Yes, everyone is tired of the hot mess that is 2020. Our family feels like we have been living here since 2018, and the rest of you are just catching up to us!
If you think 2020 is awful, think about this. What if you started it two years earlier than everyone else?
Our family entered this nightmarish scene more than two years ago. At the end of 2018, we said, “Well, 2019 HAS to be better.” Apparently, it doesn’t.
At the end of 2019, we said, “Well, we made it through that. 2020 HAS to be better.” Apparently, it doesn’t. Honestly, what could be more 2020 than thinking this year would make things better?
Lost loved ones. Lost jobs. Lost friendships. Lost relationships with family. Lost churches and church family. Not to mention lockdowns, concussions, unemployment, and the general challenge of trying to figure out where the Spirit is leading next.
And oh yeah, COVID-19.
We have seen all of these play out in our family in a variety of ways over the last 2+ years, and we are more than ready for an end. As my wife Tracy says, “I’m ready for some precedented and unchallenging times!” (We’re semi-optimistic, but not holding our breath).
Everything since January 2018 is kind of like that roller coaster ride at the amusement part—the big, old, wooden style. You look at it and think, “That looks like fun. And of course it has to be safe, right?”
About two-thirds of the way down the first hill, with your rear end flying off the seat, you start thinking, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” In turn #3, as the old metal security bar with duct tape on it (always a reassuring sign) smashes into your hip while the G-force hurls the unknown person beside you flush up against your body, you start looking for the end of this fresh hell that you chose to begin.
But you cannot find the ending. Surely these small hills in front of you won’t be so bad, right? Except they maul your already-queasy intestines and shake you around like you’re in the spin cycle of an old washing machine.
Finally, the end does come. And an hour or so later, after your innards start to reconnect and settle back into place, you suddenly think, “Hey, can we ride that again?”
Not this time. I am no longer choosing to get back on the roller coaster. I will gladly stay on the nice, slow train that rides around the gut-wrenching rides.
Back to School
Yesterday, I started a new job as Director of the Christian Education & Leadership Program (CELP) at Limestone University. I will also serve as University Chaplain. Working with students. Teaching classes. Preaching in local churches (as the opportunities arise). I am ecstatic to be back on campus again.
It was always a dream to teach and work in a University setting. I had that opportunity once but had to step away to answer a different calling. That move was not even a roller coaster. It was the old school Tilt-a-Whirl ride at the county fair, run by a guy who enjoyed watching everyone get sick.
(And yes, I have literally experienced that one as well).
Being back on a campus leads me to be exceptionally grateful for a second chance to answer a call that I have felt since I was in college myself. It is hard to imagine that I will get a third chance, so we want to make this one count–for a very long time.
Can we make that happen? Who knows? Life itself is a crazy ride. It is impossible to see the next hill, curve, or spin that is coming, much less know for sure the direction of the Spirit of God. Quite often, we discern God’s direction in the middle of the ride—which is part of why it is exciting to get on in the first place.
For now, we are simply grateful. It sounds cliched and trite, but it is real nonetheless.
Living without a Livelihood
I took my first job at 13 years old and never faced unemployment. I have now been unemployed twice within the last 18 months. It is disheartening and debilitating, particularly considering the way it happened and the work that I was doing.
Even now, I remain amazed and disappointed at the tendency of ethically sourced organizations with elaborate mission statements about acting graciously to act so unethically and ungraciously towards their employees.
Through it all, I have yet to go without a paycheck or unemployment. And I have landed in jobs better suited for my skills and calling to serve as a minister of the Gospel. I have no idea why this is, which is part of the reason that I am humbled by it. It is certainly unearned and undeserved.
I also hope, against all odds, that our legislators and current President will come to their senses and discover some level of empathy towards those who are not so fortunate. Too many people are hurting to spend time quibbling and nominating while we ignore the downward spiral of people left out in the cold by this pandemic. And it is going to get much colder much sooner without definitive action.
As for our family, we seek to show our humility and gratitude by reaching out to those still struggling. I have also learned to appreciate the opportunity at hand while I have it. I am thrilled to be working with students once again, in a faith-based setting. It is my ongoing belief that we do for others and serve others because of the Gospel, not despite it.
No matter where the ride takes us next, I fully intend to appreciate the one we are on right now, whether it is thrilling or boring or bumpy or even a little bit nauseating.
But we are hoping for just a little bit of calm amid the storm of 2020, at least from a vocational standpoint.
I must also express my love and appreciation to so many of you who have lifted my heart and my spirit in the last two years. No one stands out above my wife Tracy, whose patience and faithfulness are difficult to fathom–a blessing that defies description.
This further extends to all of you—former church members, family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, mentors, and pastors. Christ has worked through you to lift me up from some of the lowest points of my life.
-Appreciate the present rather than looking so hard to an unknown future.
-Make Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” your theme song. “I get knocked down, but I get up again, and they’re never gonna keep me down…”
-A lot of other people have it way tougher than I do—and way tougher than I ever have. Be grateful, be gracious, and be giving.
-Ask “Why me?” about everything you receive—both good and bad.
-Struggling and persevering in faith do not always give you the result you want. But sometimes they get you what you need.
-Life may lead you to many callings, not just one. Appreciate all of them.
Christ has lifted me once again to this new opportunity at Limestone. It is my intention to take full advantage of this, and to enjoy the ride—no matter how large the hills and valleys might be.
This time, I hope to stay in one place for a long, long time. But whatever happens, we will roll with it. Up and down and back up the hill again.