If you are just stumbling across this blog, you might want to take a step back here and here to catch up on the story. If not, that is fine, you are welcome to come in right where we are. I’m hesitant to say that this is the final chapter of the story, as it will go on, but it is the final part of the series. I’m excited to bring it to a close, not because I want to move on to something else, but because I’m eager to share how God has brought me to where I am today.
When I left last time, I had just been given some great words of wisdom from a friend, “God is more interested in having me do thing with Him than for Him.” This was a new concept for me, as my entire life I had been directed to do things for God. Now I was confronted with what seems at first blush to be a minor change, but when you analyze it, it turns the world of a Christian upside down.
As I started to back out of some of my ministries, I started to experience some hard feelings from some of the people in my church. I am not going to say that it was all intended, because I think some of them just didn’t understand what I was coming to grips with. I realized that most of the things I was doing were not things that I had felt God had called me to do. I was doing them for one of two reasons.
- Somebody asked me to do it and said that they had prayed about it and felt I would be good for the job.
- Nobody else would step up to do it, and somebody needed to.
I had collected ministries like a kid collects baseball cards. Now I was attempting to get myself into a position to see what God wanted me to do, and it wasn’t very easy.
Eventually I was down to just three ministries, and I felt like I had a good balance in my life for the first time in a long time. Without going through a lot of things that don’t need to be brought out here, we eventually came to the conclusion that we needed to make a change. After a lot of prayer, consideration, and investigation, we decided to make a quiet exit from that church and move on to where we are presently.
When we got to our new church we sat down with the pastor and explained why we were there and what we had been experiencing through our Bible study and the change that God had been making in our hearts. I told the pastor that I was hungry for discipling, and that I wanted to be involved.
One of the first things he did is tell me to stay out of ministry for a year. I couldn’t believe I was being told to stay out of ministry by a pastor! He said I needed a time to heal and to rest. I needed to spend that year drawing closer to God and learning about grace for living. What? Grace is what God gave us when He died for our sins! You mean it is for more than that?
Wow. It really is.
I started getting plugged in with some people at church, building some acquaintances, but still not getting as connected as I would have liked. I was feeling like I was missing out on something because I wasn’t “doing” anything for God. I kept going to church, learning deeper things than I had heard before, but was still not really sure what was going on with my relationship with God. I felt like I was ready to learn and listen, but He just was still staying at arm’s length with me.
Life changed on April 14th, 2010. I had been really struggling at work, trying to hang on to a job that I didn’t really want anymore, and the day came. I went to work in my company car that morning with a confident feeling that things were starting to turn around. I was performing the way they wanted me to, growth was taking place on my sales route, and all was well. I came home that night in a cab with a little cardboard box holding my personal belongings, and a few pieces of paper saying thanks for 11 years of your life.
We were about to start understanding grace!
We had no savings and a lot of debt when I lost my job. So, I went to work looking for work pretty soon. It wasn’t very long before we started to see that I was pretty much a one-trick pony. I had spent 20 years working in the grocery business, and it was about the only thing I knew. The real problem was, I was burnt out. I couldn’t even begin to think about going back to the world of grocery stores. What do I do now?
Our church stepped in, and we got to learn about the grace that God shows through His people as they showered us with food. I have seen food showers before, and usually it is food that nobody wants to eat so they give it away, but these people were showing us real love and giving us wonderful things that we could use and stretch into bigger meals that would last. I can’t tell you how much that meant to us.
Our parents were so kind and generous as they did things for us, helped us in so many different ways. We were so humbled to receive their help and see their love and concern.
Tammi’s aunt and uncle gave me work to do, and that work allowed us to make sure that we never missed a house payment, or were even late on one. We kept our lights on and a roof over our heads because of their generosity.
Time and again, God showed us His love through His people, and we soaked it up. Eventually I started working again after 4 months of waiting for the job to finally come. Two weeks after I started the job, I finally got an unemployment check. Timely help for a guy that needed it.
Through all of that time and beyond, I was in a small group with a few men, and I put myself under the discipleship of a good and godly mentor. He was so patient with me as I struggled with old beliefs, training, and religion. He watched me rant and rave as I struggled to have my voice be heard and my rights made known. He quietly, calmly, and firmly prodded me to dig deep into my Bible and really read it for the first time in my life.
Through that teaching I finally came to the realization that I was not just created to worship God and obey Him. I was created for a relationship with Him. I was fashioned by His hand because He wanted to know me and have me know Him! He put the breath in my lungs so He could watch me grow closer to Him, to see that my life has more meaning than just being able to recite the books of the Bible and stay out of trouble.
Now I am growing, and I’m no longer satisfied with just having salvation. If the Christian life was just about getting your salvation ticket punched, then we would be taken as soon as we accepted Christ. Our purpose as believers is to show how God works in our lives and brings us through the struggles of life to let us reflect His goodness and grace in our lives so others can see Him and know Him.
When I started writing these posts, I said that you have to be careful when you go digging in the past because you might find something you have to deal with. Well, that is true, but there’s a great reason to go digging. You can dig for the nuggets of truth that God has laid out for you. Sometimes those nuggets are easy to see, but not always.
I could look back on the past and say that there is no point in worshipping God because of the mess I had to deal with growing up in church. I could say that a pastor is not a person who can be trusted because he is working his own agenda at the expense of his congregation. I could say that there is no point in trying if I am just going to fail. I could say that my efforts don’t count.
All those can be true unless I am looking for the nugget – the treasure. What is the Truth of God at work in my life? If I am looking for those, then I see the power of God at work through all of that.
I see that a pastor is there to help me grow closer to God, not to elevate himself.
I see that my efforts are not designed to carry me along, but to show God that I am working with Him rather than just sitting by.
I can say that the mess of church is there so we can see how God loves us as individuals even with all of our problems.
I see that the struggles, trials, doubts, and pain that I went through in regards to my faith over the years have been covering my nugget. My nugget is God wants to be an active part of my growth. My nugget is that God stayed with me through it all. My nugget is that God can use what I went through to help someone else. My nugget is that through all of those experiences where I didn’t know who God was or who I was, I now can stand in absolute confidence as a child of God. I am in Christ. I know who I am because I know who my God is.
If I said anything in these posts that has caused anyone to be angry at me or anyone else, please forgive me. That was never my intent. I just wanted to share my journey from a place of rules, restrictions, and doubt to a place of freedom, relationship, and confidence. God is good, and I am so glad I went through it all so I can see how He has stayed with me. He has given me this desire for relentless growth in Him.
How about you? Are you struggling with a similar situation? Do you need someone to talk to? Did this strike home with you? I’d love to hear from you.
In HIS Grip,