Last week was turbulent and filled with unrest. It was good for me; I arrived at some much needed conclusions and revisited my plans for life. But it came with a heavy price and not a small amount of hurt.
When one looks back on ones life and finds it wanting and incomplete, it is especially sad. Last week I was sad. I am sad this morning. I have been in a period of deep repentance for several days now and it continuous this morning.
I have been repenting because I made some decisions very early in my life that caused me to miss the mark and veer from the direction God had for my life. To be honest, part of the reason I got off track was my own deep respect for ministry and a desire to do it “right” if I was going to do it at all. I was 16 when I felt a distinct, unmistakable calling on my life for ministry. I treated that calling with such honor and respect that when I missed it the first time, (as related in a previous post) I held it in such high regard that I felt unworthy to try again. This was foolish and only showed my lack of intimate knowledge of God. I only knew the harsh legalist of my childhood, and not the God who called me with an irrevocable calling and who would not rest until I was heeding it.
The past few days I have been in a prolonged period of introspection, and repentance for each decision I made subsequent to that decision that “I wasn’t cut out for ministry”. It has been hard and it has hurt.
Several years ago, I was standing along the Delaware River back home at Battery Park in Old New Castle. It is my favorite place on earth to be contemplative and introspective. I was talking with someone who was struggling at the time. He told me he was “living right”, active in church, tithing, reading the Bible each day, spending time in prayer etc. But, he said, he was still struggling badly. The ends weren’t meeting, his work was struggling, and he was not “blessed”. We talked for a long time and finally I said to him; “Listen…imagine you are standing inside a Hula-Hoop right here” I drew an imaginary circle on the ground and continued. “If this hula hoop is your life and you can honestly say you are doing all the things you know to do and you are right before the Lord and He is not blessing you, there are only two reasons that can be. One, you aren’t being honest and there is something in your life preventing Him from blessing you, or Two, it is time for you to move to another Hula Hoop and if He blessed you any further in this one, you’d stay in this one.”
As it turns out, this person wasn’t being entirely forthright with me and he was hiding some secret sins. God’s blessing could not fall on him because his life was in the way.
But the advice, and the analogy remains as some of the best advice I have ever given anyone. Last week I took this advice for myself.
In my life I have always been somewhat successful. I taught myself carpentry and got good at it and had a decent business. Decent but not particularly prosperous. I spent ten years in the mortgage business and was very good at it. I was nationally recognized for both my knowledgability in the business and for my marketing. I was very good at my job. And yet, in the height of the industry, when guys with far less ability than me were making $750,000, my best year was $104,000.
My recent conclusion…there is a vast difference between being a success and being blessed. I was a success. I had learned a business from the ground up and had achieved recognition. I made some money and had a few things. But I was miserable. I was so unfulfilled that every single day I would beg God not to let this be the way my life would go for the next 25 years. There was something missing. I was not blessed.
The word “blessed” means “Hilariously happy”. So happy that you can’t contain it. So fulfilled that you’d work for free...heck you might even pay to do the job. So happy that you might not have everything you want, but your happiness with what you have is so deep that it’s all the same. That is being blessed.
I was not blessed. Neither was I happy.
The opposite of blessed is opposed, I think. At least for me it was. I was opposed. I was constantly rowing my boat into a strong wind. It was harder for me to make less money than the other guys in my industry. I was never happy. There was always something missing. I was unfulfilled and miserable and most certainly not blessed.
A blessed man always has enough…regardless of what his checkbook says. A blessed man always has a nice car, even if it’s old and beaten. A blessed man is so consumed with happiness and thankfulness with what he has, that he seldom notices whet he doesn’t have. A blessed man has something others want. I most definitely didn’t have that.
Last week I realized that my lack of happiness and my lack of success and my always feeling like I was fighting against a rising tide and a swift current was because God couldn’t bless me. Not if He wanted to move me from my Hula Hoop.
Last week I caught the last ten minutes of Charles Stanley as he taught on Jesus’ parable of the Ten Talents. I love this parable. Here is something interesting…and just like Jesus. The Talent was an actual unit of currency in that day. So this wasn’t Jesus making up a word. Jesus could have used another currency. He could have used a Drachma, or a Farthing, or pieces of silver, or a mite. But he used a Talent. He was clever like that. The dual meaning is obvious and needs no explanation.
The servant who buried his talent was afraid. He knew his master was a tough man who demanded the best from his people, but who rewarded them well. He knew the talent was special…that’s why he buried it instead of leaving it on his dresser or carrying it around in his pocket. The talent was an extra gift. It wasn’t part of his daily job description. He still had that and apparently still did those tasks. This distribution of talents was a chance for the servants in the story to shine. A promotion of sorts. “Here” said the master, “here is something extra. I believe in you. Go make something with this.” Was his order. Two of the servants did just that. They placed the talents where they would grow and gain value. (A type of evangelism where more souls were added) the third servant was so overwhelmed by the extra gift and so blown away by the show of confidence his master had given him that he froze in fear and hid it in a safe place, desiring only to return it someday in pristine condition.
The third servant was punished for his wickedness. He hid his talent. He buried the gift.
I was that guy.
For about 28 years now, I tried to pacify myself with attempts at business success. I was certainly living “right”. I was active in church, regular in my bible study and prayer, tithing regularly, I taught bible studies and even functioned as an interim youth pastor for a year at a church I formerly attended. But I was not doing what I was here to do and I had hidden my talent.
Because of this I could not be blessed. I lived almost my entire adult life without that extra dimension of God’s richest blessings. Where others had doors blow open for them…I found locked door after locked door.
Even sadder is how this hurt me in my soul. I have not been deeply satisfied and fulfilled in years, except in my fatherhood.
Last week I repented for burying my talents. I repented for forsaking the call I have on my life. Now I am praying for God’s deepest blessings to begin to pour on me. I need them now more than ever.
What of you? Are you successful and not blessed? Is there real hilarious happiness in what you do or are you trudging through bog after bog trying to find a smile that long escaped your lips. Can God bless you where you are?
Or is it time for a new Hula Hoop?