Unexpected Twists In The Road
God ruined everything… Yep, I had it all figured out. My plans were set. My path was fixed. My purpose in life was settled. Everything was in place. I knew exactly what I was going to do for the rest of my life. My prayer had been answered. My dream had come true. My longings had been satisfied. But then God ruined everything. Sorry, just being honest…
Now before you get offended and start sending me those angry emails, let me take just a few minutes to explain. After that, if you still want to send me the angry email, feel free to send it 🙂
In order to establish the setting we need to rewind the tape about 8 years. I had just been voted in as the senior pastor of a historic African-American church in Miami, FL. Now bear in mind that there were two factors at work that had greatly contributed to my inflated sense of self-confidence. First of all, I had been voted in unanimously (a significant accomplishment for any candidate pastor). Secondly, I am white (an equally significant accomplishment when one considers that 11:00 am on Sunday morning still tends to be the most segregated hour in America). Those two factors alone would have been enough to convince anyone that this pastoral appointment was a divine appointment. But as if that were not sufficient there was also the presence of my own emotional state of mind. I loved the people in the church. I loved the people in the local community. And I loved living in Miami. Add all that together and the result was that I was secure in my calling, confident in my position, and settled in thinking that I would live, retire, and die in Miami. But, as I said, God ruined everything.
Still with me? Good. Now fast forward the tape. Within 18 months I announced to that wonderful group of people that I was resigning and heading back to Georgia. No, I didn’t fall into “sin.” No, I wasn’t fired. Quite the opposite. At the height of success and at a time when the church was growing, God stepped in and redirected the course of my life. It was just that simple. And just that confusing. But I obeyed the voice of the Spirit as best I understood it… even if it didn’t really make any sense to me at the time. Over the next 5 years subtle changes began to occur. I left professional ministry entirely. No, I wasn’t the disillusioned former pastor. No, I wasn’t angry or offended. Rather, the same still, small voice of the Spirit that had spoken to me in Miami now told me to pursue secular employment. Again, it was just that simple. And again, it was just that confusing. And again I moved forward in obedience. I started working for a paper mill in a small south Georgia town. I started blogging. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer (she is cancer free today). And as the days became months and the months became years I began to quietly wonder if God ever had a purpose for me again.
And then something totally unexpected happened. God told me to finish college. Now you need to understand that the “college years” for me were something akin to the elephant graveyard in Disney’s “Lion King.” It had a been a shadowy place in my past, one filled with regret, remorse, and failure. At the age of 20 I had been expelled because of my alcohol and drug abuse. But now God was giving me a second chance. God was giving me an opportunity to right the wrongs of my yesterdays. And so, I enrolled at Mercer University in Georgia at the age of 44.
Fast forward the tape one last time to today. I am currently 7 classes removed from graduating. (That’s right. Started attending Mercer in 1985 and I will officially graduate in 2014. That has to be a record!) This past semester I made all As, bringing my GPA since returning to college to a 3.97 (counting the “dark days” I still have a 3.72 overall). But here’s the amazing thing. God recently gave me a new dream, a new direction for the days ahead. Much of it still remains shrouded in mystery, a path that will be revealed only as I take the next step. The self-confidence of the past has been replaced by a surrender to His daily guidance. The conceit of yesterday has become covered with a renewed sense of my own frailties and limitations.
But most of all, passion and purpose have been reborn in my heart. I thought God was finished with me. I mean, why else would He have called me out of the ministry? For years I remained convinced that I had failed Him, that I had somehow displeased Him and disqualified myself from any future Kingdom usefulness. I could not have been more wrong. In the past few months in particular I have found my heart opening to never before imagined paths of service. Much of it involves a curious passion for economics, finance, and politics (3 things that I have “hated” since I was a child). In the months ahead I am venturing out in obedience once again. I have started a Facebook page that will be exclusively devoted to those topics. It’s really nothing more than an experiment, a place for me to begin to “flesh out” this present calling. I still intend to write devotionals. That part is not changing. But for now I feel the need to begin to follow this new path. I do not know all that awaits me but I am confident in His leading, confident in His faithfulness. But most of all I’m glad I was wrong. God didn’t ruin my life. Not at all. I just needed to trust that He did indeed have plans to give me a hope and a future. For now I ask for two things: your prayers and your encouragement. If you are interested, I have included a link below that will take you to the Facebook page. Click on the link (the photo of the globe below) and click “like” on the page. And then, pray. Pray that God will keep me humble. Pray that God will keep me in a place of dependency. And pray that God will use this latest venture for the good of His people and the glory of His name. Thank you.