Three weeks ago today, I hit rock-bottom emotionally. We had just passed a year on our little journey into the unknown, and while many answers had been given, we were still playing the “waiting” game. We had been in Oklahoma since Easter. We had found an incredible church, were enjoying time as a family and with our extended family here, but a job was still proving elusive.
I played the Linked-In game, the Monster job search game, the send-out-your-resume’ game, but nothing seemed to be working. The hardest rejection came not from a person, but from the Lord. The interview process for what seemed like a “God-thing” job was going so well, but then the Lord quite clearly told me “No…sit, wait, and heal.”
And the months went by.
Which brings us to three Saturdays ago. Amanda and I were sitting on my sister’s back porch enjoying our morning cup of coffee and reading our Bibles (this has become a staple for us this summer, and are again so very thankful to my sister and brother-in-law for putting our crew up and encouraging us to continue to seek the Lord). As we talked about what we were reading, and what was going on in our lives, something broke in me. I don’t know what it was, but something Amanda said burst the dam within, and the tears began to roll. I felt completely overwhelmed, completely inept, completely…broken.
“Why did You bring us here, Lord?! Why are you keeping me from getting a job?! Why aren’t the answers we sought forthcoming? Why has the Word seem to dry up like the Mojave Desert of late? Could You give us something, anything…some clue as to what to do next?!!”
There was no answer, save for the touch of my wife’s hand on my shoulder, and her head laid against mine. We sat there for a bit, not saying anything.
And then we got up. Isn’t that how it always is? Life happens. Things to do, places to go, people to see. Sometimes, the only option available is to get up and face whatever the day holds, right?
Well, this day held coffee with some good friends. In the midst of this crazy season of change, one thing I’ve become ever-so-thankful for is the precious gift of fellowship with friends and family. On this particular day, we were meeting a couple that we had NC-ties to in a little town north of Oklahoma City. As we sat huddled over our respective cups of coffee (really good coffee, btw), I shared how things were going for us.
We then drove out to check on their progress on the home they’re building outside of town. As we walked around, my friend shared how his work was keeping him too busy to get much done on the house, since they’re doing as much of the work as possible on their own. He then asked me a question that hit me right between the eyes:
“Would you be willing to come out and do some of the work?”
WHAT? Did he just ask what I thought he asked? Did he just offer me a job? Wait…Lord, can I take this one? Is it ok? And while I didn’t hear an audible voice, I felt the gentle release that, yes, this was ok to take. I told him I would be glad to help them out in any way I could!
When we got back in the car to drive home, Amanda said, “Matt, I prayed this morning that the Lord would give you something today to lift your head.” Boy, did He ever. To say I was overjoyed would be a considerable understatement. For the first time in 9 months, I would be working again.
Many days, I’d find myself talking to God about how I needed a job to provide for my family, only to hear the still-small-voice say “You don’t provide for them…I do…sometimes I just use you as the means.”
And while this type of work wasn’t what I had in mind at this stage in life, I can tell you it is exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.
That first week back, it took the kids a few days to adjust to dad being gone all day. Over the past 9 months I’ve been there every morning when they got up, and could spend pretty much every day with them. My boy, in particular, wasn’t sure how to handle the change at first. However, by the end of that first week, Amanda told me it felt like as close as we’d come to normal in a long time. And making a bank deposit instead of a withdrawal for the first time in a long while wasn’t too bad either.
For me, there was an incredible sense of joy in just being able to feel useful again. I remember watching some friends go through being unemployed over the years, and while I always felt for them, I couldn’t really grasp what they were dealing with. I can now. For a man, there is a need to work, to do something, to feel like you’re useful.
Before you get on me about being useful at home to my family, trust me, I’m thankful for that opportunity! I’m not talking about getting my identity from my job (that’s another post for another day), but rather the feeling that comes from an honest day’s work, the feeling of being bone tired at the end of a long, hot day…but knowing you did something with that day.
Most days, I was cutting and putting up shiplap, that “Fixer Upper” staple that my friends were using in lieu of sheetrock in their new home. I’m dreaming in shiplap right now, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity of measuring, cutting, and nailing up piece after piece. As I finished each room or section, it felt good to go “I did that.”
It felt really good.
Now many of you may read this and be unimpressed. Some may even scoff at it a little. “A former pastor now doing carpentry work? Hmmmmm…he must have missed it.” I must admit, I came out here with sights aimed higher than being self-employed doing carpentry, but as we’ve said through this entire endeavor, God’s ways are not our ways.
He has told me, repeatedly, to sit, wait and heal. In many ways, I believe the past nine months have been a sabbath year for me (it would have been my seventh year on staff at church back in NC). The Lord took me out, sat me down, gave me rest and time with my family…all things that were prayers I found myself writing in my journal over the previous year. God just didn’t answer them in the way I pictured: no job, no home, dependent on His provision and the hospitality of family.
He has now allowed me the opportunity to work, and He has begun to open other doors in the same field, too. The tendency for me is to project this out to “THE job” and put all my eggs in this basket, and He hasn’t told me that. All I know is it’s what I’m to do now…but tomorrow, a week, a month or two away? Only He knows. Like everything on this journey, this is the next step for us right now.
And this is a baby step in the long march back to “normal.”