Sunday, January 1, 2012

Blessed or Cursed?

Christmas is over and people are returning to stores, exchanging gifts or taking advantage of after- Christmas sales. Dads and moms are turning their focus to packing up the tree, lights, wrapping paper, and tinsel for next year before the New Year’s regular pace resumes. What an incredible time of the year to savor moments with family and loved ones we hold dear to our hearts!

At the turn of a New Year, I find myself thinking about what the twelve months ahead hold and all that I want to accomplish. While pondering where I am in life and experiences of the past, a thought surfaces: “Aren’t the times we think are the most cursed, truly the most blessed?”

Think about it…

That’s what I’ve been doing today, and that thought comes back to me…repeatedly.

I still remember being fresh out of college, with absolutely no experience one would deem necessary for youth ministry. Full-time ministry, in a downtown church in Canton, OH, was a struggle after leaving the close friendships of college life. I learned to be faithful to what I sensed God wanted me to do, though much of the time it felt very unpopular. When you lead in any endeavor, it can be challenging to filter out the brashest voices of disapproval. And for the next two years, I prayed for God to help me to love the battle. But when I announced my resignation after two years to pursue a ministerial education, it amazed me that the youth I served showed brokenness at my parting.  Could I have been a blessing amidst days that I thought and felt were an absolute curse in my life? Nothing against some of the great people I was serving and with whom I served! My eyes failed me in seeing what God was accomplishing amidst the personal pain of dealing with the pressures of youth ministry.

Later, my pilgrimage led me into international missions where I served in Mexico for a few years as a single missionary. It was faith-forming to trust in Biblical promises that I tried to apply to my life, when I couldn’t figure out why an “all powerful” God wouldn’t see my need for close companionship. I was so thankful for a buddy who gave me a calling card to make the thousand plus miles disappear, at least a little, when I called my parents or other close friends. At the time, it was a trying existence as I struggled to communicate in Spanish, with ease, from my heart. Opportunities for deep relationships that could lead to a marriage were unavailable. The loneliness of those years, when I wasn’t able to talk to people in my heart language, wasn’t what I’d describe as healthy. The situation left me void of sensing blessings that were obvious. But, in our weakness, God is strong! I’m still in touch with many of the youth I served in that church in Irapuato, a city of central Mexico, and it still thrives as a place where lives are encouraged and transformed. Since I experienced a prolonged singleness, it gave me backbone for waiting in other seasons of my life. Humiliating experiences outside of my own comfort zone have provided backbone to endure through subsequent challenges. So, was all that I experienced a curse or a blessing?

At present, I’m a stay at home, full-time father. Friends with career success have told me that I’m in a privileged position. Most would consider a season of life without employment that shoulders the bulk of the bills in a household, a curse. The obvious blessing is that my wife has a job that cares for the financial obligations. We’ve learned to live at a much simpler level and practice thriftiness. We plan to invest and give at higher levels when greater employment opportunity comes along. Paramount in all of this -- I’m sensing I TRULY am blessed. I’m beginning to give up my angst about professional development and surrender fretting about the unemployment to God. After all, I’ve heard that He works for my good, and HE makes even what you or I might consider to be a curse, an incredible blessing. Looking forward to 2012!

Convinced -- that if I prevail, in faith, through the seemingly unfortunate experiences of life, even greater benefits await me on the other side. The greater the misfortune is felt, the greater the chance that perseverance in faith can turn the season into unimaginable blessings.

Do you feel cursed? It may be the door to your greatest blessing.

Romans 8:28  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

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