One of my favorite movies of all time is The Shawshank Redemption. I know just about everyone has seen it, but for my parents benefit, it is the story about a man named Andy Dufresne who was unjustly incarcerated for the murder of his wife. As you can imagine, he struggled to survive the miseries of prison life until a combination of providence, moxie and smart thinking, his life in the Shawshank Federal Penitentiary turned around. He was able to use his life in prison for much good to the benefit of many until he offended the powers that be and their grip on power and control. The prison commissioner tried to snuff out any possible independent thinking in Dufresne with tortuous power plays, but in a startling turn of events, Dufresne turned the tables completely, exposing the commissioner as the true criminal of the prison and at the same time, achieving freedom and deliverance for himself. I still remember watching this movie in the theater almost 20 years ago and being stunned by the turn of events. What a great movie!
My life is hardly at all like this movie. But any Shawshank reference is worth using! 2 years ago, I came to Albuquerque with great hopes of what God would do through the exaltation of His glorious greatness, the faithful preaching of His Word and the shepherding of His flock in love. It required some sacrifice just to get there, but in my mind, it was worth it. Unfortunately, things didn't work out so well. In the blink of an eye, I was unemployed with 3 little mouths to feed. Here I was, my hopes dashed; my dreams in dust and ashes; no job, no income and no future. What could I do? How were we going to survive?
I applied for every job I could imagine. Pastoral jobs, ministry related jobs and jobs related to my old secular career. Whatever I could find, I applied for. I considered youth ministry, even though I am the furthest thing from a youth pastor. I considered church planting, even though I am the second furthest thing from a church planter. I considered everything because the pressure of providing was HUGE. My children were shaken by it all. My wife was broken. And I was a wreck. Nothing was working out, and we were preparing to all move into 1 BR and live with family and starting over - going back to school for me, taking out loans and trying to rebuild our lives.
But one of the paradox's of the Christian life is that in the darkest of nights, the light shines the brightest. Christ proved Himself sovereignly good and gracious and kind over and over again. First, God brought so many people to encourage us. So many old friends encouraged us specifically to stand firm in the faith and affirmed us in the love of Christ. But God also physically brought alongside of us people who truly became our family in Christ here in ABQ. They encouraged us, guided us, served us and provided for us in the kindest of ways for months and months in our greatest moment of need that we will forever remember and rejoice in.
Secondly, God delivered me from this precarious situation with a job (not in pastoral ministry). But God didn't just give me a job, He gave me a great job that has a great career path. Somehow I received the favor of men out of the blue from people I never met. And in a whirlwind of events, I got a job, got an offer on our house and moved to CA, all in about a month. It's been a crazy time - packing, starting a new job, finding a place to live, finding a new church, unpacking - so much hasn't settled in for me yet. I can't really fathom the gracious, yet startling turn of events. And while I am still haunted by cruel memories, I am hopeful that one day, I will be like Joseph and able to say that "God has caused me to forget my troubles" in this new start on life.