A couple of weeks ago I was in the process of filling out an application for 20:20, a ministry program offered through Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham. No, I don’t know that I want to be a Pastor…but then again, I’m not sure that I don’t want to be one, either! I’ve felt for some time now that if nothing else, this program would better prepare me to serve others, so I thought “Why not?”
Is there anything in your life that might come up as a questionable issue? If yes, please explain.
That was the first question on the application of any consequence. (Those prior to this one dealt with basic information, church history, and work history.) I quickly rifled through the first fifty-six years of my life…no murders, thefts, expulsions, or felonies. Not even a misdemeanor! As I moved the cursor on my laptop to the box marked NO, I paused for a moment, then checked the box marked YES, and explained…
At the age of 21 I made an error in judgment and asked the wrong person to spend her life with me. Fifteen years and two children later, the marriage ended in divorce. Does that fall within the realm of “questionable”?
Do you or have you ever smoked? If yes, please explain.
Yes. But by the grace of God I quit smoking six years ago.
Do you or have you ever consumed alcoholic beverages? If yes, please explain.
Yes. In college I was a heavy drinker. Now, I’ll have a drink or two in social settings.
Do you or have you ever used any illegal drugs? If yes, please explain.
Yes. I was in high school and college in the late 60’s and early 70’s (the Stone-d Age in Birmingham). In my late teens and as a young adult I dabbled in several illegal drugs, but it’s been years since I’ve done anything.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony? If yes, please explain.
NO! Thank God. I finally get to respond NO! I’m not a felon!
Okay, I have to admit that this really wasn’t my answer…I mean, I’m not a felon, and I’m glad of that. It’s just that I was embarrassed about all the yes responses, and by that point I was grateful to be able to say no to anything!
My euphoria quickly turned to sadness when I realized that my answers may preclude my enrollment in the 20:20 program.
A different perspective…
Being the eternal optimist, I closed my eyes and mentally searched for one nugget of “awesome” amidst the pile of rubble…because I believe that something good comes from every bad situation. I needed to take a step back and to the right, and look at my application with a fresh set of eyes. If I looked hard enough, I’d find that nugget.
I found TWO!
God has been with me through all the crap that I’ve waded through in my life. I’m reminded of the poem “Footprints in The Sand”…you know, the one about the guy that complained to God that there had many times in his life when he felt that God had left his side? That he had been alone on his journey because his footsteps were the only ones on the beach, only to realize that the single footprints were of God carrying him? If you haven’t read it, I strongly urge you to do so; it’ll be worth your while.
What I’m trying to say is this: It’s no coincidence that I survived smoking, alcohol, drugs, and a failed marriage. And if you’ve read our “story” (see the page A Seed Was Planted), you know that it was no coincidence that I was able to change the dynamics in my life in August of 2005. I survived, and persevered, and changed because that was God’s plan for me. And all those times when that I didn’t have the “right stuff”, He just picked me up in His arms and carried me! He still does on those occasions when I’m too weak to do it on my own.
I’ve come to realize that while I may not be qualified to be a Pastor, I can offer counsel to others in broken relationships, smoking, alcohol, and drugs. I can be an example of what you can accomplish in your life if you will make a commitment to change, using your God-given talents. I can be a channel of His peace, a carrier of His Word, and a source of His light, simply by sharing the news of what He has done for me. And I can be a witness to God’s almighty power, the grace given to us by His Son Jesus, and the amazing gifts bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit!
The Bottom Line…
Here’s the thing…we all have things that we’ve done in the past, things that we may be ashamed of. What’s most important is not that we made mistakes, but that we learned from those mistakes. And that we pass what we’ve learned along to our kids, friends, colleagues, and anyone else that may benefit from our experiences. I believe that this too is part of God’s plan for us. Don’t walk in shame because of what is in your past. Walk instead in gratitude that He carried you through those tough times, that you learned from your mistakes, and that your past is exactly that!
See you next week!