Series Intro: I am going to share a few significant moments in my life as Sunday morning posts over the next few weeks. I guess you could call this a ‘life lessons’ series. I think it is helpful to write them out and also could encourage those who read this. Please let me know if you are encouraged by this in some way. For the first installment, let’s go back to my junior year in college.
Part 1: Timing is Everything — My Junior year in college was the year of many changes. For one, I was in the year of the internship for the ministry program in college. That meant that during the spring semester I would be going to a church to serve as their intern. This was tricky since I was also a Resident Assistant and had responsibilities at the college. My internship was in northern Wisconsin and so I was making trips back and forth from Minnesota and Wisconsin. This was before the days of $3 gasoline, so it wasn’t too cumbersome.
This was also the year I was getting married. The date was set for August of that year, right at the end of my internship. I remember the challenge to communicate with my fiance as we prepared for the wedding. I was in a place that did not have quality cell phone service, so I would drive out of town and park next to the cell tower in order to talk with her. It was a stretching time for us, but a necessary time.
As most people do, I had my idea as to how things were going to go. I was going to get married, finish college and then get a youth ministry job. If God has called me to this, how could it not work out? Well, reality set in when we got married and returned from the honey moon. I remember that first month we paid all of our bills and were then out of money. Now what? I realized something needed to happen or we were going to have trouble paying rent.
I had been working at a school bus company as a driver during college. At this time, one of the mechanics had just left his job and there was an opening. I needed a job, so I asked if I could fill that spot. I did whatever I could to make some money and ended up getting trained as a mechanic. I would take on as many hours as I could; working on the ground grew plowing snow, washing busses and taking occasional bus trips, in addition to my now full time mechanic job. I am thankful for that time because I have skills today that I would have never had without this period of time in my life.
Even so, this was not youth ministry as I had in mind. I was unmistakably in ministry there and as I look back I see the conversations I had about my faith with my co workers as just what God wanted me to be doing. This was now my last year of college, so I ended up taking my final classes online so I could work to make all the pieces fall into place financially for us. We managed and graduated the next year, on schedule. At the time my wife was pregnant with our first child.
I began the process of getting accredited and placed in a church. I interviewed with a whole bunch of churches and every time things fell through. It was a discouraging process after a while and I started to wonder if I would work on busses all my life. Another year passed and I worked on busses still. I sent my resume to all parts of the country trying to find that right fit. I was young and inexperienced and churches wanted experience. So, I waited.
I remember a period of time when I would get up in the morning, read the Bible and pray. As I look back now, it is obvious to me that my prayers didn’t stay the same. As it turns out, God was changing my heart and teaching me a lesson (or many). For a while I was anxious to find a job and would take any lead. But, after some time that anxious spirit resided and I was content to be where I was. My prayers changed from “God, get me out of here” to “God, whatever you have for me today, I want to be a light for You.” It is like I was beginning to understand, in a less dramatic way, what the Apostle Paul was talking about in Philippians 4 about being content in every circumstance.
We often hear things about timing and how timing matters. Well, God does this in our lives and does it masterfully. One church I had interviewed with was somewhere in Ohio. We had talked on the phone a few times and I was going to take a trip out there. At the last minute, they called and said they could not afford to bring us out to visit. I was crushed. Later on I realized that the pastor was actually leaving and the church was in turmoil. It wouldn’t have been a great place for a new youth pastor.
There was another church in a completely different part of Ohio. The same sort of thing happened, except this time the pastor was involved in some sort of moral failure. Again, it would not have been a great place for a new youth pastor. Then there was the church in Wisconsin we had an informal visit with. That one just didn’t feel right to us and had their own problems that wouldn’t have been a profitable experience for us.
So, a few years of waiting and watching was seeming to never end. Even so, I had a sense that God was preparing us for something. What? God has always had his best for us and it only was made more clear from here.
To be continued: I will pick this story up next Sunday with part 2. If you have any questions, I would love to answer them. This is really God’s story in me and I would be glad to share it.