“I’ve always said that [becoming a Chick-fil-A Operator] is a long shot but until there are closed doors, I’m going to keep moving forward”. -Lukas Fortunato
As of last Monday, sometime around lunch, my husband heard the words that closed the final door in his five year Operator journey. I’ve alluded to this being a hard season for us in earlier blog posts but wasn’t able to give you details. Today, I give a few details. Maybe not as many as you will want because there are plenty of questions this may bring up and my friends, and if I had answers, I would give them to you.
For my Chick-fil-A family people who love us and I know will want to pick up the phone and call every person they can fathom who might could help…we appreciate you and are grateful for you but also have already come to terms with this closed door and we ask you to do the same. This wasn’t a decision reached lightly or quickly. I think and truly believe in the deepest part of my heart, that this decision was made by a God who is far bigger than any decision makers on this earth.
A little more background for outside Chick-fil-A folks…annually, there are thousands upon thousands of people who compete for only a few sacred “Chick-fil-A Operator” positions. There are CEOs from fortune 500 companies, congressmen, rockstars from healthcare, finance, foodservice, military, and a variety of other industries who have incredible leadership abilities and business acumen, who are competing to sell chicken. Lukas was told, based on the opportunities available (which includes upcoming Restaurants in the future) and the competitive landscape (a fancy way of saying there are a bunch of awesome people out there who you are competing with) the powers that be do not see him competitive for any of those opportunities. Because of this fact, his candidacy has been terminated (aka, let’s not waste your time and drag you along).
In the conversation on the phone between Lukas and I after hearing the phrase “we are terminating your candidacy” Lukas walked me through a chapter of the book he’s reading talking about focusing on the what and not the why of circumstances. He put it far more eloquently then I could ever muster, but here’s the gist: we must process our circumstances but we should not become consumed with figuring out the why. Obsessing over the “why” (replaying interviews in your head, wondering what if, trying to figure our where you went wrong) can actually lead away from self-awareness and into the realm of unhealthiness that inhibits you from moving forward. The book encourages less focus on the “why” and more focus on the “what”, including the what’s next.
The enemy would like us to soak up a lot of time and energy into understanding the why, especially why five years of working towards a goal led to this outcome. The “whys” and the “what ifs” and the “coulda/shoulda/woulda”s could go on for ages. And if we wrote it all down and posted it on a wall, the room would probably look like this scene from A Beautiful Mind:
However, we are choosing to learn from Russell Crow’s movie character and not allow ourselves to go crazy. We are not going to spend a lot of time on the “why” and instead focus on the what…especially the what’s next.
I’ve shared my heart with you before about not wanting to blog about my (or my family’s) open wounds. I want to make sure there’s at least that first layer of healing happening in creating the scar before I let the world into what’s going on. Those first layers of healing have already begun in our lives. This hasn’t happened over night. We have been on a six month journey to this final decision made by the powers that be.
Speaking of the powers that be, I don’t believe they made their decision lightly or haphazardly. I trust they made it with wisdom and discernment, having made decisions like this time and time again, for the betterment of the brand. Our love for Chick-fil-A has wavered at times, but even after all of this, we still stand by the brand and love so many people who sell (and support people who sell!) chicken every day. We love the mission, we love Truett Cathy’s heart for people and encouragement, we love the Grilled Chicken Sandwich washed down with a frosted lemonade and we will always be mega grateful for what we learned about each other and our marriage in the time we spent selling chicken together.
When I decided to leave my job at Chick-fil-A, I had a trusted confidant tell me he knew many people who tried this Operator thing and never got to “ring the bell”(the ceremonial official way you become an Operator). He challenged me, before I left my job, to think through what would happen if we got a “no”. I’m grateful for his counsel and did just that, I knew a no was always a possibility. I chose Lukas Fortunato as my husband NOT because he was going to be an Operator. I said YES to Lukas when he asked me to marry him because
- I believe in who he is as a man.
- I believe in his ability to lead those under him well.
- I believe in his passion for excellence and his never give up attitude.
- And ultimately, I believe in his pursuit of the Lord and trust, together, they know what’s best for our family.
With the information we had at the time we got married, we felt like we were headed towards Operator and Operator spouse. But with time comes new information and with our new information we are now on the hunt for a new family dream!
Walking these past six months out with Lukas has further solidified what I believed when I first said yes to marry him. I have watched his character shine in the face of some pretty discouraging days. I’ve witnessed him maintain an incredible work ethic even when he was given tough feedback (stuff that would have left me crippled on the bathroom floor— per my previous experience with such things). I’ve marveled at his ability to smile and laugh despite “difficult to swallow” news, not avoiding his feelings, but instead tapping into God’s grace to keep him moving forward. And because of all that I’ve experienced with him these past six months, there isn’t a doubt in my mind I made the right decision to leave my job to support him… not because of what he does or will do but because of WHO he is!
When we heard the closed door news Lukas and I were both emotion-less. Were we in shock? Were we avoiding feelings? He put it best when he equated it to the story of David’s dying son in 2 Samuel. David fasted and prayed and would not eat. His servants were even afraid to tell him when his son officially died because they were worried he’d flip out. When he found out the baby had died, he got up, put on new clothes, went to worship the Lord and ate some food. His servants were so confused… why wasn’t he losing his mind?
“While the baby was still alive, I fasted, and I cried. I thought, ‘Who knows? Maybe the Lord will feel sorry for me and let the baby live.’ But now that the baby is dead, why should I fast? I can’t bring him back to life.” 2 Samuel 22-23
Okay, I know, that’s a little morbid but the point I’m trying to make is that we have done all we can. We have prayed, worked hard, prepared, and even fasted and yet, the door is closed. If the Lord wanted the door open, we wouldn’t be staring at a closed one.
My words of hope and peace do not mean this thing has been “gumdrops, unicorns and rainbows”. During the open wound portion there have been aches and pains and tears and punching steering wheels and colorful language (primarily from me and my girlfriends, who shall not be named, that have hunkered down in the trenches to weather this storm with me). I have a good feeling the tears aren’t over. There will be pain points along this journey to seeing what God has next. More rejection could come, more closed doors, more doubts in who we are and what purpose God has for us, more fear, more longing for a finish line that doesn’t exist. But we are moving forward with a clear conscience, choosing FAITH not fear, and are excited to start pursuing the next thing God has for us.
It’s not ironic or coincidental that when Lukas called me that Monday afternoon with the official closed door news, I had just posted another round of our wedding photos. This round is entitled “Be surrounded by our people”. It’s exactly what we are going to do now, be surrounded by our people. Just like they have done for many, many years and many seasons, our village has circled the wagons and given us more love and encouragement then we will ever be able to thank them for. Thank you for “LOVE”ing us, we love you back!!!
Our next “what” is PLANNING OUR HONEYMOON and continuing to prep to hike the Grand Canyon with my parents. Lukas is working on his resume and website and is networking primarily in the Atlanta area to see what his next career move might be. Insert shameless plug here: are you or your company looking for someone with strong leadership skills who does an excellent job casting vision and can rally a team around a mission?? Lukas has over a decade of experience leading people and is excited to see who God will ask him to lead and serve next. If this could be you, your company, or even someone you know, will you please email us? email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ultimately, our “what” or next right thing is to do a whole bunch of praying and we ask, if you’re willing, to do the same for us with the prayer… Lord, give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to know what’s next!