The Beginning of the Beginning

6 10 2011

(note: this is a continuation of my story from yesterday, please click here to read that post first)

The next part of my journey began on my aunt’s couch in Texas.  I left the Air Force after four years of service with about two months of transition leave.  I did not want to go back to my hometown of Abilene, so I moved in with my Aunt Rachel, who is a year-and-a-half younger than I, and her roommate.  I slept on their couch and looked for work, which meant going to the Texas Workforce Center and filling out applications with various employers.  I eventually found a job working as a call center representative for Nextel.

It was during this time that the LORD brought me to a church that would help me establish a firm foundation in scripture and theology.  I have always been somewhat of an academic and understanding, knowing, and analyzing information has been one of my interests.  Coming from a charismatic church, I believe that the LORD knew that I needed to be established in the truth as well as the spirit.  It was almost as if God was completing the second part of John 4:24, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The men that I studied under passionately loved the scriptures and were wholly committed to Him.  Their knowledge and love of God’s word encouraged my own personal study.  The problem for me was the same because I would not let go of my right to self.  I avoided surrender to God.  I even avoided reading the passages that talked of surrender.  “Proverbs 3:5-6” I would say, “What are those verses about? Trust in the LORD with all your heart?”  I haven’t heard of it.  While hanging out with these men, I was still ignoring God’s call to surrender to Him.  The question that plagued me still ran around my mind, “WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK OF ME?”

The biggest issue with the “QUESTION” is that it makes you a slave to other people’s opinions.  In a way it reminds me of Jesus admonition in Matthew chapter 6, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.”  While these verses specifically address money,  the truth applies to anything that gets in the way of surrendering to Him.  While I had love and acceptance from these men of faith, I still sought fulfillment in many of my old (and in some new) ways.

I tried to be all things to all people, but instead of being like Paul, so as to win them to Christ, I was trying to get them to like me.  I have already recounted how this struggle in my life has affected me.  I eventually was able to quiet that question some, and God still graciously revealed Himself to me.  I served the LORD in ministry, first with a Men’s College bible study and then in a single’s ministry.  I could teach His word, but my ministry lacked power and authority.

One of the gifts the LORD has blessed me with is vulnerability, and He has used that in the ministry He gave me.   The vulnerability sometimes came out as what I would call “vomit honesty” or TMI.  Without surrender, the truths that I shared were not always timely or helpful.  I wanted to be used by God in other people’s lives, but I would not go all they way with Him.  The reluctance to trust Him became the battle that would define the early years of my marriage and parenthood.

Yes, in all of the struggles through ministry and life, the LORD graciously gave me a wife with a beautiful heart (not mention that she is also smokin hott!)  I met Jennifer at our church through some mutual friends.  We did not hit it off at first because I thought her happiness seemed phony, and I think she thought I was jerk.  Maybe asking her more than once if she was a cheerleader in highschool was not such a good idea.  Our story of meeting, falling in love, and getting married could fill-up a blog on its own, so I will say we went from that awkward first meeting to attending a class on missions to dating every other week to dating officially to getting married.

Jennifer is great Godly woman, and early in our marriage, she discovered a part of my secret thought life from our browser history on our computer.  That sentence was incredibly hard to write, but also freeing.  You see, I didn’t look at outright pornographic pictures, but my thoughts took the images I did see to those places.  It crushed her spirit and nearly ruined our marriage after just three months.  I submitted to accountability for my time on the internet, and I confessed my sins to a group of men who helped me fight the battle. The victory over the internet and overt picture gazing was mine for a time, but the war in my mind continued.

The questions of self-worth, doubt, and faithfulness fueled the war.  I often came up on the losing side of that battle.  In January 2006, we became instant parents of my wife’s cousin’s youngest son.  Bryan came to us as twenty-three month old ragamuffin little boy.  He stole my heart and revealed a dark part of it at the same time.  I discovered quickly that I would get angry with Bryan for the slightest things.  I did not understand grace or how to be a gracious parent.  Eventually, I sought counseling for my issues with anger, and with counseling and accountability, I had found freedom from the problems that I had with anger.  A lot of the issues stemmed from the fact that I did not like myself very much. Two-and-a-half years after we adopted Bryan, we had our second son, Gabriel Elijah, and we have grown into a tight knit family

There was one more thing to deal with, the “QUESTION.”  I went back to school in 2004, got my degree in History, and got a teaching certificate in 2008.  I started teaching World Geography at Belton High School that fall, and I loved it.  Teaching for me fulfilled part of my heart’s desire.  However, teachers cannot care too much about what their students think of them.  The need for approval from people caused me to say some pretty stupid things as a teacher, nothing outrightly inappropriate but definitely questionable.  I would be mean-spirited with some kids, or quote songs or movies that I knew they liked.  I did these things in an effort to be liked, but usually my students knew my vulnerability and would use it against me.  I finally talked with my campus principal about these challenges as I felt the LORD’s conviction to do so.  She was gracious and understanding, and she let me know that under no circumstances could that behavior continue.  Again, I was able to move ahead in this area of my life with accoutability.

At this point, I should say that accountability only helped because I was finally honest with God about my true feelings and thoughts.  This was the beginning of true freedom.  He requires that we not make ourselves to be greater, but we ought to humble ourselves before Him.  I believe the humility He requires is the kind that allows others to think less of you and to not worry about “WHAT THEY THINK” at all.  It was in this state that finally surrendered it all to the LORD in obedience.

The final steps of surrender took place during this summer.  I knew I had to confess to Jennifer the struggles that I had with impure thoughts.  I also had to confess to her my flirtatious behavior with some of my co-workers.  I never cheated on Jennifer with another woman, but Christ was clear about our eyes and our thoughts.  This summer was one of the most trying in our marriage, and I did not know if we could weather the storm.  In the confession of my secret thoughts and submission to obey the LORD’s conviction, God made 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” true in our marriage.  He has healed those wounds in my heart and more importantly, in Jennifer’s heart.

Then God starting speaking into our hearts about a call He placed on our marriage before it began.  You may remember, Jennifer and I took a class on missions.  It was through our time in this class that we finally clicked as couple, and we dedicated ourselves to serve the Lord on the mission field together.  Missions are why I went back to school, they are why we took the step of obedience for Jennifer to stay home full-time with Bryan.  We wanted to be ready for His call.  We wanted “to go to the land he would show us.”

However, we settled into the normal mode of job, family, life, etc., but the LORD interrupted those plans with His own.  Please check-in for more tomorrow because Jennifer and I will be sharing the step that we have taken on her blog.

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