I visualize him in some log cabin (I literally think he told me this) on his knees before the Father, struggling to subdue his heart of passion desire to 'get into the harness' for the kingdom. I too have felt that--in a couple of different scenarios--and so I interacted with his letter below...and it became a VERY personal disclosure from me. But here it is...maybe someone can benefit...
actually, I do remember you and your name (that is highly unusual for
me)...your story strikes too close to home...
Anyway, I am the guy who graduated from XXX Seminary. It has been sweet and sour up
here. I am drenched in solitude which is drawing me exponentially closer
to God than I had ever thought possible which in turn brings on onslaughts
of temptations and worries that try to (and often succeed) in choking the
joy of the Gospel out of my life. I guess I am really learning how the
Lord desires us to live solely on his strength.
Take advantage of the sweetness of time with Him! If I had that
situation, I would drench myself in the mystical Christian writers, spend
long sessions in listing every tiny detail of my life that I am thankful
for (in His presence of course!), drink deep in meditation and scripture
memory...oh, friend--to have the time in Arabia that Paul had with
Christ!--or the decades that Moses had with YAHWEH alone in the
sheep fields, day after day pondering and questioning and subduing his heart!
to cuddle up in His warmth and be lost in His grace and to stand at the
edge of that galaxy+ ocean of smiling and deep acceptance...to lay back
in a field and stare at his message in the stars and ask Him about each
one...to be overwhelmed by the how that strange thing called 'election'
broke into MY life and gathered me into His arms--trembling, ignorant,
unsure; but on a road to a certainty that defies everything the darkness
can throw at us...that touch of his attention, those eyes so deep, that
heart so steady and stable...
there are times in my life when He makes me stop all my activity and
makes me focus on a basic fact: His doesn't just want what I can do for
Him in the lives of others--He wants ME...if no one else in the world
existed, His grace and goodness and kind acts and openness to me would
not change...to Him, I am an 'end-point' in a process of love!
"To fear God and ENJOY Him forever..."
Remember the marriage contract in the OT? The newly married husband was
NOT allowed to go to war--but had to stay home and make his wife happy!
Deut. 24:5 If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.
Take advantage of your "honeymoon" period?
I grow impatient with the
Lord at times yet there is no other option. He holds my heart so steadfast
that I can go in no other direction. I am glad about that but it is very
frustrating at times. I am guessing that perhaps Paul's time in Arabia was
filled with this kind of pulverizing or tenderizing. I am finding that
positive thinking is not enough, I have to be so convinced of his love for
me every day. This is the only true grounds for dealing with failed
I have waited and waited and hoped and hoped and been crushed before
myself in these areas... I still struggle with it...and so my story follows:
i was saved in 1971, gave my life to the Lord in 1972, set out to be a
Christian professor in a secular university (they exert SUCH influence)
in my field of computer science...someone soon confronted me with the
option of ministry--since I was going to be studying all the time ANYWAY,
why not do it in an area I enjoyed more, like biblical and theological
so I set out to do so.. I was freshly married at the time, to a dear young
Christian girl who wanted to serve the lord with me...as FLA bible
college went by, and then Dallas Theo. Seminary, and then UD, our mutual
inability to overcome our past home legacies surfaced in our marriage...it
was barely held together during the end of seminary, and I avoided the
issues as long as I could...during this entire time I worked full-time,
did school full-time and was a full-time father to my kids (but not a very
good husband--my general lack of personal strength/skills/wisdom back
then was a killer). My 'career' goals changed quickly from pastoral to
academic; it seems clear to me that my interests and abilities were all in
that type of arena.
So as I graduated from seminary, I was primed for service:
marriage was failing, business was dying--as I plugged thru the first year
of doctoral studies, always knowing that God would not use me if I destroyed my
It was 1982 when I 'stopped' my education... I dropped out of school and
tried to focus on making the job work (which would help things at home, I
thought), and on making the marriage work--probably only because it was
NEEDED for a qualification for ministry in my sub-culture, and not
because it was precious and of worth in God's sight...
Well, I couldn't make it happen, and though my walk ever remained close,
my commitment firm, my hope unduly bright, I failed...
I was divorced in 1989, and knew it was coming for 4 years...
the nights I asked 'why'! what was the training for? what was the
MARRIAGE for?! why such torture and crushed expectations? (YOU still have
hope; the divorce killed mine--at least the stereotypical one)
Just to change MY thinking? could I ever believe that God
would use a failed man to represent him at all, in even the slightest
way? Even crumbs from the table?
Oh, I stand forgiven, and I cling to the Greek perfect tense of 'paid in full',
and I roll around in His acceptance, but I will always wrestle with the
'what I might have done for Him' if only I had been better or something...
and yet the faith in providence and the unexpected and the invisible
I don't understand, nor invest much time in TRYING to anymore...the
servant is not supposed to over-analyze decades old mistakes, but rather
get on to today's 'to do' list for the Master...
Now, to be quite frank, during that whole time I was learning that God
obviously viewed 'success' and 'output' and 'fruit' differently than we
humans... I often speculated that the seat 'next to him' that the mother
of Jas/john asked for, would NOT go to someone famous (e.g. Paul, David),
but perhaps to a single mom in outer Mongolia, whose life and words to
her kid and village MOST ACCURATELY displayed His character and obedience
to the Father...so 'output' in classical terms of vocational ministry, or
class size, or "heads led to the Lord' or whatever was really not an idol...
but there was still the question--why all the training [SEE POST-NOTE AT BOTTOM on this] and thinking and
apparent gifting? (in the sense of 1Cor. 4:7 For who makes you
different from anyone else? What do you have that
you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as
did not? )... I have always believed in His ability to turn cursing into
blessing, and more appropriately, bring life from death...where might I fit?
during this time, of course, He was making PROFOUND changes in my
theology--slow cooker style. I experienced so much of life, faced so many
questions, dealt with so much ordinary 'spam'...my Lord grew larger, and
more colorful, and with more blood in Him, more musically inclined; He
laughed more, He taught me the difference between holiness and
righteousness, He led me into fields of wonder and vast spaces of the
incomprehensible. He debunked so many Christian slogans and holy
one-liners and evangelical pat answers and 'techniques'--and left me
sitting, and quiet, and calm--in the throne-room of worship...
the mind kept cooking under His tutelage, and thru this painful field
trip...but to quote Packer: "But I have known God"!
He does seem to have carved His Son's character in me somewhat--I do
experience those situations in which we get feedback from those around
us, about some fruit of the spirit in our lives. and I do 'point' people
to Him, about one a year; and witness to business executives weekly in my
job--men/women who have not considered Christ since they were tiny. I
understand this somewhat...a 'calling' to an everyday life, but
interfacing with sharp, sharp people--and many with good, good
questions--but ALL with old, old needs...
and then there's my kids...incredible people all, but all with still that
borrowed faith/personal faith %mix of those raised in Christian
homes...all are comfortable with my incessant stream of Christian
'observations' and theological blathering and pattern correlation...they
smile and track and will be so far ahead of me in this beautiful
worldview--when THEY fall in love with the desire of the nations...and my
learning is not enough! the questions they ask, esp. the oldest, are NEW
and different and non-standard, and are being used of God to stretch me
even farther and see things 'farther out'...
and then there's the ThinkTank--the consumer of all I have ever read,
learned, questioned, feared...the place where the questions further
sculpt me and 'grind me up' draw me out to 'scary questions' long avoided, but which
teaches me that NO FEAR applies to the disciple of the God of Truth...the
crucible in which my worldview is becoming more articulate and fine-spun,
and its beauty and completeness becomes more obvious to me--to the praise
of the glory of His godhead!
I find myself telling this One in the mornings sometimes, "You really are
GOD--in all that means, in more than I could possibly pack into that
word, in the fullest meaning of that word--which only YOU know"...and
each day, with each experience, that word means MORE and BIGGER and
BETTER than it did the day before...
So, I still don't understand...but I see my life differently now... I enjoy
Him, I walk with Him, and serve Him in a couple of quiet areas: my little
Sunday school class, my job--with its many contacts, my kids, the
Thinktank. And, quite frankly, there's not any more time left in the week...
And I'm almost 45 years old. I am hurtling towards my meeting with Him,
and have honestly given up on getting the "well done, good and faithful
servant"...but I know grace...and know that He will affirm me, and focus
on the little that I DID accomplish for Him, and wipe away these tears of
frustration and grief over lost opportunities, and quickly--very
quickly--get through with my 'mgt. review' (Rom 14:12) and begin showing me
the place he build for me (John 14)...such love!
so I forget the things behind, and reach forward toward the things to
come...I ask each day what the action items are.. I keep short accounts
with my family, in case He comes to meet me, or calls me to meet
Him...and review EACH NIGHT in detail (in my journal) "What I did for the
Kingdom today"--(hopefully He will let me use this audit trail in my
'accounting session' since my memory is so bad)...
Our situations are obviously different, but our questions and frustrations
are no doubt similar...
You know the drill...and it will no doubt happen to you and I again...and
again...and again...in His process of transforming us into the incredibly
subservient and obedient character of the God-man in Gethsemane!
POST-NOTE 2023 on "why all the training for a vocational ministry I never attained??":
I had avoided asking this question too often / too forcefully of myself for years, but this hit me right between the eyes--painfully and devastatingly--in a scene from a children's movie I was watching with my kids when they were small.
One of the early movies--maybe the first?--in the Toy Story series, has the Buzz Lightyear character. He is filled with optimism and enthusiasm and self-confidence, since he is proud to be (uniquely in the movie) WONDEROUSLY ABLE TO FLY.
The cowboy-type toy Woody tries gently to convince him that he really CANNOT fly--that he is 'only' a regular toy like all of them, but Buzz will not listen. He jumps off some high point, and claims that he 'flew' upon gracefully landing on the ground floor. He gives that as evidence of his flying ability, which Woody called 'falling gracefully' (instead of flying).
Buzz continues with this optimism and self-confidence in his abilities, until one day there is a commercial on the television, featuring rows and rows of Buzz Lightyear action figures in some store. He is so exhilarated by seeing all these, but at the end of the commercial, the TV screen shows a big written message "NOT A FLYING TOY".
Buzz is predictably shocked, devastated, and spirals into deep depression and despair. He is not what he thought he was. His identity has been destroyed...
And at this point, you hear him soul-searching himself TO himself with the phrase that CRATERED ME at that moment DEEPLY--"but all those years at the academy...?"
I felt that--and feel that NOW AS I WRITE THIS in 2023...
God has invested in my rescued life, and I trust that the 'amount expected' (produced by His grace-work in my life) will match HIS ESTIMATE
of the 'amount given'... Luke 12:48...