Lois and I married in September. We moved into a cozy two-bedroom apartment in the upstairs of a farm house in the Ohio countryside. We found a small church and got jobs. I sold furniture. Lois worked at a Fotomat booth. Our plan was to work until spring and then move back to Springfield, Missouri to continue our preparation for ministry.
In May we loaded everything we owned into a rented trailer and said goodbye to our family in Ohio. I drove our Plymouth Duster with a fully-loaded trailer. Lois followed in our powder-blue VW. Halfway between our first home in Ohio and our destination in Springfield the transmission in the Duster gave out. We were stranded along Interstate 70 in Effigham, Illinios.
Our plan to move to Springfield, get an apartment, get a job, and work our way through school would not happen. We had only $300.00. We could not afford major car repairs and have enough money left to rent an apartment. We prayed but there were no immediate miracles.
It was a dark time for me. I felt like we were doing all we could do to follow the Lord and get training for ministry. I wondered why God allowed this to happen when I was trying so hard to serve Him. I called my Dad. He said, “Check into a motel and get some rest. We will be there in a few hours with a log-chain.”
We checked into a motel and went into town to look for something to eat. My heart was crushed with disappointment. At the time it seemed to me that God blessed other people but for some reason He was not willing to bless or help me. In a way I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t feel like I had been faithful or deserving of God’s blessing. I felt discouraged and alone.
We drove into town to look for some food. In the center of town I man walked across the street in front of us. I had never seen anything like it before. He had long dark hair and a thick black beard. He wore work boots and a red checked mini-skirt. You read that right. The man with the long dark hair and thick beard strode across the street in front of us in a mini-skirt. It was not a pleasant sight. He legs were hairy as an ape.
At the time I felt a sense of deepening despair. Our dreams were crushed, our plans were dashed and now we were going to have to spend the night in a town with at least one bizarre character.
In the middle of the night Dad and my brothers Kevin and Nathan showed up and spent the rest of the night on sleeping on the floor. In the morning we had breakfast and Dad asked, “Do you want to go on to Missouri or do you want to go back to Ohio and try again? We chose Ohio, feeling a greater security there with help from family.
Within a few weeks we had another apartment and jobs. By mid-summer God led us to a small church that needed a pastor and Lois and I moved into the parsonage. Soon God sent us a little baby boy. We named him Kyle. He was a priceless blessing from God. And the blessings came one after another in spite of our nearly continual series of failures and mistakes and sins and struggles. He has continually pursued us with his favors for the last twenty-five years together.
Last summer we were hosting a group of Corvette enthusiasts here at the Character Inn. I was chatting with a couple in the lobby. I asked where they were from and they said, “Effingham, Illinios.”
I told them my story including the incident with the hairy man in the mini-skirt and work boots. They laughed and immediately named the man. They told me that he was a local character who had lived all of his life in Effinghamn. He had just died a few months ago. (I resisted the urge to ask how they dressed him for the funeral).
I think back on that time often and remember the feeling of abandonment and despair Lois and I had on that night. From the greater perspective of the years I am still convinced that we were very, very undeserving. The years have changed my thinking in one significant way, though. I am now convinced that God had never turned his attention and love and care away from us. He was directing us all the time. He was protecting us. He was providing just what we needed when we needed it. He was guiding us through a future we could not see.
I don’t know what you are going through right now. Maybe you are tempted to believe that God doesn’t really care about you or that you are undeserving of his blessing and involvement in your life. Maybe strange and bizarre things have come into you life that make no sense. Maybe you are trying to serve the Lord but it seems that he is ignoring or even opposing you. Don’t despair. Place yourself into his care and trust that the circumstances in your life are for your ultimate good. Take it from one who is the most undeserving off all. When you look back from the perspective of the years you will see the loving hand of God, even in his chastisement, and you will be able to smile maybe even laugh about it someday.
If you have walked with the Lord through the years you will understand what I mean when I say that when I was young I wondered why God didn’t bless me, now I wonder why he does.
Riverfront Character Inn
June 14, 2004