Just a few weeks ago, I took the pic above when I found myself sitting in a blue and orange tin can, flying 400 mph through the atmosphere, 40,000 feet above the soil of America. Below me, the Blue Ridge mountains came rolling in like waves on the ocean. Behind me, the great midsection of our country sprawled west toward the Rockies and, more meaningfully to me, toward my wife and kids back in Oklahoma City.
Ahead of me lay Raleigh, the city I never thought I’d leave, and the prospects of a 26 foot rental truck soon to be crammed to the roof with all our worldly belongings. After 11 months of waiting, after 9 months of “living in tents”, I was on my way to bring the things that make a house a home across 1200 miles to my family.
It’s hard to believe the day had come. I found myself tempted to ask the nice lady next to me on the plane to pinch me…but decided that might stir up a confrontation with the Air Marshall, and who needed that?
After all that time spent waiting and praying, the ball started rolling really quick. Three weeks prior to this trip, I was still jobless, and we were struggling mightily to understand why God brought us out of all we knew and loved and into a completely new place. I was personally in the throes of doubt and despair. I was tempted to throw in the towel, load up the cars, and head back.
What was going on? Had I really heard from God? Was I really supposed to step down from my position as worship pastor, sell our home, and move halfway across the country? Did any of this make sense to anyone? Hello? God? Can you hear me? Are you listening?
That despair reached a fever pitch one Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Sometime in the middle of that night, I awoke and couldn’t go back to sleep. I tossed and turned for a while, resisted the urge to turn on my iPhone, and finally began to pray. “Lord, how long? I’ve tried the best I know to be obedient to the call You issued. We’ve left it all, gone west, and have waited (for what seemed like a lot longer than it was). Can you please do something? Can you please give me the next step? Just the next step Lord. That’s all I need.”
And I fell back asleep. I awoke and started going through the motions of another day.
And then, I got a phone call.
It happened as I was on my way out the door to have lunch with one of our pastors. I have to say how thankful I am for our church, Frontline, and how the leaders there have come alongside us, encouraged us, and poured into us on this journey. I really can’t say enough about them, and how God has used them in our lives…but I digress.
The phone call was from a friend of mine with whom I had linked up with when we moved back in April. Through a mutual friend in NC, we met years ago and had been reintroduced to one another all the way out in Oklahoma. This was also the same friend who hired me to do some carpentry work on his house. When I answered, Jason asked me what I was doing. I told him I was heading to lunch with one of our pastors. He said he didn’t want to keep me, but he wanted to know if I’d be interested in going to work for his company.
I was taken aback, pretty much like I’d been punched in the gut. Could this be happening? Really? I knew that Jason, who was hesitant to ask me to do work on his house for fear of getting in the way of what God was doing in our lives, wouldn’t ask me this question without some serious prayer first. So, after composing myself, I asked him if I could call him back later to talk more, then I hung up and headed out the door to meet our pastor, feeling pretty dazed and confused.
Chad and I met at a local Mexican restaurant (I know…what a shocker), and sat down to good food and good conversation. Though he had been at our church for a few months and I’d heard him preach several times, this was the first time we had met. Some mutual friends said we needed to get together and talk, which precipitated our meeting that day. I decided not to mention the job offer, and just see where our conversation headed.
It was a great time of good food, but of even better conversation. Ironically, we both had just moved back to Yukon, our childhood hometown, after being led by the Holy Spirit from positions in our respective churches and being called out to something else. The big difference being Chad knew he was called back to plant a church, while I still didn’t know what God had called us here for, besides the very clear purpose of being remade, reformed, and rebuilt, and renewed.
As we talked, the conversation led to calling and ministry. He reminded me that the greatest calling a man can ever have is to serve Jesus by loving his family and pouring into them. THAT is a ministry every husband and father is called to, though we often neglect it for what we think are “bigger” things. And yet, if a man doesn’t rule his own house well (and I don’t think that’s just talking disciplining your kids), how can he lead the church? Then Chad looked at me and said “Matt, you’re going to be doing ministry wherever the Lord puts you, with whomever He puts in your path.” God may call me to some type of “full time” ministry again, but it was obvious that those doors hadn’t opened yet. So the call right now was to simply go and do whatever I find to do, and do it for Jesus.
Dude…I just sat there for a moment, thanked him for his words, and then told him about the job offer. He smiled, shook his head and said, “Tell me that doesn’t sound like God connecting dots.”
Long story a tiny bit shorter, I called Jason, my friend, and told him I was definitely interested, but asked if I could have a week to pray about it and talk to Amanda (who was out of town visiting family and friends back in NC). Obviously, we ended up in agreement that this was the direction we were supposed to head, and I took the job.
So now I’m learning how to do communications for the oil and gas industry. To say it’s an adjustment would be an understatement! It’s like drinking from a firehose! And yet I go to work every day in the beautiful (and far more topographically varied than you imagine it to be) state of Oklahoma. I work with a small crew of really good guys, and we’ve already had quite a few “wading pool” conversations on the job site.
That’s something I’ve learned (or maybe re-learned) this year. Ministry doesn’t always take the shape you imagine. It’s not just for pastors, and it doesn’t just happen inside a church. In fact, it happens MOSTLY outside the doors of our churches: in our homes, our streets, and our jobs. It’s for all followers of Jesus, you and me included. As a Christian, I’m called to be on mission, telling others about the Hope I have found in Jesus…regardless of what I do to earn my wages.
And if I don’t start with it at home, it’s never going to translate into the workplace.
So on the cusp of giving up, right at the 11th hour, God showed up. It didn’t look how I imagined it. It isn’t the way I planned it, but it is, like so many other things on this journey, undoubtedly a God-thing. It is, in fact, the next step.
On the day I went to pick up my work truck and gear, my daughter Hannah rode along with me. If you know her, you know she’s quite the old soul, with wisdom beyond her years percolating within. She was sitting quietly beside me as we drove until she looked at me and said, “Dad, you know, if you’d never met Uncle E (one of my oldest friends back in NC, and the mutual friend my now boss and I shared), you’d have never met Mr. Jason, and you wouldn’t have this job.”
Indeed, my dear.
Now THAT’S connecting the dots.