The Baptist Beacon
Herein Lies My Hope
Michael T. Adamson
At the close of what has seemingly been an eternity of bickering, feuding, and never ending court battles, I have converged on an island of peace. It is not what propagated the turmoil that is so interesting as what I have rediscovered at the end that has been so rewarding. The regrettable part is that the past is lost; valuable, limited time has been consumed in a war largely fostered within my heart and soul.
The marriage, from all appearances had been a good one. I worked, my wife was a homemaker and mother to our four wonderful children. We attended church every Sunday where I taught Sunday school and Bible study. My wife had also been a Sunday school teacher, teaching the class for the small children, although she was no longer involved in that area. Then suddenly, after nearly fourteen years, the marriage abruptly disintegrated and divorce quickly followed, forever changing our lives and my person.
The next question that usually follows is "What happened?"
To be honest, I really do not know. I have struggled with that question for many years and it still eludes me. Unfortunately, there is no real hope of knowing the answer definitively, and today, it really does not matter. What does matter is that it did happen, and just as it happened to me, it can happen to you, or perhaps it already has.
What happened following my divorce would make a television soap opera appear tame. Multiple court hearings over custody issues followed the dissolution. Battle lines were struck, sabers drawn, and cannons loaded. With each resulting volley, character blood flowed and, although I attempted to hold my life together outwardly, inwardly it was rapidly disintegrating. In ignorant desperation, I remarried two years later but, that marriage only lasted a year.
The court custody hearings surrounding my four older children from my first marriage escalated and, a year later, in a final coup de Gras, the court granted my former wife custody. I do not have the words to express the feeling of loss I experienced. That feeling will forever haunt me. My youngest son from my current marriage was born a month later and his eagerly anticipated welcome into the world was reduced to bittersweet. The fractured family unit I had fought so long to preserve was shattered beyond, what I believed to be, any hope of repair.
The next year was spent attempting to overturn the court's decision, attempts that were largely unsuccessful. Financially and emotionally broken, the desperation of the situation demanded, (rather forced), my resolve.
A series of unexpected events brought two of my children home to live, a year apart from each other. The oldest child, now grown, has since moved out on his own. The events surrounding their return are largely responsible for the peace I have rediscovered. It is that peace I want to share with you.
My children's reasons for their desire to return are private but, let it suffice that they were both surrounded by personal conflict. Unfortunately their mother did not share the same enthusiasm for their return home and it was not a pleasant ordeal for anyone.
Midway through a crisis with my oldest child, I began to take stock of my life. My life was in a shambles! Oh, on the outside I looked okay, but on the inside I was miserable. Traveling for the company I work for also gave me ample time to reflect on the good and, especially, the bad. I knew where the answer lay, but how could I get back?
Psalms 51:12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. (KJV)
I knew that to help my children, I had to first get my life back on track. The greatest part of that travel had to begin with the restoration of my relationship with God.
Lest there are any misunderstandings, I was saved when I was nineteen years old and I have never doubted my salvation, or doubted the eternal security of my soul. God had never left me; I had left Him!
Through my turmoil and heartache He had always been ready to help and guide me. Yet I was adamant to handle it alone. I kept the Lord waiting in the wings instead of letting Him assume the lead.
Through much prayer and the mercy of our Lord and Savior, I again realized what I had felt those many years before. Yet, there was a final piece of business that required resolution between me and the Lord. Twenty-four years earlier, following my conversion, God called me to preach. To my shame and disgrace, I had never submitted to that call. However, God was still calling and I knew I had to answer. I publicly announced my call to the ministry in October 1994, and have been trying to fulfill that calling to the best of my ability since then.
Since the salvation of my soul, I have never known such peace. Did my life miraculously turn around? Did everything that had gone awry in my life do an about face? Outwardly, many things have not changed, at least, not what the world quantifies as change. Inwardly, the difference is as day and night. When I am discouraged, when I begin to feel apprehensive, when I just feel a need to talk to someone, God's help and the strength I need is only a prayer away.
I do not, for one instant, believe God to be responsible for any of the tragedies in my life. I do not believe He in any way orchestrated the events that have caused me such tremendous heartache. Many, if not all, of those things might have still happened, even if I had been the most obedient of servants. However, what I had been denying myself was the daily, one-on-one relationship with my Savior that would have strengthened me for the trials I faced. If I had been listening to the Holy Spirit during all those years, I might have been more cautious and avoided the pitfalls and costly errors.
What about the future? That is easy! The future is bright, because I have peace with God in the present! I cannot control the future, but God can. I cannot control what other people say about me, what they think about me, or what they believe caused failures in my past, but God can. I cannot prevent anyone from making the same mistakes and errors in their life that I made in mine, . . . but God can!
More importantly, I cannot put power in my feeble efforts behind the pulpit, but God can! The gospel message preached without the Spirit is only man's words. It may be entertaining, it might be interesting, it can even evoke an emotional response from a congregation. However, without the Spirit, the message will not affect the heart of a sinner, or effectively strengthen the church.
Hebrews 4:12-16 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (KJV)
Those verses of scripture must have been especially inspired for me. God, in His infinite love for me, must have known I would find solace in these words penned so long ago.
But, what of my past? How will I overcome it to effectively fulfill my obligation to preach His gospel? These questions deserve consideration because they affect how I am received into the pulpit and perceived by a congregation that knows of me,. . . but does not know me. My answer is found in the following verses:
Phil 3:12_14 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (KJV)
The closing of this narrative marks an ending to a chapter of my life. It does not mean it will ever escape into obscurity, only that it is appropriately sandwiched between what was before it began and what will follow its ending. My purpose for sharing it with you is simple. My prayer for anyone is that they recognize the solution I found as the preventative for a similar future in their life. If they have already suffered loss, perhaps they will find the strength through God's grace to guide their course back to the path He would have them follow. The solution and preventative advice is nothing more than borrowed wisdom.
Eccl 12:13_14 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (KJV)