There’s no question that the last 18 months have been rough. It’s been less than enjoyable to experience
- a change in marital status
- being separated from my children (it’s worse than having them die, just in case you’re wondering)
- leaving a career
- moving 7 times
- trying to find a way into a new career.
If you’ve ever looked at a “Top Ten list” of the most stressful life events, I’ve pretty much nailed 1/2 of them. All at once. It has sucked.
Over the last year I have been studying off and on in the hopes of making a career switch to Information Technology. I had my first computer when I was 13 years old (that was 1983, by the way). I’ve kept up dallying in them all through the years.
An individual, who I’ll call “Bart” – and I know he would appreciate that pseudonym – has emerged in my life as the kind of friend one could only hope for. As a seasoned expert in the IT Security field, he’s piled me up with books and “learn-this” lists. He’s been nothing but the perfect mentor. His entrance into my life was nothing short of miraculous. I can’t share the story in detail, but Bart, his family and I have agreed that they ended up moving back and forth 1/2 way across the country for the express purpose of having our lives reconnect.
Three months ago I made the firm decision to leave the steady employment that has filled the gap since leaving my clergy career in November 2015. I finished up the California operation for that business, drove one of their trucks with equipment back to FL and on March 20 became unemployed. I had enough money to get through seven weeks of bills and expenses.
If you’ve ever done that, you know the thoughts that start running through your head while you stare at the ceiling before going to sleep.
“That homeless guy you just passed on the street corner…that’s gonna be you in seven weeks.”
“Do what your SUPPOSED to do. You should just go back to pastoring. It’s the only thing you know how to do.” (Remember Dead Poets Society?)
“You have work now. Stay where it’s safe. Don’t try something you KNOW you can’t do.”
“Nobody’s gonna hire you. You don’t know anything. You wouldn’t hire yourself…you stupid idiot”
“You’re going to fail to provide for your kids. You think they’re upset at you now; just wait till they’re hungry.”
“You’ve totally screwed your life up. God’s not going to be there for you.”
You get the idea. And you know that experiencing these kinds of thoughts is not abnormal for any member of humanity in my situation. You don’t have to have to be falsely diagnosed with a Personality Disorder to admit you’re being tempted with thoughts like this. You just have to be honest.
On February 11, I lay on my bed in the apartment in California at bedtime, refusing to numb my pain, my fear, or anxiety with any distractions. Like Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2.29), I lay thinking about the future and wondering about the planning of my “days” ahead. I remembered God made some statement about how all the days of our lives are numbered, so I searched for and looked up the words in Psalm 139.16:
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
I ended up reading the whole Psalm. But in honesty and vulnerability I expressed my disappointment at vs. 17-18:
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
I sighed, “What thoughts? What are God’s thoughts toward me? How can they be precious to me? I don’t even know them. I don’t have any idea what God is thinking.”
However, I ended up trying to take them and the entire psalm at face value. The things that I don’t know or have not experienced about God I chose to believe were still out there. I chose to try and believe that God has precious thoughts toward me even though I don’t know what they are. Taking Brene Brown’s challenge (see her book, “Daring Greatly” which I have been reading) , I pushed aside all the screaming indicators from people and organizations in my own life telling me I’m not worthy, and chose to consider myself worthy anyway. I concluded that night, before falling asleep, that I would believe in the Presence of God as with me personally, in that very room, at that very time, whether I felt it, saw evidence of it or not.
when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me! – Psalm 139.18
When I woke on the morning of February 12, the first thought going through my mind was the King James Version of Jeremiah 29.11 (the version I memorized years ago):
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” saith the LORD, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
It’s a statement about God’s thoughts. I do know some of God’s thoughts! He has told me what some of His thoughts are toward me! They are thoughts of peace toward me, not of evil. They are thoughts about going “home”, back to “my land.” They are thoughts to prosper me, to bless me. In spite of my mistakes, my sins, my failures, God is thinking well of me. He doesn’t think of those dark things at all. He has good plans for me. He considers me a worthy recipient for His good thoughts and plans. I am the object of His best thoughts.
My story is not about my failures! It’s not about the trauma I’ve suffered, or the abuse at the hands of unkind people and dark organizations. My story is an Epic Drama of God’s good plans coming to fruition when He already knows all the days of my life.
In the last few weeks I have been reviewing the Biblical stories of the Exodus, Israel’s time in the wilderness, and the opening battles against Sihon and Og in their conquest of Canaan. As I’ve faced my own Red Sea experience, I’ve come to see how history repeats itself: Trying to get away from slavery. 67 jobs applied for. No call backs. Head hunters calling wanting to know if I want to sell life insurance (remember Ned Ryerson from “Groundhog Day”). Recruiters from India promising to pay me $115,000/year….for “what?” And all the while the financial Egyptians bearing down on me while I’m pinned against the mountains and the sea of unemployment.
On April 20 at about 10 AM, less than a week ago, I journaled: “I think of the Israelites on their way out of Egypt. God did not tell them that He was leading them into a situation that would enable Him to completely destroy Pharaoh and his elite troops. He simply led them. I imagine myself one of them, having seen the Egyptian unit in fast pursuit in the distance. I do not know the plan of God. He has not reveled it to any of us. But from what He has done for me in the past, I can accurately predict His intentions for me in the future. The rest of the people around me may murmur. But I will not. They may cry out in terror, or fear, but I will not. They may criticize their leaders for convincing them to leave “stability.” But I will pray. I don’t know what it is, but I KNOW God has an effective plan. I know that right now, in this situation with the Egyptians bearing down on me, I am in the middle of His good plan. I don’t need to know the future, because I know my God.”
On the afternoon of April 20, the afternoon of the same day I wrote the above journal entry, I received an invitation for a job interview, scheduled for 10 AM Monday morning, April 24 (three days ago). The interview went well and on Tuesday at 3:59 PM, I received a phone call from the program manager extending to me an official job offer, “Network Systems Administrator”. They offered me a pay rate higher than anything I’ve ever been paid before (even higher than my previous employer’s pay-raise offer to keep me on). When I successfully pass the next three months, they’ll bring me on as a full-benefited employee. Paperwork is being finalized this week.
I start Monday
There is still freedom. The Red Sea still parts. Bitter waters are still made sweet. Food still falls from the sky. Water still flows from rocks. Giant evil kings with 13 foot-long beds and their entire armies are still obliterated.
God is still God
And he loves me to the moon…and back.
Live long, trust God, and prosper.