The Real World

Can I have your permission to be very blunt and honest? I'm not asking to "tell you my thoughts or feelings" but to be unfiltered and raw! This is the Real World....

If you answered no, then now is the time to stop reading! If you said yes, you could possibly find this refreshing amidst the tension. But, I have learned that being vulnerable and fully transparent is something most people crave from leaders, pastors and the people in their lives. 

Lately I have not enjoyed where life has had me. In fact, I have spent lots of time dreaming of a different life. I am certainly not referring to my family. I wouldn't trade my wife and kids for anything in this world. If it were not for my family, I would have gone insane a LONG time ago. My wife is my best friend, and my partner, and she is the reason I have so much resolve. She keeps on cheering me on! My kids are the greatest gift I have ever been given. God has blessed me beyond words. I never planned on a BIG family, but now I wouldn't want anything less. 

What I am referring to is the circumstances of life lately. Some folks call is coincidence, some call is chance…. But I believe it is something much greater. See, my family and I have walked through one of the toughest seasons of our entire lives. The last 2 years have been very hard… I am NOT sharing this to gain sympathy. I know that there are LOTS of folks who have had much tougher seasons in life. I know folks who live much harder lives than I ever will. I am almost sure that some of you who will read this, have experienced 10x this sort of struggle; and some of you are our closest friends! However, relative to our past and our context of life, this has been a tough season. 

In the last two years, since we moved to Austin to start Uncommon Church, the trials  and struggles have been constant. It began with an attempt at a domestic adoption that nearly wrecked our family. The cost emotionally and spiritually was dramatic. We fell in love with a little girl who was simply unable to stay with our family. Letting her go was excruciating. In the midst of that experience, Allison lost her dad abruptly to cancer. He was one of our biggest supporters, fans and encouragers. Losing David was something we never imagined would have happened during this season of our lives. Not long after our best friends, who moved to Austin with us, felt God calling them to serve a great church in Kentucky. While we know that is exactly what God wanted for them, we hated to see them go. They were one of the reasons we had the resolve to step out on faith and come to Austin. We miss them, but thankfully, they remain some of our greatest friends. Not long after that we lost our primary funding source for the church and our salary abruptly. It required us to move into a smaller home, and drastically reduce our lifestyle, not all bad pot course! But, that change forced me into working full time, while planting the church. It was a TOUGH transition for me. My pride and ego were bruised. But, it was a growth step God has used in my life to make me a better leader, father, husband and man. Yet, it has required more from me than I could imagine. During the following Spring Allison and I walked through a tragic miscarriage experience. We lost a child, and that was not easy! I know that was harder on my wife than I can imagine, and that's what hurts me the most. Fast forward a few months, during the Fall I became very ill. After much fighting and praying I went to the doctor and discovered I was in acute liver failure. The next 3 months were the roughest and toughest I have ever personally experienced. I lost over 35 lbs and was a nice shade of yellow for that time. The pain, discomfort, itching and fear was relentless. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. I have begun to heal, but the road to a clean bill of health is still a few months coming. Then in January Allison lost her grandmother. Her MawMaw was one of the greatest women on the planet. She was an inspiration. In fact, her story of trials in life would make my story here seem petty! Then, this last week, while I was in Haiti, my wife called to let me know that both, not one, both of our cars had been stolen from our driveway. I;m thousands of miles away and my wife and kids have had their security violated. Not to mention, they were stranded without transportation. I felt helpless and angry. It appears unlikely that we will recover our cars. And, only one of our cars was covered for theft. No fun. Oh, and did I mention that during ALL of this stuff I have been feverishly working on our adoption of Karis from Haiti; a never-ending process that has drug on for three years. It's been a TOUGH season in life. And, believe me there are some private battles along this road that have been excruciating, and to protect the people and our selves, I will spare you those stories!

The reason I am telling you all of this is to share something that is often mis-understood about God. 

See, Allison and I have been giving our lives to serve our calling and what we believe God has created us to do. We feel called to build and lead the church. We feel called to adopt. We feel called to have an open home to serve our community. We feel called to love unconditionally no matter the cost. We are living a "good" life and offering all we know how to give to live like Jesus. 

So often I hear people repeat one of the biggest lies on the planet…. I hear it said two ways. First, God will never give you more than you can handle. And second, If you're living how God wants, you will not face struggles. To both of those statements I say, and with strong intent, It's JUNK! They are both lies, and something the enemy has perpetuated to make us feel good. But, feeling good is not the point of following Jesus! If these lies were truth instead it would indicate two things. One, that God is not present in our lives in anyway. And second, that we are not really walking with Jesus. Both are simply NOT true!

I believe fully that God absolutely allows us to experience far more than we can handle. Why???? Because He uses it to build our faith and teach us to rely on Him fully. If we could handle it on our own, then what is the purpose of God and His grace? It is the tough places in life that teach us more about God's love and Gods provision. And, believing that walking with Jesus is safe and easy will be your fastest route to giving up on your faith! Both of these lies set us up for failure. And, they teach us to rely on self, and not on Jesus! 

This season has been incredibly tough for our family. I cannot tell you how many times I have fantasized about walking away, giving up and doing my own thing. I am tired, I am worn out and I am weary some days. That's my human side. I am not super-human. I get angry, sad, depressed, anxious and even fearful. I experience the pain and the disappointment of seeing things prove difficult. But, I cannot forsake or ignore God's call on my life. 

Amidst the struggles, I cannot imagine my life truly being any better. I LOVE WHAT GOD HAS CALLED ME TO DO. I love the people, the circumstances, the stories and the wild adventure this life has become. 

I imagine your life has been plagued with struggles too. I imagine you have experienced pain and disappointment that seems impossible to explain. And, I know you have had days where you want to give up! But here is what God's word has to say…. 

The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:12 Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. It also says that nothing is impossible with God and that means that when we think we may not survive, we can. When it seems impossible that we will ever reach the other side of our trails, we will as long as we are with Jesus! 

Life will be full of struggles and trials. But we have a God who loves us, and will bring us through them all. We have a God who sees our struggles and desperately wants to love us through them. Ad, when it's all said an done He will restore and strengthen you!

Here's the promise from 1 Peter 5:6-10.... Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.