore. Our achievements, our possessions, our future plans, hopes and dreams. They are all sinking sand. Nineteen years ago, buildings full of people and all of their hopes and dreams crashed to the ground in a heap of rubble and ash.
But there is a solid rock on which to stand. This rock is sure and unmovable. It will not give way and is the cornerstone on which our faith is built. That doesn’t mean it is comfortable. Or even predictable. It is, however, a rock to which we can cling. It is Christ. He is perfect when I am not. He is sure when I am uncertain. He is steadfast when I am weak. This side of heaven, I can hold fast to Him in times of trouble and use Him as a landmark in times of plenty. On the other side of heaven, He will be the foundation on which my eternity is built. Christ is my ground zero. He is my homeland security. Here I stand. I can do no other.
You and your precious family are in my thoughts and prayers. God knows all of the circumstances, and he is a God of truth, fairness, and justice, and He is in total control! We love you Jim and Amy, and all of your amazing children
Thank you for your meaningful and eloquent words, Amy. It is a great perspective.
This articulated so well a shared sentiment among believers this year. Your family has received an extra measure of uncertainty, but also an extra measure of peace that surpasses all understanding. God bless you all.
Thanks for being transparent and sharing these very vulnerable and real words. I’ve been praying for your family since I heard the very unfortunate news related to Jim.
Beautiful, Amy. It’s good to hear your thoughts. I’ve been in contact with Jim on a near daily basis, and he noted that he has your full support. But it’s good to hear your words. Wonderful thoughts. And you’re such a natural writer.
We are praying for your family and trusting that God knows exactly what He’s doing. Thank you for your encouraging words.
This is not only a beautiful piece but all so true. Thank you for putting it into words. A year ago Norbert became paralyzed after a surgery and we both thought the world had come to an end and in a way it did, but God has shown us how wonderful he can be and we feel blessed. Life as we knew it will never be the same, but God has other plans. With all of the struggles of this pandemic, your writing helps to remind us that life is just changing and for a lot of us not in the direction we thought we should be going, but in the direction God wants us to be going. Thank you
I said these same words “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand” when I had been told by Taylor University that I could not finish my degree until I went to counseling. I had family problems at that time too and it was a difficult time in my life. But God was faithful and provided a family in Marion and Upland to take care of me for a period of time. Thanks for your strength and message post.
As an alum of Taylor (‘99) and former student of Jim’s for a pre-req class of religion and ethics, I was intrigued and dismayed by the firing of your husband. I listened to the song and I understand the point Jim was trying to make and also understand his freedom of expression/speech but would have to question the ethical choice of posting to a social media platform, in light of the integrity of the values held by TU.
I wonder if his firing would’ve happened under Jay Kessler and Walt Campbell and a different administration, who knows. The “little devil inside of me” experience at Taylor put me on sinking sand and nearly did not graduate. There are many topics of discussion that Christian Universities do not like to discuss, even as a Christ followers, and in my case expel you from college when graduation is in sight. This is why I graduated in 5 years instead of 4 from Taylor.
Jim forced a truth about the sinful nature of people into a medium that is hard to pull back after it is posted. This truth, no matter how present in all of us, whether as a Christ follower or unbeliever, I have found people do not want to hear even if it is true. Our pastor in church often says before he can share the gospel with the church, he has to convince people are sinners. Jim’s song was not gentle by any means but a sledgehammer of truth and I understand the schools response as it was a similar response to my situation.
I have not liked all the criticism of Taylor or Christian institutions in general over this. People should be reminded that these institutions are run by former sinners, who by all intensive purposes are followers of Christ; however, still sin and still have agendas both privately and publicly.
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” -C.S. Lewis
“The world needs Christians who don’t tolerate the complacency of their own lives.” – Francis Chan
I am sorry that Jim lost his job over this. My time at Taylor, he was well liked and really a fantastic professor. I hope your family gets through this unusual time.
Thank you for taking the time to write these words. You all have been on our minds and hearts, and we love you
Amy, I am so glad you posted this. At the time when you did, I hadn’t heard the news. I was a philosophy major who benefitted from your sweet visits to the classroom and the yummy treats you brought. Even more, I benefitted from your husband’s teaching. My husband also had your husband for a class or two. We graduated about 15 years ago. This incident has caused me to reflect on the fact that neither my husband nor I ever mention or even think about a single Taylor professor. Not one. Except your husband, who comes up in conversation probably several times a year. A common refrain within our home continues to be, “I wonder what Spiegel would think of that?” The mark he left on us is deep, and we are thankful. Our prayers and support are with you!
Amy, I don’t think I’ve met you, but I was good friend of Jim’s at Belhaven during undergrad. We were “Kenyonites” together and even got an apartment with another guy during Jim’s senior year. So sorry to hear about this. The Julie Roys interview really shows Jim’s kind, gracious, firm scholarly mind and heart and this post shows yours. My family will be praying for y’all in the midst of this intense struggle for truth even in the broader evangelical church! Blessings!