It was almost six years ago.
I made a decision, in consultation with godly men that I knew and trusted and with my (at the time) fiancé. I believed with all my heart that God was calling me to full time ministry, to preach and teach His Word. This interior call was initially confirmed by the counsel I sought and eventually by the elders of our church in Raleigh who ordained me.
So I walked away. I walked away from what, to that point, had been a good and long career in law enforcement. I had been successful as a police officer, earning promotions, commendations and some accolades. I had served alongside some of the finest, most courageous and deeply committed men and women in the world.
I had no idea how things were going to turn out.
If I’m being honest, had I known then what I know now, there are days that I can honestly say I wouldn’t have done it.
This path has been really hard. And long. And I’m still not in full time ministry. And I don’t know if I ever will be.
I have to be honest and admit that I look back often. I look back and wonder if I made the right decision. I wonder this because, since then, my family has wandered a bit it seems. We have moved at least five times in six years, started a business, planted a church (tried to anyway), had two children, shed a lot of tears, had some pretty serious fights as husband and wife, prayed a lot, learned a lot, questioned a lot.
I was talking with my wife last night about this and honestly lamenting my decision. Then my wife said some things that cut me to the bone and humbled me and reminded me of God’s grace.
I said to her, “If I had stayed in the Army (I was supposed to sign a contract at 18 but never did while in ROTC), I’d have retired 6 years ago. If I had stayed at Anniston PD, I’d be in year 21 and eligible for retirement, if I had lived.”
She looked at me and said, “True but we’d have never met. And you’d never have been blessed with those two beautiful girls sleeping in there.”
In that moment, I felt several things.
The first thing my mind thought was, “Yeah well, you’d probably be better off.” You guys, that’s the first place my mind went, you’d be better off. My first thought wasn’t one of gratitude for my beautiful, patient and godly wife. No, my first thought was self-pity. How broken are our hearts?! How broken my heart and mind is apart from Christ!
I find myself so self-absorbed in those moments that I am staggered by my own selfishness. God have mercy.
The next thing I felt was guilt. I felt guilt because, in my broken heart and mind, I felt responsible for “dragging them into this.” I felt guilt.
The next thing I felt is what I’d really like to talk about though. Because the next thing I thought brings me comfort. It lets me know that, by God’s Spirit living in me, He is slowly but surely changing my heart, sanctifying me, teaching me, guiding me, convicting me of sin and making me into the image of His Son.
The next thing I felt was gratitude. Sure, things haven’t gone the way I want them to but there has been grace given to me. Here is what I’m grateful for:
Grateful for my wife. My wife is a rock star. She has been through so much, supporting me and following me and being my partner in living out this call. She has endured move after move to places she never wanted to live, barely having money to buy groceries, having children with no insurance, watching her husband despair and complain and try to lead from a broken place. Yet she has maintained her grace and goodness. Don’t hear me say she’s perfect; she’s not. But to see her eagerness to gather with God’s people on Sunday and worship our great God, to sit on the couch with me and read God’s Word and discuss it, to jump into the mission of planting a church, to mother our daughters and care for me…what grace God has given me in the gift of my wife!
Grateful for my children. I have to be honest and say I never wanted to have kids…or so I told myself in my own self-absorption. But then my wife and I prayed about it, left it in God’s hands and He blessed us with, not one, but two beautiful daughters.
As an aside, it’s ironic for those that know me that I have daughters.
But in the gift of these children, I have learned so much. I have learned anew how selfish I am and how selfless I am capable of being by God’s grace and strength. It is only because I have children that I more fully understand the concept of God as Father. Having children has given me a whole new perspective on His patience with me and love for me and His children. Having children has given me fresh hope in the covenant promises God has made to be a God to me and my children. What grace God has shown me in my children.
Grateful for God’s grace. As I look back over my life, I am overwhelmed by God’s grace to me. In His grace, He has chosen me as a son. He has placed His affection on me and called me to Himself so that I may be justified and brought into the company of His people. I did nothing to earn this. In fact, I did everything to push His mercy away. I was in full rebellion, “cosmic treason” as R.C. Sproul calls it. The only thing I brought to God’s grace toward me was my need for it.
I want to encourage you, reader, as you struggle with life. I want you to know that life on this planet at this time in history is hard and I know it. But history is going somewhere and there is a plan. Sure, we can’t see it all. We can’t see the big picture. To be honest, even if we could, we probably still wouldn’t understand.
But there is a Saviour who understands. He lived in history, sweated and suffered just like us and ultimately in a way that you and I cannot possibly fathom. Jesus understands. In fact, He is the point of history. This is all going somewhere…and it’s going straight to Him.
One day, those of us who are in Christ will stand together around God’s throne and we will begin to understand the depth of His mercy and grace to us in the person and work of Christ.
Until that day comes, stand in God’s grace my friends!
Soli Deo Gloria