“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”
–Galatians 5:1 (NLT)
When I think about my family, I picture them sitting with me by a cozy fire, sipping hot chocolate. But as the black sheep of the clan, I could never go back.
I left home on bad terms when I was young, without looking back. I had tried to carve out my own future. Therefore, my Christmas Eve brought quite a different story, as my money was running out. There was no lovely family scene waiting for me tonight.
I had been a rich kid once, but the trust fund my grandfather had left me was totally depleted due to parties and reckless living. So I was dressed in rags now.
I decided to do something I had never done before. I searched day and night for a job, and I finally got one washing dishes in a restaurant. But I barely got by, and just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I was laid off. Finding myself in an extreme emergency, I was cold, lonely and hungry. I wanted to die. But the way I saw it, even calling home was not an option, as my hands were paralyzed by pride.
The clock was ticking, though, and I tried in vain to tell myself not to be stupid. I flinched at the knowledge that if I didn’t think of something soon, I would be out on the street.
My rent was killing me, and I knew I needed to move. But I was locked into a lease, so my hands were tied. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had used up all my savings from work, and my credit cards were maxed out.
As I went over my dilemma for the millionth time, my landlord banged on the door.
“Hey, you! It was time to move yesterday!”
After pausing briefly for an answer, he continued, snarling out the words. “You’re lucky I don’t have anyone waiting for this apartment.”
Opening the door a crack, I tried to pacify him. I told him everything had been packed up, and my friend was on the way over to help me move.
“I wasn’t out sooner,” I stuttered, “because I had to make a ton of calls in order to recruit anyone to help me.”
“I’ve heard that before,” he grumbled, “but I guess If some help is really on the way, it’s better than nothing.”
Before walking away, my landlord delivered his parting shot. “You can pay me for the extra day on your way out!”
As I slammed the door, I remember thinking sardonically, “It’s only Christmas, but what did I expect? I bet he and Ebenezer Scrooge are related.”
Sitting down with a sigh, I thought, “I need to face facts. My money is virtually gone, and so are my fair-weather friends. When my money was there, so were they. Now they just make excuses. They say they’d love to help, but it’s impossible. Yeah, I’m sure they would all rush over to help,” I bitterly say out loud.
My reluctant friend finally arrived, and my things were hastily thrown into the back of his truck. Climbing into the passenger side, I gave my driver directions to a motel i had seen while driving to work. It had a big sign advertising weekly rentals for low prices, and that sounded really good to me.
When we got there, though, we couldn’t believe our eyes.
“It looked bad enough driving by,” I muttered to myself, “but I guess beggars can’t be choosers.”
Resigning myself to a life of peeling paint and boarded-up windows, I started to climb out of the truck.
When my driver saw this, he shook his head and started to turn around. “You don’t want to live here,” he said.
But before he could drive away, I jumped out and headed for the main desk, followed by my incredulous friend.
The hotel proprietor directed me to what turned out to be a small, dark room, and I rushed inside. My driver helped me unload all my earthly possessions from the truck, throwing them every which way. A few of them landed on the couch, but most of them were strewn all over the floor.
The smell was overpowering, so once my friend had finished he hurried out the door, uttering a few explatives. But sighing, I reflected on the fact that my work had just started. Exhausted, I slumped down in my ratty chair, in my poor excuse for a room. I felt discouraged, and I feared that a headache was coming on.
I couldn’t remember when I had last eaten, and I reminded myself of the Christmas holiday tomorrow. Sighing, I convinced myself that I’m overdue for a treat. As If in agreement, my stomach rumbled ferociously. So even though it would take the last of my money, I decided to order a supreme pizza and a drink.
As I dreamed about the dinner coming my way I weakened, and my plans for doing any kind of work tonight flew out the window. So doing what I do best, I procrastinated, deciding to tackle unpacking my possessions tomorrow.
When my pizza finally came, I ripped the box open and ravenously stuffed a huge slice into my mouth. I laughed a bit, realizing the size of that slice would have horrified my mother. In what has to be record time, I scarfed down the whole pie. I yawned, and in spite of my circumstances, I fell into a deep sleep, still in my clothes.
The next morning, I woke up with a start. I heard a bell ring, and realized I had received a notification on my phone. In horror, I rubbed my eyes and saw a text from my former boss reminding me of an important meeting with him. (Sadly, the 24-hour diner was one of the few restaurants that was open on Christmas Day.) If there was even an outside chance, I needed to get my old job back.
“This isn’t the way I wanted to start out,” I thought, shaking myself and bolting upright.
Not wanting to incur my boss’s wrath, I fired off a quick text. Desperately, I used my move as an excuse, and I told him I was on the way. While I was texting away, I ran outside like a lunatic, hopped into my car, turned the key, and peeled out of the parking lot in a cloud of dust. The brakes screeched as I sped through the complex, while people gawked out of their open doors. The few children outside ran in terror, while those who could afford cell phones took pictures.
Once out of the motel, I went even faster, really putting the petal to the metal. In spite of my efforts, however, I was slowed down by traffic. So flipping off the radio and dreading the inevitable, I sent my former boss another regretful text.
As you may have guessed, this fictional story I’ve written parallels that of the prodigal son in the Bible, except that it has no ending. This is because we all face challenges, which offer us a choice. Therefore, it is up to you and I to decide what to do. We can run from our problems, or our challenges can cause us to move closer to a loving God.
The scriptures talk a lot about moving. For example, in stark contrast to the story of running above, we see the story of King David. He was a warrior who exemplified dependence upon God, and won many battles. Yet, for the purposes of integrity, much of his life was spent hiding as an innocent fugitive.
Because he feared and revered God, he chose to flee from his enemies instead of fighting them. However, he said that he would not be moved away from God. So the idea of moving needs to be viewed in a spiritual sense, and that brings us full circle. So while the concepts of moving and choice are both important, our primary focus needs to be on moving towards God.
We all live in the day of decision. If you don’t believe me, just look at your wife’s honey-do list. But seriously, ask yourself this question: Am I running from God, or running towards Him?
If your honest answer is that fear or something else tempts you to run away from Him, don’t be discouraged. The Bible invites you to call upon God by being still as you bask in His presence. This will lead you to a lifestyle of listening, learning, and leaning. So let’s look at these 3 goals. I encourage you to make them your motivations as you go throughout each day.
Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone who seems to be on another planet? Well, sometimes you and I are that person when God seems far away. To remedy this, many people look for a new experience around every corner, while God’s Word silently beckons. There is wisdom, blessing, and joy in its pages, as all good gifts come from God.
But in order to receive the dividends, you have to invest in the Bible by reading it. So I came across a little ditty I would like to share. It simply says, “Read your Bible and pray, every single day.”
The next step is to begin to learn God’s Word. But don’t get discouraged, for this is a life-long process. The Bible is like a gold mine that holds great riches, but in order to get them out, you have to dig through the depths of scripture.
Finally, have you ever leaned against a wall when you are tired? That may seem like a silly question to you, but it is exactly the way that God wants us to lean on Him.
As you learn to listen to and lean upon the Lord, you will find that all three of these goals fit together, and you will have a pattern for your life. So let God be your closest friend as you delight in Him in these three ways, while making the best move of your life.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Tuesday night Bible study. These studies are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 6:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 313-209-8800. Our PIN is 8699032. We hope to talk with you soon!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.