the thing is, nothing has turned out like i thought it would. it took me the better part of two decades to finish my college degree, i spent ten years in ministry and when i left i had exactly nothing to show for it, and after leaving the ministry the best job i could get (at first, anyway) was setting appointments for dishwasher repairs across the southeast. i had given God a third of my life and what he gave me in return was a two bedroom apartment next to some college kids and a frequent wheeler and dealer card at the local pawn shop.
and so i began to think that God was testing me, purifying me, disciplining me, maybe even flat out punishing me. over the past four years my views on some things have begun to evolve, and it occurred to me one day that maybe i was becoming a heretic, and maybe God was allowing me to experience hell on earth to help me avoid experiencing hell in, well, hell. and so i prayed.
and i prayed some more. and i cried, and yelled at God, and berated myself for my inability to see things through, to believe for something better, to obey his call and command. i pleaded with my wife to forgive me for being a bad husband, a bad provider, a failure. i would look at my kids and weep for what i had robbed from them by not being able, better, smarter, tougher.
after a couple years i got a job that was (way) better and i started making a little more money, and i began to think that maybe this was my time. God had, for whatever reason, allowed me to walk through the desert, but in so doing, had brought me to the sea, and now i could rest and revive and renew myself in the lush waves of better paychecks and health benefits. it was great, really. we moved to a bigger place, we went out to eat every once in a while, and the wife was able to go to the doctor and not the local health clinic. it was great. it was hopeful. it was fun.
it was over in eleven months.
i got laid off, and wallowed in unemployment for eight months. when i finally found steady work, it was in a warehouse making sure people who had ordered a mixer online got it in time for the wedding shower or the church bake sale. i started out scheduling appliance repairs, and now i had come full circle and was shipping the appliances new and in the box. i worked ten hours a shift, moving, sorting, lifting, sweating, despairing, questioning, cursing.
and then it happened again. a few weeks ago i got a call about a job opportunity with better pay and the promise (please, God, please!) of a raise and benefits and security. dare i hope? do i have the strength to believe something good might happen?
ultimately, though, what choice do i have? i will believe, because that is who i am, who we are. we are people who endure, and having endured, we believe, and having believed, we persevere, and having persevered, we again find it is time to endure, and then to believe, and so on and so on, until...
we are all too often made to believe that the rewards for surviving difficult times all wait for us here, on this side of glory, as it were. i no longer believe that. at all. what i do believe is all at once much simpler and much more complicated than that.
i believe that tough times are simply part of our journey. i also believe that as Christ-followers, it is not for us to attempt to divine when these times will come, or even - and this is absolutely, positively, the hardest bit - why, but rather it is for us to simply join mary, the mother of Christ herself, as she turns to the angel and says, “be it unto me according to your will”. did she know what all that meant? i think not. could she have foreseen the murder of the innocents, the flight to egypt and back again, the agony of the garden, the abandonment of the cross, the empty hopelessness of the tomb? no. nor, however, could she have seen it all come into focus in the cool of the morning that seemed like the start of the rest of her empty life.
i don’t have all the answers. sometimes it feels like i don’t have any answers. with all that is in me, i hope and pray that God is bringing me and my family into a season of blessing and ease and rest and restoration. beyond this, though, it is my eternal prayer that i will walk with him through whatever he has for me.
and this is my prayer for you, too, that in days of sun or rain, hope or despair, rest or strife, you will know not only that you are not alone, but that the one who accompanies you has seen the pain you see, has known the sting of betrayal you may feel, has been abandoned and lonely and poor and broken. he has been all of these things, and so much more, and in all of this, he has overcome.
he stands today, he stands yesterday, and he stands tomorrow. and because he stands, we will, too.
you. will. stand.
as will i.