Stubborn as a Mule

When I started this blog a couple of years back, I promised to be transparent and authentic.  When I read the Bible, that is what the writers were, and that is what I strive to be.  So, here it goes.

It’s been a rough four years for me. Don’t get me wrong – I celebrate what God has done in my life, and is doing in it now.  But, patience is not my virtue.

You see, a little over four years ago is when I strongly felt God calling me into ministry (which has been confirmed time and again by many people, and by the Spirit Himself). Since that time, I’ve had to make some major life adjustments (my family, too), some of which have weighed heavily on me.

I began this journey in 2008 by returning to school to earn another Master’s degree (I already have one in American History. Don’t ask…)  This time, it would be in Pastoral Ministry. While my denomination covered my tuition (For which I’m very grateful), I still needed to take time off of work to attend classes (Four total weeks per year) and pay for my own travel, lodging, food, and books.  This wasn’t too much of an issue.  I had a good job that paid well.   So, covering the extra costs wasn’t going to be too big of an issue.  However, there was one wrinkle.

After my first round of classes, I did some quick math, and realized that if I took four weeks of vacation time per year, I would not have enough paid time off to complete the degree requirements. Add to this the fact that I was getting more involved in ministry (teaching, speaking, leadership, etc.), and that I had quite a bit of homework and projects to complete as part of the program, and things were getting stressful.  Spending 50 hours per week at the office, then spending another 20 hours per week on church-related ministry, and then another 10 hours per week on classwork was beginning to have a negative impact on my life.

I felt God calling me to quit my full-time job and find a part-time job that would allow me to finish my coursework, and free up some time. This was not an easy decision, as I made very good money and had quite a bit of responsibility.  So, I tested God, and asked that he provide a half-time job with the same employer.  This was a tough test, because there were very few half-time, benefited positions with my employer.

But, as God does, he provided. A half-time position opened up with my employer, for which I was extremely qualified. This also meant that, because it was with the same employer, my vacation time that I had already accrued would transfer to the new job. In other words, my vacation bank was at 220 hours, or so, of paid time off. If I stayed at the full-time job, I would exhaust it at the rate of 40 hours per week. With the half-time job, I would only use 20 hours per week when I was away at school. With the additional vacation time I would accrue as I continued to work, I would have enough paid-time off to cover the time away for classes.  God fixed the paid time off issue.

So, I said good-bye to one job, and hello to another.  It wasn’t the greatest job, but it helped pay most of the bills, and allowed me to concentrate more on my schooling, ministry, and my family.  This continued on for two years.  Even though we were starting to accumulate some debt, because my paycheck was much smaller (about 1/3 of what I previously received), I knew that it was only temporary, and God was leading me to a full-time pastor position.  To help make ends meet, I also taught the sophomore bible class at Livingstone Adventist Academy.

As God’s timing would have it, I was laid-off from the part-time position in July 2012, and I was also told that my teaching services would not be needed beginning in the 2012-13 school year (As a side note: Neither lay-off was for performance related issues.  Both employers treated me very kindly, and assured me that wasn’t the case).  I was actually somewhat relieved.

At this point, I figured that God’s plan was in full-swing, and I would be called to a pastor position shortly. I finished my degree two weeks after I was laid-off, so everything appeared to be falling into place.  No worries.  I could collect a little unemployment and then move into a new career.

However, that has not been God’s plan; and I should know better than to try and guess what’s going to happen next. Whenever we try to out think, or even anticipate what God is about to do, we forget a major piece of scripture. Here it is in Isaiah 55:8-9:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

So, more than six months after I thought everything was finally coming together , and God’s plan was unfolding before me, I am still unemployed.  Don’t get me wrong, I am working.  I have been spending over 40 hours per week volunteering for my local church doing bible studies, youth group, visitation, etc., and throwing a lot of energy into Impact 4 Youth and the Revolution conference.  While these ministries are fulfilling in so many ways, they don’t pay the bills; and the unemployment check, while helpful, doesn’t cover all of our expenses, either.

This past week, Satan has been constantly reminding me of this fact.  When I review the family’s finances, watching our bank account go down while our debt continues to steadily climb, I hurt, I stress.  To add additional insult, Satan regularly reminds me that it’s been over four years since my calling into ministry, and yet I have no job.  He works hard to convince me that this was all a big mistake.  He tells me to be angry at God for my circumstances.  The enemy needles me and tells me to blame God for it all.

In response, all I know to do is to cling to God’s promises.  He is always faithful and trustworthy.  Hebrews 10:23 reads:

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

The author also gives us this gem, found in Hebrews 6:18:

So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.

I don’t know what path lies ahead.  I don’t know how God will provide enough to get my family out of debt, or even provide for the near future.

But, I do know this: I will listen to the voice of God; and I will not listen to the voice of the enemy.  I will be as stubborn as a mule.  My God, my Savior, my Friend, has got this.  And, even though I don’t know where this is all going, or even how it will all end, my faith remains in Him alone.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. ~ Hebrews 11:1

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