Adieu to What I Know

There is a question that my wife and I have been answering and trying to answer for well over a decade now. It was a question that was first posed to us when we lived in Maine and although we thought we have answered it over the years it appears it is a question we must keep answering. It seems every time we answer with yes and move forward the question gets asked again and we are once again faced with answering it. With each asking, the result of the answer gets more and more intense and stakes get higher.

The question is a simple one and its genesis is important. I was working second shift and the evenings were dead. We really did not need a second shift, but I was there just in case. Being the newest employee, I drew the short straw. I did not mind too much because it provided my wife the opportunity to work during the day and I was able to do a lot of reading. This was a time of tremendous growth in my walk with Christ. I was tearing through the Bible and other resources. I was reading everything I could get my hands on and wrestling with the Lord about all sorts of questions. I missed my wife and family, but I needed to work anyway, and this provided a great opportunity to pay bills, learn more in my industry, and grow in Christ. In hindsight, this was a great blessing. One night while reading, I came across Luke 14:33 where Christ says, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake (bid adieu) all that he has cannot be My disciple.” In that moment I felt God ask me clear as day ask me “are you willing to forsake all and follow me?” Being a dedicated and passionate young man who was ready to take on the world I said, “of course Lord.” I said yes but I really was not willing to forsake all. I wanted to be ready, but truth be told I was not, and neither was my wife.

There was a lot of growth and healing that needed to occur in both of us before we would be willing and little did we know at the time that the willingness is a continual willingness and not a one-time deal. It is like carrying your cross in that it is a daily exercise and not a one and done. The initial question and failing did start a process that I am grateful for. I would have chosen an easier path, but I am still grateful for the one we have.

We thought we answered the question when I left my job to be self-supported so we could spend more time in ministry. We thought we answered the question when we tried to move to Spokane for missionary flight school. We thought we answered the question when we started doing foster care. We thought we answered the question when we moved to Knoxville to finish school. We thought we answered the question when we decided to leave everything to go to France for 2-months and have nothing when we return. The problem is that the question keeps getting asked and the stakes keep getting higher.

Just to be clear when we say yes to the question, we are not forsaking stuff. Yes, stuff usually has to go but that is only a very small part, and the first part, of what we are forsaking. Stuff usually has to go because things have a way of distracting us from what God wants to do in us. Things are not inherently bad but they can be blockers. We must move beyond worrying about stuff. I believe that what we are really doing is forsaking the knowledge and limitations we place on God. We are admitting that there is more to this God we serve than we currently know, and we want to know more of Him. This is what God wants from us. He wants us to surrender our hearts, our wills, and our limitations. He wants us to seek Him because in seeking Him we find more than we could ever know. He is infinite and while we will never reach the end of Him, but we can keep going deeper. We can learn more of who He is, what He is capable of, and how vast is His wonder.

The good news is that He has shown Himself faithful and wise every time. Each and every time He asks, and we get it somewhat right things shift in our lives in profound and huge ways. We know what we want, and we believe we know what He has said in this season, but the truth is that our job is to seek Him, follow Him, and answer the question when He asks it.

Part of me wishes this was the last time He asks the question because even an adventure seeking, change-loving man like me wants a little stability. I am the first one to want to do something new, but I do still like comfort and routine to a degree. But I would never trade this crazy Jesus following life for anything. So here I sit waiting until we go to France for 2-months and waiting for God to ask the question again. I sit in expectation, in anticipation, and in faith. Waiting to hear the voice of my Lord. I sit here thinking about my life and once again I am willing to say Adieu to what I know in order to move into what I do not.

Just a thought,

Mike

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What is the Gospel, and what does that have to do with me?

What is the Gospel, and what does that have to do with me?

I think that is a fair question. I also think that while we need to answer that question we also need to understand that the Gospel is an answer to another question. There was and is a very big question being asked and the answer to that question is the Gospel. So before I answer the question of what is the Gospel (sneak peak it means Good …) I want to as clearly as I can tell you what question the Gospel answers.

Fair warning this is just my story. I am going to do my best to not generalize. I believe that if I tried to use stories or other analogies some would object and say I should have said this or that. In order to avoid all that I will just tell my story because well honestly it is my story and I can tell it however I like and you don’t have to listen. So here goes……

As I laid in a bed at a crisis center I started to think “how did I get here?” I know I just tried to kill myself but how did I end up here in this mental state? How did I go from one stage of pain to a whole new level I did not know existed? More importantly, where do I go now?

My life growing up was not a picture of Leave it to Beaver, Donna Reid, or anything else wholesome. It was not as tragic as some but more so than others. There was drug abuse, feelings of worthlessness, suicidal thoughts, and a dozen other negatives. Some I created but others were given to me. I carried things in life like a backpack. Somethings I put in and other things other people put in there for me. I won’t say which is which because I have forgiven, and it does no good to point fingers now. I felt I was dealt a bad hand and I only made it worse.

The suicide attempt at twenty-two was just the result of the final straw. Enough things had been laid on top of each other and I could no longer carry that backpack. The weight had become too much, and I not only could no longer carry it I no longer wanted to. I had not been raised in a Christian or even Creaster (Christmas & Easter Christian) home so I as far as I was concerned there was this life and then nothing. I was ready for the nothing. I was done with hurting just to keep hurting. I was done trying to cope with pain, with drugs, and with cutting and could not take another step.

Next thing I knew I was in and out of it at the ER. Then I was being checked into a crisis house for monitoring. All I wanted to do was die and I failed at that too. I was not just a failure I was a failure at failing. I could do nothing right. I was destined to wander the earth as a failure. But God was up to something.

There was a guy at the crisis house who checked himself in every year on the anniversary of when he killed his wife and daughter in a drunk driving accident. He knew he was not strong enough to be on his own during that time. He told me about how God gave him the strength to get through it and something or other about Jesus. I don’t remember much other than that because I was still out of it. My memory of that time is not great, and I am not sure if it was the results of drugs or the attempted suicide. I can only remember little bits here and there.

Fast forward a few months (more or less I have no idea) I was staying with some friends for a little bit and I started talking to my friend who is now my wife. I was asking her all sorts of questions about the Bible and Jesus. Some of the questions were really stupid and had nothing to do with anything. I just had questions about who this Jesus was. I was still doing drugs but wanted to know if there was something more. I wanted to know if there was something else. I believed in a vague concept of god (little g on purpose) but no idea if he cared or was involved. She kept telling me I just had to have faith. I had no idea what that meant. I mean faith in what? Faith in Jesus? Why? Because you have to is the gist of what she would say. She did not have many answers herself because she was in a dark place too.

I didn’t really balk at it too much because I was already a failure so what else was left. I mean if I have faith in Jesus and nothing happens what have I lost? I didn’t even know what year it was so really what would the downside be? I was doing the dishes while all this was going on in my head. Then I saw something I will never forget. I saw me. I saw my reflection in a window and saw something beyond fixing. Drug-using, self-injuring, self-loathing, hater of all, just a failure. It hit me that I was so beyond help. I said, “Jesus if you are real and want my life you can have it. I have messed it up and ruined it so if you want my life and you can do something with it you can have it I am done with it.”

BOOM! No more drugs, no more cutting, no more suicidal thoughts. All gone right away. It took a while for my head to get out of the fog but the worst of it was gone. Everything changed in an instant. I told her when I saw her that night that I gave my life to Jesus.

So there it is. That is my story in a nutshell. I tell you so that I can tell you what question the Gospel answers. The question is: Is God real, and if so does He even care?

That is the question. The question that trumps all other questions. Bigger than where will I live or who will I marry. Is God real, and if so does He even care is the question.

The answer is the Gospel. Gospel means good news. The good news is yes God loves you and cares very much. So much He took your place in death and paid your debt so you did not have to. To look at the backpack analogy again He took the backpack off. The Good News is that God loves you so much. God loves you with a relentless and undying love. God loves you so much He sent His Son who is still God Himself to die for your sin. The Good News is that Loves Wins!

The Good News is also not just a one and done thing. Some people think the Gospel only applies to “getting saved,” but that is only the very beginning. There is so much that comes with “getting saved” that is still part of the Gospel message.

That is why I do what I do. That is why I love to work with the youth. Because if they can get this now then maybe they can avoid a path similar to mine. That is why I run this site so that maybe you can find hope. That is why I have preached in prison so that those in chains can know there is a future. That is why I build relationships with people. That is why I read and study and pray so that I can grow closer to my God and my love. It is all for the sake of the Gospel.

So there it is you could have jumped down 20 something paragraphs to get here and you might have but you would have missed the question.

Just a thought,

Mike