This post is long overdue. It’s been on my heart for awhile to detail one of the most amazing months of my life, not that it always appeared that way.
On Friday (July 31) we had an emergency meeting at work, where it was announced that the company had run out of funds and had failed to procure a loan to keep us a float long enough for more to come in. My former employers were forced to lay off probably 80% of the workforce (about 25 people). To say the least it hit some of us pretty hard. It’s hard to say goodbye to people you have battled impossible deadlines with or stayed up all night at work with to fix a bug or a problem for a customer. What made it worse was that we were so very close to having a shippable new product that would have brought in quite a bit of new business. Despite our hard work and dedication it was hard not to walk with a sense of failure. But the overwhelming feeling was fear and not failure, walking into the unknown can be a scary thing for some. For me though I only saw this as an opportunity, an opportunity for God to do something awesome in my life.
The next day (August 1st) two very interesting things from God began in my life. The first was discipleship with a great group of men, we started studying a book by Seth Barnes the Art of Listening to God. Their prayers and encouraging words (and those of my church family) kept me anchored in the Lord during a time when many drift away into despair and fear.
The second was the beginning of a week in the Florida keys with the rest of my church that we had been looking forward to, we were expecting to meet God in new ways, a time of separating our selves out from the rest of the world and seeking after Him.
The devil intended this lay-off to be a distraction during the week we were there, something for me to be constantly worried about. But God used it for the exact opposite getting laid off released a huge burden off my life and allowed me undistributed time with Him. Typically when I’m in prayer time or bible study time I allow problems at work or a pending deadline distract me from hearing God’s voice, but this week was different only a few fleeting thoughts of worry for my friends and former colleagues crossed my mind. I was able to experience God in a whole new way over that week. Taking time each morning to separate myself and open my ears to hear the Lord’s voice is something that I carried with me throughout the whole time I was unemployed. Keeping close to God with open ears and an open heart is the best way to spend time.
Here’s what God spoke to me:
Day 1: This day was a real struggle for me to hear God’s voice, the distractions of being in a house with 40 people really got to me and I allowed the devil to rob me of my alone time with God. I also struggled with trying to figure out what my original motive for being in the keys was, was it fun, to please my wife, or was I really there to seek after God with my whole heart. The prayer of my heart ended up asking God to forgive me if my original intentions were not right, and thanking him for forgetting that and starting me a fresh with new intentions that were pleasing to him.
Day 2: This day was much better, God helped me to wake up early before the rest of the house, and I was able to go out by the water to sit and enjoy my time with him in peace and quiet. What God and I talked about were expectations, the day before my wife and I had wrestled with the issue. She had the expectation that I would come and talk with her before I ran off to some adventure (such as going for a ride in the boat or going fishing) it wasn’t an expectation I was aware of until that moment. I felt the Lord saying pretty much the same thing back to me, that just as my relationship with my wife comes with certain expectations when it comes to communication my relationship with Jesus has some expectations, to ask him what should I be doing or what are you trying to tell me.
Day 3: The message I felt God communicated with me on this day was that, if I would put my heart before him, my walk with him, my hunger for him, my ability to hear his voice, and etc would all grow. I’m not sure if that made sense on this day, but it certainly made sense on day 4 (and it was nice to look back in my journal on day 4 and see it, lol I might get used to this journaling thing yet).
Day 4: Was an interesting day. This ended up being on Friday Aug 7 for me. The same day that our group went down to the ocean to be baptized. It really was the exclamation mark on the whole week of studying God’s word, hearing his voice, and just spending time in his presence. Prior to the baptism, I got up nice and early to spend my personal time with Jesus. The day’s lesson was about pursuing God with all my heart, and like I said that really reminded me of what God had told me on day 3. But I really struggled with understanding what it all meant, and my cry/prayer to God was to soften my heart. I feel like I’ve built up emotional protectors around my heart which might make me feel more secure from ever being hurt emotionally, which it doesn’t, all it really does is hinder me from feeling the emotions that I should feel and being able to express those emotions, love for God as an example. So writing my love letter to God was certainly a challenge, but I pressed on and just kept writing till I got to the end. As I was closing the letter I felt led to write “Love, Your Son Andy” something I never would have thought to write on my own.
A couple hours later my wife and I went out together to be baptized, to recommit our lives to God, to leave behind the junk that we had accumulated over the past year or so, to be reborn fresh in the Holy Spirit. As we walked I to prayed that the old me, the fearful, doubting, quiet, people pleasing, person would be left dead in the water and only the new Christ focused man would come up out of the water. It was amazing, when we reached where our Pastors were standing in the water, I could smell the anointing oil, and feel God’s presence. As I went under God reminded me of something, that when my Father had died I promised him that I would begin to live the life he had always wanted me to live to be the man that he wanted me to be, beginning with turning back to God. God was saying to me that it was time to start living as my life as the man my heavenly Father wanted me to be. It’s funny how God brought these words back to me on the side of snowy mountain, such extremes. Which tied back the way he led me to sign the letter (awesome right?). So now that’s the promise that I am living under, my promise to live my life as God wants me to live it. I no longer have a relationship for the sake of my father or my wife, but one that’s personal.
After coming back from that week on the beach, life wasn’t easy. I struggled at times with doubt, but God held on tight to me. It’s funny how at times we think we are holding on to God, but it’s really he that holds on to us. I didn’t have to wait long, it was almost a month to the day when I got another job. He has blessed me so much.
I’m really just so thankful that Jesus, loves me and wants to communicate with me. And he’s working with me and growing inside of me a wonderful and eternal relationship with him. I pray that this coming week is an awesome time with our savior learning more about him and hearing his voice even better. I know that God has something awesome planned for me, it’s all in his timing for his glory!
I was 13 or 14 when I had this horrible dream that my whole family was leaving on a train, and I was there at the station pleading with them not to go, not to leave me behind. That was when I found out that I talk in my sleep. Apparently the other 40 or so boys who were sleeping in the gym that night heard me crying out the same thing I was saying in my dream “Don’t leave me!”.
Almost a full ten years later on a hike with other men, did I ever experience such fear of being alone. The hike started of pretty good, through the first quarter mile or so I was really excited. After that I realized that the whole trip would be like walking up stairs with a heavy pack on my back. After awhile our group split up into two smaller groups. I tried to keep up with the leaders, but eventually I felt the need to stop and not wanting to slow down the others I let them go ahead figuring I would just take my time and wait for the group behind me to catch up. Hopefully saving some energy for the next day that I knew would be grueling. Eventually the trail let me to a fork, and not sure which way to go I had to wait for group behind me.
After waiting fifteen or so minutes I began to notice that my sweat was condensing, and that I was really starting to get cold. It’s at this point that the devil starts whispering in my ear, reminding me that people had died on this mountain, and that I was in danger of the same. I began to pray.
Thirty minutes of standing alone on the trail, I pulled out my cell phone, but found that I couldn’t get any reception, and I start to shiver. How much longer till dark? How long till I’m really in trouble? The other group should be here by now, did they go a different way or worse are they lost? I could just pick a direction, but I risked going the wrong way and then I’d really be in trouble because if it was the wrong way it would take exponentially longer for anyone who might be looking for me to find me. The best plan for me was to stay put, and continue to pray.
At forty-five minutes my faith wavered, and I picked a direction. I hiked for a few minutes on the trail, but didn’t feel good about it. So I started to hike back to my waiting spot. On the way back I decided to try my phone again. That’s when God provided a miracle, I suddenly had cell reception and used the opportunity to call everyone on the cell phone list. Through my chattering teeth I was able to leave a few voice mails asking for help. No sooner had I set down my phone than it rang, one of the guys on the hike was calling me back, to tell me that help was on the way. A few minutes later back at the place I had been waiting before, help arrived from the opposite way I had been trying to go just a few minutes ago. As I hiked to camp, God started talking to me about his role as my heavenly Father, about his faithfulness, and about him never leaving me alone. It was through trial that my view of God as my heavenly Father grew from head knowledge to heart knowledge. I was safe (not that I was ever in any real danger, the devil is a liar) for the moment, but God wasn’t done teaching me and setting me free from my fear of abandonment.
Our trip was all but over, all that was left to do was shower and hop on a plane. The shower felt great, it had been three long days since my last one, and I was savoring every hot drop of water the devil began to whisper in my ear. Insecurities began to surface out of no where, doubts about the newly formed friendships popped into my head like popcorn. I began to wonder what they were talking about while I was out of the room, were they all agreeing that I was really strange and couldn’t wait till I was gone? It’s silly to think about now, but the devil wanted to rob me of any kind of good this trip had been to build me up as the man my heavenly Father wants me to be. But I had learned and grown during the trip, and I began to question the reason behind those feelings (thanks Scott and Seth :)). As I dug I found that my real wasn’t that I didn’t fit in but rather my fear that a group of men I had become really close to would suddenly abandon me. As I thought about that I was reminded of my time alone on the mountain and of my Father in heaven who would never abandon me. It was then that something in me changed and I began to grow, the doubts and fears melted away in the light of the truth.
I still have a long way to go to be the man God has destined for me to become, but I know now that I don’t have to do this journey alone, regardless of how the devil describes my situation.