Today is November 15, 2016. A year ago it was November 15, 2015. That’s right, I know how a calendar works 🙂 But I’m not just sharing this obvious observation to prove I understand a calendar. A year ago today is when the journey I had been on for the past 13 years of my life came to a close, and I was getting ready to embark on a new journey.
A year ago today I resigned from my job as the Student Ministry Pastor at CBC and stepped out of ministry because I had come to the realization that I was losing all of the things that I held most dear in my life. A year ago today was the last time that things would be as they had been in my life up to that point…the journey I was currently on had come to a close, and a new journey was beginning. Having a journey come to an end when it involves loss and pain is a terrible thing to have to deal with. November 15, 2015 will be a day that is forever burned in my memory as a very difficult day for many reasons.
I sometimes like to express my thoughts and feelings in simple creative ways. One way I often like to do this is to create images of a statement or verse on a picture I’d taken at some point (I like to take pictures of nature with my phone). Below are a few that I had created during the time-frame that one life journey was ending and another was beginning . The first and second are images I created as I was beginning to realize that my current journey was coming to an end. The third is an image I created and actually posted on social media on November 15, a few hours after resigning. All three were reminders to me of hope in the midst of a crazy difficult time.
As I sit here today, it is amazing to me that I can write this just a year after that day when everything in my life changed. I will admit that at that time, I didn’t see how I could make it through the day, much less make it a year. I’ve never been one to be afraid of change, but I had never expected to deal with changes to the scale that were going on in my life. Overall, I had truly enjoyed the journey I had been on the previous 13 years, and I did not want it to come to an end.
But it did come to an end. God in his infinite wisdom that is SO FAR beyond my understanding was allowing that journey to come to an end. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t fully understand it now either. But it happened. That journey came to an end, quite painfully I might add, and God began me on a new journey.
Where is this new journey heading? I’m not completely sure. Why did the last journey need to come to an end completely rather than simply taking a different direction or receiving a major course correction? I don’t know. Will I ever understand why God has allowed this to take place in my life? I have no idea.
Faith. That is what this new journey has required of me, even more than the previous journey. Faith that God has a purpose and a plan that is bigger than the difficulty and pain and confusion. Faith that God will give me the strength to make it day-to-day as I struggle through the losses experienced from the last journey and seek to begin this new one. Faith that all that happened will not be in vain and for not, but that it can be used by God in some way. Faith. This new journey, even more than the journey I was on before, is a journey of faith.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons for the new journey. Perhaps God wanted to teach me something about faith that I couldn’t have fully learned on my previous journey. I don’t know, but I do have to say that as I look back on the past year (as well as the months that led up to the big day when everything changed), I can see just how much God has taught me and how much I have grown. And as hard as it was to deal with and get over the last journey coming to an end, when I see all that God has done in my life and where he has brought me today, it’s hard for me to be angry about the past year. I find myself praising and thanking God more than questioning God at this point. It’s pretty cool really, because a year ago I could have only imagined questioning God.
What are some of the things God has taught me? Here’s a very brief list of the things he has taught me and given me a better understanding of:
1) Grace. God has taught me and shown me so much about his INCREDIBLE Grace, how much bigger and deeper it is than I ever realized before. He has also challenged me constantly with how to take the Grace he has given me and show it to others, because no one deserves his Grace but his Grace is for all. (I wrote a blog series of what God taught me called Journey to Understand Grace)
2) Anger. God has broken me of my struggle with getting angry when things didn’t go as I hoped or wanted them to go. I have come to realize that getting angry never helps the situation, and it’s just a waste of my time and energy. So with God’s strength I have been and am able to work at staying calm and not allow anger to get the better of me.
3) Trust. God has taken me through situations that required me to decide if I really trusted him or not, and as I begged him to give me the strength to trust him, he gave me the ability to trust in situations where I would have not been able to on my own. That is why I can say that despite all that happened and all I don’t understand, I trust that God has a plan and I want to continue following him to see what that plan is.
4) God’s Word and Prayer. As the last journey came to an end and this new journey began, I had no where else to turn except to dive deeper into God’s Word and spend a lot more time in prayer than ever before. And I’m so thankful, because I have a deeper and more profound love of God’s Word and prayer now, and it has drawn me so much closer to God. (a couple passages that became favorites of mine through this past year are Colossians 3:1-17 and Psalm 138)
5) Community. There are people God had placed in my life that I can honestly say helped me get through everything this past year. I won’t mention names here, but there were men who spent time discipling me, people who offered me jobs, and people who housed me and fed me when I needed it. I will forever be eternally grateful to all those who walked through this past year with me, and it was a great reminder yet again that God created us to live this life in community, helping and serving each other out of our love for God.
6) Focus. Shortly before the last journey of my life came to an end and I lost everything I held dear in my life, I published my second book called Enough. In that book I explore the question “Do we really believe that God is greater than what this world has to offer?” Well, when everything in my life changed, I was forced to live out whether or not I truly believed that God was greater, and that has made me stay so much more focused on God. I can say with confidence after this past year that “yes, he is definitely greater!”
It is with that last statement that I will bring this reflection of the past year to an end. Is God greater than what this world has to offer? YES, YES, YES! I can say that with complete confidence, even though I will probably never fully understand why I had to go through all that happened. And I can say that with complete confidence because after losing everything I held dear I still had God, and he was with me and gave me the strength I needed each and ever day.
God, you are greater than anything this world has to offer! Thank you for all you have done in my life! You are an amazing God, and I love you and praise you! May you give me the strength to follow you on this new journey, wherever you choose to lead me.
The other day I saw Jeremy Camp in concert, and he sang “Walk by Faith”, which is a favorite of mine. But this time it had so much more meaning to me than it had before. Here is a video of part of the song that I recorded with my phone: