There are times in life where the road ahead is unclear, but where you are is just not working. I have been there and the experience was unpleasant. For me, loosing sense on where I was going made every decision an agony.
Rick Warren’s book made me aware of forty years of ignorance to my purpose. With so much time wasted I felt impatient to discover what God could do now that I was informed, aware and interested. I was also lowering the value of other areas in my life, creating a state of mind of not knowing the future and of unhappiness with my present.
My career was the highlight of my life. From high school I wanted to work with computers and I spent countless hours tinkering and writing software that manipulated data. When I became a software engineer on Microsoft’s SQL Server team I had reached the top of the mountain. But now there was no joy in being there. I had a great job that provided my families every need, and I was good at what I did. For a man there can be no greater accomplishment, and to be dissatisfied may seem hard to understand. For a long time I was confused too.
I perceived a change coming and faster than I was ready for. I felt like a passenger on a small boat in a dark tunnel where ahead could be any disruption. A man with a family is uneasy in this situation and as time went by my distress grew. My wife and I prayed for wisdom and strength but weeks became months and then a year.
My work performance fell as my passion for it drained out of me like water from a bath. I tried harder to find success and excellence but my efforts were as empty nests. I had to accept that my days at Microsoft were closing and I started looking for another career. I would like to say to you that I behaved in all times like a true child of God but there were times that my faith wavered and I succumbed to fear and despair.
I have lived life by four standards. The first is to place God before self and the second is to carry your own water. This is more than just doing your share of the work it means to take your responsibilities seriously and not off load them to others. In the months of rejections to come, my greatest fear was of not being able to provide for my family. A crippling dread opened me to depression, adding pressure to an already stressful life.
There is a purpose to things just as there is a lesson in every miracle of Jesus. I knew that God was preparing me and I understood the importance to trust in Him, but it was very hard. The lesson that God had for me was going to reset my core virtue of “Carry your own water”. God was hitting me below the belt where it hurts.
I am husband and father but I did not understand this role correctly. I have responsibilities towards the gifts God has provided, but my perspectives into those have been flawed. For me, responsibility has been tied with control and I have craved being in control. God was bringing me to a place where I was loosing control and it was driving me crazy.
There came a point where I found myself in my living room on a Thursday morning weeping like a child. The only thing I wanted to do was crawl into bed and stay there. I wanted to die. I told God that if I got off my knees, He would have to raise me and I stayed there for a long time. But God is faithful and I found myself at some point in the shower and somehow I made it to the car. I stated that day on my knees and defeated but in a series of small graces God blessed me with an oasis of joy which got me through the week.
The next Sunday night my wife and I visited our church sanctuary and poured our hearts out to God. We prayed for our marriage and our children, and we prayed for me. I finally surrendered to Him and I gave up the ownership of my responsibilities. I stopped carrying my own water. Here was my prayer.
“God, I am tired and beaten. I open doors to find empty rooms and I just can’t do it anymore. God if there is something out there for me, you are going to have to open the door. You open and I will walk in, but I give up owning this any more.”
I gave up owning what happened to my family, or to me. I understood that there are forces out there I can not manage and attempting to do so was destroying me. I did the hardest thing of all; I gave my sense of being a “Man”, back to God. It was at once the most terrifying and liberating prayer I have ever done.
Let me tell you how God answers a prayer like that. Starting Monday morning offers from places I have never heard of starting coming in. Old friends suddenly called with a job here or a contact there. By the next Thursday, one week from the worst day of my life, a banquet table of opportunities was before me. I knew if I said to God, “This one!” it would be given to me. I know now what if feels like to have your cup running over.
How do you know God has done more than just answer your prayer, and has give you a blessing? A blessing never comes with a cost. It is a rose devoid of thorns. In the job I took, the only regret I had was my twenty hour weekly commute just got longer. But the day after I started I was asked unexpectantly to join a van pool. My boss approved the commute schedule for me and I am now home three hours earlier with someone else driving.
The lesson that God had for me was simple, but the instruction was hard. Being a good steward and carrying our own water are important values, but what I needed to learn was that God owns the water. I was trying to fill my own cup. I was trying to usurp Gods place. God used this experience to teach me that only He can fill my needs and provide my water. It is my job to hold the cup, it is His to fill it.
My family is provided for, I am using the gifts God has given me, I will be at home early and my family has more time together. I tell you this to give testimony that God is real and He is working today in the lives that surrender to Him.