Don’t like it. But wouldn’t change it
It was Benton Harbor. I didn’t know anything about Benton Harbor, and it was never on my bucket list, but I needed a job and they had one. They said they’d call back in a day or two.
Years went by. Decades. Millenniums. Ice Ages came and went. The sun ran out of hydrogen and burned out and collapsed. Still I waited to hear from Benton Harbor.
Finally they called. “Sorry, we’ve had some corporate changes and the job’s been cancelled.”
It had been five days.
While waiting, I read my Bible. One passage talked to me: God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. It produces a harvest of righteousness and peace in those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. It’s not exactly that, but very close. It’s in Hebrews 12. I read it so much in those five days that I memorized it.
As soon as I memorized it, they called.
I took the word ‘discipline’ in the passage not to mean punishment necessarily, but training. The kind of thing parents do with kids. My waiting had been training. You want a HARVEST of righteousness and peace? Does that sound awesome? Let discipline train you.
Over the years I’ve used that passage to encourage others. My little waiting has encouraged someone! That fits.
That story of mine is kid’s stuff compared to yours and some others.
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In the 1700’s Alexander MacKenzie dreamed and planned for years about finding a water route through Canada to the Pacific Ocean (the Northwest Passage). He was convinced a certain river would get him there.
He explored a thousand miles by canoe – and ended up in the Arctic Ocean, nowhere near the Pacific.
He named the river “Disappointment.”
What might have been
For ten years Paul planted churches where no Christian had gone before. He was on fire for Jesus, living on the edge, changing lives, and spreading the good news of God around the world.
Then he felt compelled to return to Jerusalem. His friends warned him not to go, that he would be arrested by his enemies. He went anyway. And spent the next ten years or so on trial and in jail.
His adventurous church-planting days were over. If only he had listened to his friends.
Too much to overcome
Dawn was a smart kid but her home life doomed her.
Her mom and step-dad were drug addicts. No electricity or running water at home. She walked to the park with plastic jugs to get water to flush the toilet. The house was filled with cockroaches, and trash was piled two feet high.
Dawn went months without showering, weeks wearing the same dress. She was mocked by classmates. She didn’t even have enough money for candles to do her homework after dark.
The summer after her junior year in high school her parents moved away and abandoned her. Dawn was seventeen years old and homeless. What a waste.
Alexander MacKenzie never found the Northwest Passage. But his journals became part of Thomas Jefferson’s inspiration to send Lewis and Clark across America to the Pacific Ocean. MacKenzie was knighted by Canada and became Sir Alexander MacKenzie.
Today the Disappointment River is named the Mackenzie River, the largest and longest river in Canada. So, does all the disappointment fit?
Paul went from church planting hero to sitting in jails and prisons, sometimes chained to a guard. He was stuck dictating letters to friends and to the churches he planted. All those churches? Gone. If he had planted more, they would be gone, too.
But the letters Paul wrote–because that was all he could do–became part of God’s words in the Bible. Paul thought he was just doing the best he could with what he had, but it was God’s plan all along for his writings to last far longer than the churches.
You can read those letters right now and take them personally as straight from God. Did that fit?
Dawn went from horrible home to no home at all. But teachers and staff at her high school helped her get a place to stay and a job as a janitor at the school. She was a straight-A student. She applied to four colleges. All accepted her. On a long shot she tried Harvard. Her history teacher wrote a recommendation extolling her never-give-up spirit.
Dawn finishes her first year at Harvard next month. She got a full ride; room, board, tuition. A homeless kid of drug addicts at Harvard. Does that all fit?
When you can, you pick your own definition of success
You pick discovering the Northwest Passage, planting churches, and a stable home life. And if that’s what you get, it fits. But even when you get what you don’t pick, it still fits.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it – Hebrews 12.11
When have you been trained by something you didn’t pick?
* * * *
The Everything Fits affirmation:
– the circumstances I have experienced and find myself in
– my personality and DNA and wiring and gifting –
is engineered or permitted or governed by a sovereign, just, loving God who always has three good things in mind
1) to develop my personal relationship and intimacy with him
2) to accomplish his purposes in the world, and
3) to further his own awesome, unmeasurable aims that are bigger than my ability to understand.
Therefore, whether it’s past, present, or future, I can have confidence and peace that somehow, someway, Everything Fits Even When It Doesn’t, and I will trust and cooperate with God in the fitting.