I had a feeling it was going to be a very bad year. In January, my grandmother passed away. It’s always bad when you lose a grandparent. But it’s worse when the last of them dies. You’re saying goodbye to more than just a person. You’re saying goodbye to a generation. And you suddenly realize your relationship to future generations has changed.
February wasn’t much better. My plans to adopt a little girl from Vietnam were suddenly thwarted by circumstances beyond my control. I really couldn’t imagine things getting much worse so I just waited for something good to turn my fortunes around.
In March, I got one of those phone calls that, try as I might, I will never be able to forget. Until then, I could only imagine what a man must feel like after getting a call from a doctor telling him his wife had a brain tumor that would require immediate surgery, which may or may not prove to be successful. Or what a man must feel like when his wife calls and says she’s leaving and may or may not be coming back. In other words, I had never known such uncertainty.
Then, in April, there was the lawsuit. The press kept calling but, for once, I really didn’t want to talk. Everything in my life had become unraveled in just a few short weeks. I just wanted to be left alone.
In May, I got some closure on my future but it wasn’t to my liking. It wasn’t part of my plan. And it left me face down on the floor of my bedroom in the middle of the night screaming in agony. I would be screaming so loud and so long that my voice would not recover in time for a speech in Michigan five days later.
While I was lying on the floor, the phone was ringing. It was my best friend from Oregon calling to offer consolation. I didn’t answer the phone. I just hurled it into a wall and left the shattered pieces on the floor. It was pretty symbolic of my life at that moment. Had this all happened just twelve years before, the solution would have been simple. There was a 45 ACP sitting on the floor just five feet away. It was right in the middle of a bunch of broken plastic from the shattered headpiece. The old atheist would have used one of those 230-grain hollow points as a means of escape. The new Christian didn’t have the same options.
Mike was talking about the First Letter of John when I went to see him preach for the first time at Mayfaire. He told us all to read it like we would a cherished love letter written to us and for us by someone madly in love with us.
I walked down to the Barnes and Noble and bought a copy in the English Standard Version. I read First John during lunch and then again before I went to bed. In fact, I read it every night over the course of the next week.
In the coming weeks and months I would come to an important realization about the nature of God. It is simply arrogant to presume to know everything about who God is. But it is entirely possible to know something about who God isn’t. God simply is not an old man who sits upon a cloud and dangles a carrot on a string at the feet of his children. He does not, for pleasure, pull things from the grasp of His children every time those things appear to be within reach.
God doesn’t like to see his children fall upon their knees. But he enjoys very much seeing them rise up after they have been knocked upon the ground.
About a year later, a man, coincidentally named John, heard me telling my story. John had been through a terrible divorce involving children and a nasty custody battle. It was something I hope I never have to go through.
When a man loses everything he only has two choices: He can turn towards God or he can turn towards the world. There is no third option.
John bought a BMW and joined an internet dating service. Every time I speak to him he says his life is a mess. He asks how I can be so happy and how I can be so strong. The answer could not be more obvious for those who are willing to listen. And I thank God I listened to Mike instead of those voices telling me it really wasn’t that bad back in Egypt. For those who did not catch the metaphor, it is worth reading the entire Book of Exodus.
These are hard times for so many people. And many are wandering in the desert and wondering where to turn next. Those who believe they have lost everything in recent months will be joined by many others in the coming months and years. For many, the things that took a lifetime to gain may be lost in an instant.
What does it take to stand tall after one has been knocked to the floor? It’s not much different than asking “how much faith does it take to be saved?” The answer to both questions is the same.
It only takes enough faith to take the next step. And it takes the wisdom to be facing in the right direction.
To Be Continued…