25 Years Ago Today, part 2: I tried to quit.

Before I get started, (well technically speaking, I have started since I am typing this), if you have not read part one from August, you may want to go back.  Just be warned it is long. 

25 years ago today was another important day in the last 25 years of ministry. It almost ended that day. When I first moved to Little Rock I lived with my friend Tim and his wife Lynette.  They were very gracious. 

Obviously that was not the long-term plan. It wasn’t long before I started looking for a place for myself. I’ve always liked the idea of living in cities.  So I set my sights on finding an apartment in downtown Little Rock.  Keep in mind that between my campus ministry job and being a paid musician for Markham Street Baptist Church, I was making about $1000 per month. This meant that I would not be living in the fancy part of town. I found a little apartment in a house right downtown at 419 E. 8th St. When I talked with the landlord about renting it, he tried to talk me out of it saying something like, “I’m not sure you will fit in.” I was undeterred. 

As a side note, I could tell some stories from that little place.  There was the time when I thought I was giving a guy who lived on my street a ride to the grocery store when it actually ended up being a drug deal. It is a pretty nerve racking thing when your passenger says, “Well I guess you know what is about to happen…”.  Or there was the time when my downstairs neighbor, an older man who was drunk most of the time, was standing in his window completely naked as I arrived home.  Some things just can’t be unseen. Back to the story. 

Fast-forward to Christmas of 1996. 

Four months of fast paced ministry had gone by and it was time to head back to Georgia for a few days to be with my family. It was so good.  I really love my family. When those few days were over and it was time to make the drive back to Little Rock, I did not want to go.  I was sad about leaving my family. Ministry had been good but, man, I did not like being that far from home. I cried. I did not understand why God had to have me that far from home. 

I remember driving out of Atlanta on I-20 west and looking in my rear view mirror and watching the city’s skyline disappear.  I did not like it.  I wanted to turn around.

The obvious mature thing to do was quit my job right? So over the nine hour drive I devised a plan to fake it until summer, quit and move back to Georgia.  Ministry wasn’t worth it. When I made it back to my apartment to ring in the new year alone, I had moved from sad to bitter. It was not a good night for me in many ways. Let’s just say that had my bosses (Tim and David) known how I handled that evening, I wouldn’t have had to wait until summer to move on.  I would have been fired. keep in mind, I was still pretty raw from my rock-n-roll days, but that’s all I’ll say about that….

Early the next morning, January 1, 1997, I had to take a group of about 10 or 12 college students to a conference in Austin, TX called Passion97. I was tired and had a really bad headache.  In my heart it felt like a “I had to” not an “I want to”. I didn’t know what Passion97 was.  I had never heard of any of the speakers or musicians. I wanted to be in Georgia.  I was bitter.  But it was my job to take those students to Passion97 so I did.

There were about 2000 college students there. I had never been to anything like it in my life.  But, I still didn’t want to be there.  I was fighting God in my heart and words.  I have a vivid memory of sitting in my chair and thinking “this is all pretty cool, but You are going to have to do more than this God”.

So, yeah, I challenged God.  You should try it sometime.

It was the final night of the conference and I remember there being several banners brought into the convention center and placed around the room.  They all had different names or attributes of God on them.  The communicator challenged us to ask God to show us which one of those names or attributes we needed to think on, thank God for, worship Him for, and remember.  I knew almost instantly.

It was the banner that said “I AM”. He was telling me, “Trust me.  I AM good.  I AM in control and that is a good thing.  Trust me.”

I broke into tears, realizing that what “I AM” had for me was eternally greater than anything I had for me.  He assured me that He understood the desire and love for my family.  He also assured me that He was trustworthy even when the plans of my mind were altered by His directing of my steps.

So, God won which means ultimately I won. He was so gracious to me at that moment.  God had every right to move on from me. His never ending grace and kindness have been a theme in my life for sure.

 I said “yes God.  I will trust you.  I will not quit.” 

Now, Ioving and missing my family “back home” has always been a part of my journey.  There have been plenty of other moments when it has been hard to be far from them. I love them and have felt guilty at times because of my distance.  But, along the way in the moments where I have struggled, God has reminded me that He is “I AM”.  He is in control and that is a good thing.  He knows what is right and good.

I am grateful God did not allow me to quit 25 years ago or any of the other times I wanted to along the way.  He continues to remind me of Proverbs 16:9

“A man’s mind plans his ways but the Lord directs his steps.”

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