The Day God Answered my Prayer….
While driving down to Indiana to unleash a surprise party for Linda, I did what I normally do on long trips. Power up the mp3 player and put the headphones on to block out all the noise in the vehicle. It is during trips like this one where I do the majority of my regrouping and reflection. I’m removed from everyday life and able to objectively reflect on decisions in my life. This time was a bit different. This time I was listening to CTGS Praise Band music and I for some reason my reflecting went back to the beginning. This was the second time in about a month. The first time was a visit home at which I saw friends and former schools and home church I used to attend.
Deep in thought about all these decisions I became stuck on one decision that I had neglected to make out of fear of the consequences in life. While stuck on this one decision that has come up numerous times in my life, a song came on the mp3 player. The song is “I Can Only Imagine”, a song that strikes right at my soul each time I hear it. I played the track several times, which isn’t an out of ordinary thing for me to do. However, after 5 times and then putting it on repeat should have been a clue I was in for some really deep thought.
Usually, repeating a song would cause me to block everything out and simply focus in on the task at hand, which at the time should have been driving. Oops. Nevertheless, I go back to the early ages and I see all the adults in my life firmly grounded in the Word. So much so, they made the necessary sacrifices for my sister and I to attend the local private school. The benefits of lower teacher to student ratios were imperative in my parent’s decision. I think the aspect of being taught about God and all his Glory daily was huge. I remember it being a joy and honor when asked to participate in the services at the church associated with the school on Sundays. As I recall each teacher in each grade offered something to my life training that I would only come to understand later in life. Weekends were the times early on in life that I would go to church with family. Sunday school was something I always looked forward, it meant going to church learning more about God and the all his love towards us throughout time. Later, as I look back it was also a time to see a family influence working in the churches frame work as vessels of God’s Word.
I fast forward to Confirmation classes, those 1-2 hour classes on Saturday mornings with eight of us learn about being a Christian and basics of Lutheran Doctrine. What a learning experience and fun time that turned out to be. During this time my father had become more active in the church for about 1-2 years in the church leadership and choir. Following his lead, I strived to do the same thing he was doing, but with the Youth Group. It was during this time I saw my fathers love for God begin to become unleashed. When the head of the family sets the example, it simply spreads throughout the family. During the year of confirmation, I was asked to acolyte during church. I explain the honor and privilege to be on the altar and serve in that capacity of the worship service. Whenever possible from that point on I was on the altar and/or singing in the choir. However, I could serve the Lord, which is all I wanted to do.
When it became time to choose a high school against my parents wishes I went with the school where I saw the most prestige and where my current classmates would most likely be attending. Little did I know that things wouldn’t work out that way. It just wasn’t the right fit for me and where I was going in life. Sophomore year I transferred to Lutheran HS East where a number of my church friends were attending school. While I didn’t fit in initially (new kid in all) I felt at home. We had Religion class Monday through Friday and if memory serves me correct we spent the second semester on the 4 Gospels rapped into one study. The biggest thing I took away from that time was over the discussion of Baptism. Was I part of his kingdom by not being baptized up until that point? What would happen if I dropped dead in the next minute? For those you following along you see, I had already been confirmed, but had yet to be baptized. I guess it is like my mother said, “You always have to do things the hard way.” So, in Sunday April 4, 2002 I couldn’t let anyone make the decision to be baptized, but me. I had talked to our Pastor a couple of times and we had planned to wait until Easter, but for some reason I scrapped that and told him it had to be done now. I tapped the shoulder of a mentor at church and he stood up with me. As my mother sat in that early 8 am service and looked up with a surprise that was her son getting baptized. My two regrets were my father, sister, and grandparents were in attendance and that I had waited so long to make the decision. I had taken the first real step in my mind towards Christ in way like no other. He has always held me in his arms, but it was at that point where I stop making it about me and my wants/needs. Not once did my family get mad at me for what I had done. My only thought is that everyone was so proud that it was I who had taken the steps and in doing so knew exactly what I was doing. Truth is it was all by God’s grace, I was simply a disobedient child who stop resisting God’s plan for me.
It was throughout the next couple of years our family went through a number of trials with layoffs and hospital stays. Not once did I ever see my parents’ waiver from God or blame him for their troubles. What I did see was that they became even more committed to the church and furthering God’s mission. It was also during this time I saw a change in my father. Where he shed the last bits of doubts in himself and firmly put his life in the Lord’s hands to be an instrument. The things I remember most about my high school days are lessons learned in the classroom about God, various religions of the world, and how to conduct myself as a young man in the world.
Now it’s time to pick a college. I’m sold on where I want to go. Later, I would find out it is where I was supposed to wind up. I was headed to out of state to Concordia of all schools with the goal of teaching. Graduation came and while I wasn’t the valedictorian or anywhere near up there in grades. I was asked to do the benediction. I would be the last one to say anything about our High School careers and I would be the one to lead us out from High School seniors to the proverbial Real World. We’ll turn out to be very close even with our clichés during High School. I still wound up in my senior year as the Vice President for the school, but this was different. Being asked to say final words at graduation was proudest gift any of my classmates could have given to me. So, I got up wiped the tears and calmed said a revised version of the benediction to go with our growth and next steps in life. I then turned to my classmates motioned that it was time to go. The class stood up, we composed ourselves and walked into the World.
A month before leaving for school tragedy struck our family; my father had a slight/mild heart attack. For a son to see his father so vulnerable is a scary thing. In mind college was in doubt at this point. However, he recuperated and we all headed up to Ann Arbor, MI to begin the next step of my life. While away at school there were some adjustments to my surroundings and people I would interact with, but nothing that couldn’t be handled. It was there I would meet various life long friends and be taught critical lessons that would prepare me for life later on. While in college my father would take the next step and most important step by enrolling in Seminary to become a second career Pastor. This would turn out to be key in my development as a man, father, and husband. It was during college that I came into contact with a fellow brother in Christ who was fighting through the similar issues that I was going through. He became a very close friend, Godfather to my child, and spiritual inspiration to me. It was then I realized God’s plan for me, but I had other plans.
The Lord gets his points across in many ways. I wound up working for a local ISP with my close friend and another guy who would later become a friend. Now as I look back we all were on the same path followed down through the same path during college and wound up working in the same spot. How ironic is that? We all got married and had children and while we knew what God wanted from us, we went a different way.
Many of you know the troubles my family has endured through the summer of 2004 and through the Grace of God he has delivered us all intact stronger in his word. We fast forward to later April 2005 where I was admitted and spent 17 days in the hospital bed while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me. Time in the hospital became a time to not doubt the Lord, but to thank him for all he had done. Become closer with him. I realized that if it was my time to be called home, I had failed miserably as a Christian. He delivered me and my family through the whole situation, with wounds that would heal. I never doubted the Lord or blamed him for the hospital stay. It was in his plan for me, a wake up call to get back on the path. The path has led me to coaching a boy’s basketball team at my daughter’s school, being tap to be an Elder, and the opportunity to lead the church as a chairman of the leadership board.
Well, by this time I had lost track of the number of times the song had been playing. I’m now almost in tears. I can’t believe from start to finish the examples and tools God has given to me or made available to me throughout my growth years. All of which I have I had failed to put to use to spread God’s Word. It is now I see that I’m still falling short. I feel short because of the fear that I would sacrifice being a father, a worthy husband, brother, son, and friend. Fear that I my plans for life and my aspirations weren’t going to come true. God’s work doesn’t make enough money for me to support the type of family I saw for myself. I felt if I walked the path, I would be doing it because of those who had done it before me, not because he told me to do it. Afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do all he was asking me to do. Did you catch that, all my fears and what I wanted?
It was at that moment I realized God had been answering my prayers/questions/petitions time and time again, but I couldn’t hear him. I hadn’t applied my faith to what I had learned so many years ago. Simply put it in God’s hands and he will let his Spirit work through me. He has shown me through his word how to be a Husband, Father, Brother, Son, and Friend. He has taught us how to put aside the doubts and fears. Those are seeds of sin and the Devils tools. Jesus told us about these things in the Sermon on the Mount. It was at this point this particular teaching became clear.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Any why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like on of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
So you see it was that day he answered my prayers. Not exactly, he has been answering my prayer and questions all along. The difference is I had finally grown spiritually enough to stop fighting his desired path for me whole-heartily. So, I guess the topic is misleading; it should be the day God communicated his plan and all my life noise didn’t distort the message.