My Messed Up "Good" Life

In brief: Unemployed, but why? God had other plans for me. And so, here is my story sharing how God had to set my vision straight. On what those other plans for me are to be at this time, what the truer purpose in this period for me was to be – the more real purpose – and realizing the better life now, doing it God's way. Hence, knowing that the best life is yet to come.

Part One: Following the Easy Path

Such a mess I am, and that's for living the "good" life, imagine that. Perhaps that's another way of expressing the Apostle Paul's claim at being the "chief of sinners" (See 1 Tim. 1:14-16). But myself claiming to be "a mess," I believe that as well can be said of the entire world, since Genesis chapter three – trying the "I did my way" vain philosophy. But praise to God, in Jesus we are "cleaned up" – the dirt is gone, washed "whiter than snow" (see Psalm 51:6-8; Isaiah 1:18). And all believers can have a better life in this time, doing it God's way, and so realizing, as I have, that the best life is yet to come, "hereafter" our physical existence (see John 10:10b).

I'm not a farmer, but I'd seen in my growing up a field plowed. My dad would have a man come with a tractor to plow up a portion of the ground on our property where we could plant a vegetable garden. First, there was the turning up the ground and then tilling the soil, smoothing it out making the ground ready for planting. Perhaps that illustrates my years. I plowed the "good" life, not a "raunchy" lifestyle, as one such before the ground is smoothed out. Or perhaps better put, as a life without God may so reflect. Mine was of mild soil throughout the years—following the simple path—free of any "clumps or uneven bumps."

But I'd never before realized more profoundly "my mess" than when I became unemployed.  Losing my last full-time job where I had worked for over eight years was not my doing, however; the company went out of business. My unemployment continued for nearly three years.

Then, it came to my attention that sometimes God might bring people—even incidents, I believe—into our lives to get us to realize where we belong and to understand what we ought to be doing. I was impressed with that from a Bible teaching on the life of David via BBN's Bible Institute from a study by Dr. Richard Strauss.

I've grown up in Ohio, and God has so blessed me for having been born to parents who took their children (I'm the youngest of four) to church and Sunday school every week, and even to church camps. Thus, we've learned of the Bible and Jesus all our lives. Even so, for some reason, I grew up inward; some people may call my inwardness as being "shy" or "bashful, or as others may suggest an "introvert."

Nevertheless, viewing it all from today's vantage point I don't think of my introversion as "shy"—just one not so talkative, not so outgoing. Reflecting on those early years now, however, I consider my introverted temperament a blessing.

Through my growing up days there were good family times; we enjoyed meals together and trips, vacations and holidays, despite any argumentative discussions my parents may have had. Also, I’ve probably grown up like any "normal" child not immune to physical ailments, sicknesses, or injuries. Three such incidents incidentally having scarred my flesh, still “hang around” in my memory. Recalling those injuries in the writing of this piece, I consider that I have those scars for God’s glory: an appendectomy scar, one on my left knee, and a third on my right wrist. Particularly that third scar remains to this day perhaps not so much as an aid to distinguish my right hand from my left, but as a reminder of God’s protective care through all the years.

We were not a family of great wealth; my dad was a dairyman, and my mom cared for other children at home, as well as her own, to help.  Although as well my financial health has never been anything to brag about, yet for some reason that has not been a great concern to me. As has been impressed upon me in later years, as Jesus has said, I'm "not to worry about everyday life—whether [I] have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and [my] body more than clothing?" (Matthew 6:25) And I'm not to fear those "clumpy days" that He promises will come. (See John 16:32-33; 17:14-15)

Drawing by Miriam Parrish
And Jesus continued, "… Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you [Charles] not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26; cf. Matthew 10:29-31; Luke 12:22-34)

Even though I'm one not having been born with a "silver spoon" in my mouth, I yet feel I'm the more fortunate (See James 1:9-11 NLT) —having been born instead with a double crown on my head.

When I was a child while visiting an amusement park with my family (near where we lived), I met a Native American. In noticing my double crown, he predicted that I would see two worlds some day. As a child, "busily" following that simple path, I hadn't given too much thought to that prediction. But in later years I have been reminded of that prediction again, and I realized there are indeed two very different worlds. Then, being confronted with the two worlds, at God's appointed time, as if coming to a fork in the road, I had to decide for myself which world offered the better benefits.

Part Two: In Search of a Surer Path

I was much of a television viewer in my youth. Perhaps as Linus of Peanuts' fame has his "security blanket," TV viewing was mine.

Looking back now, reviewing my life, I think I was simply going along with the crowd. In the "good" sort of way, as if that was the way life was to be—television and everything else that what makes for the "good" life—to keep my life free of any "bumps" upon which I may come.

Perhaps the farthest I strayed from my upbringing was choosing to stay home from church on Sunday evenings. My parents permitted my second brother and myself that option, mindful to finish our school homework assignments. But once that is done, on come the television. Yes, we had our favorite TV programs even on Sundays.

We did go to church occasionally on Sunday evenings, for one when there was some particular service—i.e. Revival Meetings, as such were called. At the close of one such meeting, I observed my oldest brother responding to an "altar call."  Afterward church activities for him took on a new meaning, he even leading young peoples' meetings occasionally.

For myself, as I remember, perhaps it was then in attending those Revival Meetings when I heard sermons of the world coming to an end. At hearing such sermons, my young mind could not imagine such a thing—the end of the world? Hmm, what would happen to all the tall buildings, the trees, and all such stuff of the temporal physical realm that makes for the "good" life? And so my "good" life continued— perhaps in search of a surer path—until the time when I realized that such a life doesn't make one good before God. (See Romans 3:9-23)

After high school, I joined the Air Force and relocated to Lackland AFB, Texas. But because of my introverted personality perhaps, I was set back to an earlier flight in basic training. However, due to a meningitis epidemic breaking out in my original flight, I was returned to that flight. Because of that incident, I had missed going through the obstacle course and the firing range. A God-doing?

Finally, basic training finished then it was on to tech school. Initially, I was assigned to learn to be a policeman. But I didn't finish that school either, perhaps again because of my introverted personality. In the Air Force, I so remained, however; God had His purpose for keeping me in the military.

Part Three: The Surer Path Discovered

My service in the Air Force then took me to Patrick AFB, Florida. There I continued my active duty as a vehicle operator.  Those years at Patrick set me on a new course. Essentially those years were a continuation of my introverted ways, in that "good" life I had taken on through my churchgoing upbringing.

As so induced perhaps by my upbringing and my introverted temperament, I had no desire for the carousing so familiar "worldly" ways.

Completing a Navigator Bible study on the person of Jesus Christ, which my second brother had sent to me, I consider that the time when I received Jesus. I signed and dated the invitation at the end of that study acknowledging that I had done so—a quiet acceptance of Jesus into my life it was, I being alone there in my barracks room at the time.

Two years later I met a Navigator representative who had moved into the area purposely to begin an outreach among the servicemen stationed at Patrick.  My name on the Nav mailing list, he looked me up. He shared with me Steps to Peace with God by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I consider the meeting with that Nav rep my gaining an assurance of my salvation. (See John 1:12-13; 1 John 5:11-12)

Hence, the surer path I discovered. And as I would also realize even over any "clumps" I yet might come upon in my going that way, as Jesus has so promised (consider John 14:27; 16:33; Romans 8:36-37; 1 John 5:4-5). Also as He has said, "Be sure of this: [all along the way], I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b NLT)

For the remainder of my time there at Patrick, I was involved with the Navigators, 
receiving helpful encouragement for Christian living essentially through Bible study, prayer, and Scripture memory. The witnessing part, however, in particular, was somewhat hard, for one being not-so-much-of-a-talker. (Through my journey onward, however, I have spoken the name of Jesus in being attentive to the Holy Spirit's leading. Realizing also, I not so much spontaneous in conversation to have always handy a gospel tract to share.)

That period was when I was encouraged to consider attending a Bible college. Also in discovering, as one shared, that I could "express myself well in writing."

Attending a large Navigator conference (my first such), over a Thanksgiving weekend, in Estes Park, Colorado. I responded to the invitation given during the closing message of the conference. Standing with several other guys, I answered the call as Isaiah did, "Here I am. Send me" (See Isaiah 6:8).  What all that meant, at that time, was not fully then made clear to me.

Part Four: Realizing the Truer Reality

Then, on to a Bible college, which brought me to Columbia, South Carolina, but not immediately. I remained in Florida for about another couple of years after my active military duty. And because of my military service, my financial means through Bible college was provided; my coming to Bible college was perhaps God's purpose for keeping me in the military.

God privileged me with the opportunity to take in an Urbana conference during the Christmas break of my Bible college junior year. Recalling my own Urbana experience via virtual attendance in later years, I realized the significance of Urbana in students' lives. And refreshed mine as well, toward Christ's global cause (See Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 20:20-21; Acts 1:8)

During a chapel message one day at Bible college, God challenged me from a message on the book of Jonah. Since then Jonah has become an important Bible character to me, as is Moses. Every time upon hearing a sermon from the book of Jonah, I'm "all ears," and I ask myself, "Have I been a ‘Jonah' as one reluctant to go?"

Through the years since Bible college, it has been my desire to share Jesus; more and more these days so speaking that "matchless name" is the one thing of utmost importance—nothing else matters.

Touring through the city about my delivery job that God provided for me after Bible College, at viewing faces my mind a-wondering if those people know Jesus. Still, such wondering occurs, even today.

Making a delivery to an office one afternoon a sign posted on a wall there caught my observation. Impressing me so, for some reason, I gave it a second notice. Although in and out of that office in a minute or so, for whatever reason, even through the passing of time, my mind had never forgotten what that sign read:

"Man's mind stretched to a new idea will never return to its original dimension."

My Google search found that to be a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes. For me almost immediately at viewing that sign I was impressed with perhaps an application to that thought: my mind, my life, having been stretched to the things of God—the truer reality—how can I, or why would I desire so to return to things of the purely earthly realm?

About nine years after Bible College I answered the call to "go West young man." But that was not the typical call of those early "pioneer" days of the westward movement, but a call from God. And so off to Pasadena, California I went. There I worked for a Christian mission organization for 15 years.

Those years were most pleasurable for the opportunity as an aid in developing my writing skills as a staff writer for the Global Prayer Digest. Although on little support, I continued at that position for about five years. God then provided a paid position essentially with that same organization, but a different role. I kept at that position for ten years. After consideration, believing to be God's will, I moved back East. God provided work via a temp service, which later had become that full-time employment that continued for about eight years. Then, I was "let go."

My Messed Up "Good" Life: Climax – Onward till Upward

And so, the Lord having brought about my unemployment was perhaps truly the "defining moment" of my life.

Thinking back over the years in a sense I've felt I've been behind (my) time, having had to repeat my high school freshman year. And then, I've been sent back and forth in Air Force basic training.  I've been "kicked out" of Air Force police school, "turned about" on Florida's east coast, and then on to Bible college, graduating after the four years with a high B. Hence, humanly thinking I've been six years behind. Ah, but not so on the Lord's timetable.

Likewise, as a sojourner I've felt I've been, trekking this soil through this time: from Ohio to Texas to Florida to South Carolina to Southern California and back to South Carolina, never having a place of my own to call "home..." Hence, most of my years I have not lived in Ohio, just birth through high school; my dad passed away when I was a junior in high school; my mom, when I was a junior in college. (Hmm, no wonder I feel like a "misfit..." Ah, like the infamous "they" say, "Home is where one hangs his hat..." Hmm, I have rarely worn a hat).

Nevertheless, my Heavenly Father knows ever so much better than I. He has brought me into being in the first place. He knows all my ways and all my days (before a single day came to be). Imagine that. (See Psalm 139; Jeremiah 29:11).

Through the years, as that Native American of those earlier years predicted I would, I have realized the two worlds that exist in this time—the temporal and the eternal. Apart from the works of God in this physical world, everything else here, including (especially maybe) my TV viewing, has little or no value to me now (See Colossians 3:1-2) The temporal world is a "fantasy island," and Hollywood its capital city.

I fear no more the (temporal) world coming to an end, as I had in my youth. Jesus is making all things new, and a better place for me to call home—for all eternity. Hence, not the "best life now;" the best life is yet to come. (See John 14:1-3; Revelation 21:1-5; 2 Peter 3:10)

In the meantime, in this time it's onward till upward. In my leisure and my labor may all my thoughts and my words (written or spoken, virtual or vocal) reflect Jesus. (See Hebrews 12:1-4) That I may be ever attentive to the Holy Spirit's leading to proclaim the Father's Good News (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) to this lost ever-darkening world by means as He so directs —wherever He leads.

Again, thanks to God, most importantly for the many incidents, and the people He brought into my life all along the way, and particularly my early upbringing.

I may be "misfitted" for this temporal time—this unreal, deceptive world—but I'm "fitted" right in on the lighter side knowing Jesus as my Savior and Lord trekking that road less favored by, purposed to shine the light and spread the salt for God's glory. Knowing better so now, choosing that way made all the difference for me for all time and eternity. "In Christ, the old life has gone; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

"He brought me [too] up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, [out of my "good" life], and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God…" (Psalm 40:1-3, NASB)

Thank you for reading my story,

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