Thinking back just about ten years ago on a life-changing moment for me, while looking out my office window one night…
How could I feel unfilfilled with my place in life? All outward signs were positive: I was happily married for over 20 years to my high school sweetheart; had two incredible young children; I owned my own business which allowed me the flexibility to dedicate an inordinate amount of time to several community volunteer projects. I was active in local and state politics, ran campaigns and seemed to come out on the winning end of everything I set my sites on doing.
I accomplished quite a bit before I hit forty, winning awards, earning accolades, and leading several community projects which brought thousands of people together to achieve some rather amazing feats, for our small midwest town.
But bitter is how I felt, staring out the window from my second floor office, at midnight, after putting in another extremely long day at work, at a non-profit organization. That was the night I first heard the Holy Spirit speaking to me, telling me, of all things, “Don’t worry John, all this you’ve done — it’s just practice for what’s to come.”
For some reason, I wasn’t alarmed or afraid when I heard the voice of God for the first time. I felt a combination of exhliration and relief. He knew my frustration, He knew my accomplishments, He knew my shortcomings and my misgivings too. He knew the feeling I had inside. I wasn’t empty, by any means, but I was tired of being only half-full. I was exhausted, mentally and physically. All that so-called success came at a price for my family.
I was ready for more than just doing good things. I was ready to hear from a higher source than my own consciousness about what would be next for me, with an authentic sense of purpose and meaning beyond myself. It was time to start letting go, and allow Him to truly guide my every move.
I wasn’t a religious man then. I rarely, if ever prayed; I truly had forgotten how. I only attended my wife’s church at Christmas and Easter. I hadn’t been to Communion for well over a decade, and my concept of Communion hardly matched the amazing reality I was soon to encounter.
Free from my Protestant Church’s upbringing, my “church” was about action. To my thinking, that meant participating in volunteer work for the community. Standing at that window, I knew the past fifteen years of service was time well-invested in helping others, but I also came to realize that my internal compass wasn’t always guiding me toward true north. I needed to better understand Christ’s path, but my own fear, pride and controlling nature kept getting in the way.
Fifteen-plus years of service, sacrifice and intense passion for getting things “right” in this lifetime may have done a lot of good, but as one person pointed out to me a few years later, I had left a lot of people in my wake along the way. But I’ll get to that in some future post…
So back at the window that night, if all this work was just “practice,” as He said, then the next phase in my life was going to be extreme. I knew in my heart then He was right. I had no clue what I was in for, or how to get there, but I knew my own compass was pointing north-ish, not north. Just one degree off north ultimately has dire circumstances, especially when you’re driving fast. In a very short amount of time, you’re crossing a yellow line and going off the road, or you’re crossing a double yellow line into oncoming traffic.
I knew that the path I was on was one which, albeit well-meaning, was self-destructive and not entirely what Jesus had in mind for me. That said, I didn’t know how to break out of my own cycle. It wasn’t until a voice from the darkness opened my eyes, and gave me a gift from heaven, which in one sentence answered one question and opened up a hundred more for me.
I didn’t ask for the gift.
As I said, I didn’t know exactly how to pray. But I’m pretty sure He knew I needed it, and He knew exactly how to bump me back between the yellow lines, with the promise of something better in the miles that were to come…