When I reflect upon my life over the last year, I see an embarrassment of riches that I refuse to take any credit for at this point. In some way, the good harvest that I’m experiencing in the present has its root in the past. Between June 2008 and July 2009, I navigated three jobs, five months of unemployment, and commuting around Los Angeles without an automobile. During that thirteen-month stretch, I wrestled with my identity as a man. I felt like I could not provide for myself in this city filled with dream makers and dream weavers. Deep down in my soul, I longed for a relationship with a woman who followed God with her whole heart. Because I lacked an automobile and a steady job, I could not invite someone into my life with a clear conscience. Hindsight also seems to suggest that I might have written myself off from the dating game, too.
Before I plunged head long into this thirteen month stretch, I faced a stiff challenge from a former employer. At the time, I had finished my first and only year of teaching at the high school level. This man served as the head of school for this private, high school. During my exit from the school, he expressed disappointment in my performance, but even more so with my lack of vision. It was this latter point that lead my former boss to pray for me before walking me to the front door. I do not recall the exact words, but the gist of them centered around trusting in God to develop a vision for my life and goals. My former boss gave me a much needed rebuke. The reason that I bring this up has to do with the following scripture passage:
“The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence” (Prov. 15:32-33, ESV).
Six years ago, I lacked the foresight into my previous employer’s rebuke and prayer. Little did I know that it was a life-giving reproof. I needed to hear the words that I lacked vision for my life. Those words pierced my soul with the light of God’s truth. Over the next several months, the Spirit of God used his light to reveal what was present within me that I could not see. Suppressed passions and talents began coming to the surface; however, bad habits and sinful patterns bubbled up, too. If I really wanted to be a man, then I knew that I needed to acknowledge my heartfelt passions and my bad habits and my aimlessness. Fourteen months of counseling provided the context to work things out. It became clear that I needed to man up with the person that I had become.
When I lost my teaching job in June 2008, I had no idea that I would gain wisdom from it in the future. Here is another Proverb that I found, which is similar in theme to the above quoted verse: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20, ESV). I could have rejected my former employer’s advice about the direction of my life. Maybe that possibility existed, but I am not willing to bet on it. I chose to enter counseling in order to get a handle on me and my life. The Lord used my former boss to reprove one of his wayward, younger men. From my perspective, I see God’s hands all over this event from June 2008. Name one employer who prays for the person that he or she just fired. A few months later, I landed a job in the professional camera world where I have been working ever since.
One part of the story has ended well. It has paved the way for my present circumstances. I gained wisdom from a painful time and incident in my past. This has allowed me to dwell among the wise, which I take to mean my wife and our marriage. If I had refused to act on my former employer’s rebuke, my current life would not be sustained by wisdom. There are brief moments in life that carry great weight. By God’s grace and mercy, he has revealed to me some of the significance of this incident from my past. I expect many more to come. It is my hope and prayer that I remain open to listening and receiving life-giving reproofs. If I cease to be transparent or humble for life-giving reproofs, then I open myself up to a rude awakening.