I just read Sean of the South. I don’t want to seem like a copy-cat, but his story reminded me that I told you about six months ago that I was going to tell this story. Now, I’m feeling like this is that other time.
I was thirty years old. I had made this silly commitment to God that I would re-evaluate my life at thirty. Jesus was thirty when he stepped out into his mission, so it seemed like thirty was a good age to take a hard look at what I was doing with my life. At twenty-seven I had put all serious life questions on hold.
In the last couple years I had worked in a carpet mill. I had worked in landscaping and lawn maintenance. I had sold my Chevelle, something for which I have not yet forgiven myself. I bought a motorcycle. I had become a Dad for the first time. A lot was going on.
Most of life was good. I wasn’t a mess. My marriage was great. But there was an uneasiness stirring beneath the calm. And you probably know all about being uneasy. Trying to work your way through life with the feeling that something is missing. That something is not quite right.
So, at thirty, I started talking with God about things again. Oh, I was going to church. We said grace at supper time. But me and Him didn’t have much going on for a while. He was on my mind all the time, but I pretended it could wait until later.
When later came, I was good to my promise. We started talking again. Things started happening that had the potential to completely redirect my life. I didn’t see it fully at the time it was happening, but I see it that way now. I’ve always been better looking at life in the rear view mirror than out through the windshield in front of me.
Bottom line, before my thirtieth year was over I was headed to Ohio to give full time ministry another try. The weekend I interviewed for the job was April Fools weekend and there was a massive snowfall while we were there. We went to bed at the Holiday Inn in Canton with no snow on the ground. We woke up to an 18” blanket that covered everything in sight. God absolutely does have a sense of humor.
Most of the people we met in Canton told us later that they thought we’d never return. Bring a boy from Georgia and dump 18 inches of snow on him and it’s over. We got on the plane. They waved, saying to themselves, “We’ll never see him again!”
A year before all this happened I entered the program to be a FAA Air Traffic Controller. I was finger printed for a FBI background check. I sat for hours taking test after test. They wanted to know if I could make instant decisions. The idea was to see if you had what it takes to keep five airplanes from running into each other under pressure. Could I see a computer screen in 3D, keeping altitude separations and air speeds and distance clear in my head.
I thought I was wasting my time because there was a lot of math involved. I was rusty on math in general. But I made it through the gauntlet. They promised to call me when they were ready.
Fast forward to moving day. Moving to Ohio. The rental truck was packed. My motorcycle was in the back of my truck, which was on a dolly hooked up to the Ryder. We were in the process of hugs and good-byes with friends and family who had helped us load up. The house was empty except for the phone. It was still plugged in and on the bedroom floor.
When the phone rang, I was tempted to ignore it. I picked up anyway and said hello. It was the FAA training center in Oklahoma City. A spot had come up on their list and they wanted to know if I could report for training by Wednesday. This was on a Monday.
What a curve ball! You think you’ve wrestled with God and got things worked out. You’re about as convinced as any thirty year old could be about the next step. For crying out loud, the truck is packed and there’s a group of folks 900 miles away that are expecting me to show up in a couple days.
“Can you hold on for just a minute?” I put the phone down. Beth and I debated in 60 seconds all the same things we had been debating for the last six months. Was this a door of opportunity? Was God messing with us? Would the folks up in Canton ever really miss us if we changed our mind? How odd that we are loaded up right now and in that moment the phone rings? We could head west, or we could head north.
We went north. We stayed in Canton for seven years. Good years. But we eventually came back to Georgia. We planted in Pine Mountain and have been here for the last 26 years. And as I’ve told you before, I am absolutely convinced that I have found a life here that God had been preparing me for all along.
I tell you all of that to say this. It’s the one message that I hope my kids will figure out for themselves and that my grandchildren will hold on to for whatever adventure might be ahead of them.
God knows what He is doing. Don’t try to get Him on board with your plans. Do your dead level best to get on board with His.
I’m not trying to get all preachy here. I’m just pointing out something that I believe to be a basic fact of life. It took me a long time to learn this lesson. I don’t have it perfected by any means. I’m just a simple man living a simple life in a huge universe. My pants aren’t big enough to fit all that this idea holds.
I don’t think that life is coincidental. I don’t think it’s odd that things started happening when I finally got around to talking to God again about my life. You’ll never convince me that it was by some pure uncalculated chance that the phone rang from Oklahoma City that day at that moment.
We were given a choice. And it’s not like the road west was the wide road that leads to destruction, or the road north was the narrow road that leads to life. There were interstate highways available in both directions. I know now that I wasn’t being tested to see if I would choose the secular over the sacred. I was simply being given the opportunity to trust in the fact that He knows what He’s doing.
I could have gone west or north. It wouldn’t have mattered. He is in charge of all roads, no matter where they lead. He was on the road to Nineveh, where Jonah got swallowed up in his own misery. He was on the road to Moriah, where Abraham raised a knife to his own son. And, He has been on this road every step of my small and mostly insignificant life.
This is what gets me through each and every day. The pandemic is wearing us out. The tears we shed for hatred and violence are real. But then, along the way my granddaughter hugs me and tells me that she loves me and misses me. There are fresh tomatoes on the kitchen counter. My feet hurt. But Sunday afternoon naps are still free.
All of life is on the same road. Nothing is coincidental. God knows what He is doing. We just have to pay attention.