This post is the third in a series of five parts that explains our transformation to a family on mission, written from the perspective of my husband, David. This tale also touches on why we moved to Houston and the origins of RighTrak.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
The Potter Works His Clay
I had never been big on public prayer. We might have said grace at a restaurant a few times, but for the most part my prayer life was relegated to church services, memorized mealtime prayers and the occasional cry in my head for God to save me from something I had gotten myself into. I certainly had not responded to any invitation to pray with someone up front during Trinity Downtown’s ninethirtyone worship service. On the Sunday following my layoff, though, we did.
I had to admit to someone other than my wife that I had lost my job, and even though the congregation couldn’t hear what we were saying it meant doing so in front of them in a rather public way. I remember feeling so broken and desperate for answers that I looked past the embarrassment of admitting failure to someone outside my nuclear family. Later, I visited with the pastor of the ninethirtyone community, Aaron Lytle, of whom I had become quite fond and whose advice I respected greatly. He told me, of course, to pray about the situation, and I tried, but I felt so guilty about praying for a job or really anything material at all, in fact. There is so much suffering in the world—men, women and children in various places all across the globe with little or no food to eat or clean water to drink, abject poverty, lives snuffed out by genocide. I thought to myself that their suffering far surpassed my own pain and the pain of even the worst that could happen to me, having suffered merely the loss of a job in one of the richest countries in the world. (Do you see how quickly the myth of self-reliance and temptation of ambition began to creep in?) Aaron’s response to my concerns over material prayer requests would prove prophetic. He said (paraphrasing), “Just pray that God would reveal His will to you, whatever that may be. It may very well be that His plan for you is to be poor for a while. Just ask that He reveal His will, and go from there.”
This sounded like a simple task, but I had been burned before thinking that God was pointing me in a certain direction, only to later realize that, in all likelihood, it had just been me rationalizing a rather selfish decision. I was awful at reading spiritual signs, and I wanted to be sure this time. To make matters worse, my prayer life was terrible, so heeding Aaron’s advice was not easy. It required a kind of discipline that I had not practiced for many, many years, but pray we did.
Every night Kindra and I would pray together out loud, and every night I prayed that God would reveal His will to me. I was frequently very specific about that request. On a couple of occasions, in complete seriousness, I lay in bed next to my wife, the two of us praying aloud, and I asked God for something like a billboard or talking bush that said, “David—yes, you, David—you are to go to the town of Nineveh,” or something like that. (I thought that a burning, talking bush would just be overkill, so I told God I would settle for just a talking one.)
At the same time I heeded some sage advice from a law school friend. “Allow yourself to just be unemployed for a little while,” she said. In other words, be patient. I am an incredibly impatient person, so ordinarily I would have ignored the advice, but for some strange reason I was perfectly content being still. So rather than pick ourselves up by our proverbial bootstraps and determinedly trudge onward—which would have been the American way so celebrated in the movies and media—we did something rather counter-cultural. We stopped, we waited, and we listened.
As painful as the job-loss situation was, I think it was probably necessary, and it probably needed to be painful. I am headstrong (cocky) but fairly intelligent (clearly modest, as well) and self-reliant, so if God was going to reach me in any meaningful way, he had to break me, and there was quite a bit of me to break through. The spiritual breakthrough—the kairos moment—was not being laid off after relocating my family 800 miles from everyone we knew; that was only the catalyst. I needed to be completely emptied of me so that I could be open to what God had to say. And man, did He speak.
Up Next: My Big, Fat Kairos Moment | Part 4 of 5