I will never forget the day… Toby and I had been playing basketball in the Auditorium. It was a hot and humid Nebraska summer day. From that day forward, I vowed to never play basketball, or any other sport for that matter, without being able to take a shower after – or at least change clothes. The church had a Coke machine, and the Diet Coke (20 oz.) bottle was screaming from the bowels of the machine to be ingested by my thirsty and sweating body. The only problem, I had no cash or coins. So, I went to “King” Art as I called him, asking if I wrote him a check for $1.00 to the church, could he give me 4 quarters for a Diet Coke. He kindly obliged, and I was one happy Master’s Commission student.
The problem with the story was that I had miscalculated my dates to cover the check. And to this day, the only check or draft I have ever bounced, was to my church for $1.00.
Talk about being bankrupt, I was as poor as a church mouse with nothing to show for it, other than a bubbly stomach that produced 2 or 3 belches. A momentary pleasure and a story that I have thought of for the last 22 years. It brings a smile to my face now, however then I was embarrassed and ashamed, and had nothing to show for this hilarious moment.
Today, 22 years later, I find myself bankrupt again, bankrupt in a different way. I am back at my home church. “King” Art is no longer the money man. The basketball hoops are long gone. And many of the men that God used to shape my early Faith Walk are either gone or their memories are a shell of what they used to be. And I am bankrupt almost – unemployed and displaced. The feelings of hopelessness and inadequacies feel my heart and emotions. I have to constantly tell myself that my emotions lie to me and that what I feel or see in me, is not what my Heavenly Father sees in me.
Bankrupt is such a painful feeling. Bankrupt means that you used to have some “cash”. Perhaps once might have been able to afford some luxuries… maybe even a $1.00 Diet Coke without the fear of bouncing a check, LOL! Like Job in the Bible, you were doing good, and then…
Now before you sense the urge to get super spiritual on me, let me assure you that I have the right people pouring into my life. The word of God is speaking as loud as it ever has. To steal a quote from Cory D, who stole it from Jeanne M., “There are times that I am sure, Jesus may even be bored with my prayer time!” But I will say, “Nonetheless, I am still praying!”
Still in the midst of these bankrupt feelings, I sense the still small voice of peace from my heavenly Father saying, “Son, I got you!”
Now this really cool picture came to me today. My feet dangling over an edge of something. The water was spraying my feet, but not actually engulfing them. I got nervous because I began to sense, then to see, thus actually feel the water rising – ready to engulf my toes then ankles and so on. As the nervous energy began to turn to anxiety, I realized I was looking at myself from a distance. ‘Oh my goodness’, I wasn’t sitting at the edge of the water. I wasn’t at the edge at all, or even on a boat side, or even sitting at the shore line of a mighty ocean. I was actually sitting in the hand of the Creator of the universe. I was sitting in the safest place that there is to be. I was in the hands of the Almighty. I had the soft calloused hands of the one who actually holds the waters, the land, the universe in His palms. I am here, safe and sound with no worries except that which my soul tricks my spirit into believing. The false “bank statements of worry and doubt” – telling me the lies of bankruptcy.
Now, as I sit here – some days wallowing in the pity of “bankruptcy”, I yearn for an escape. An escape from the walls of the basement I literally reside in. An escape from the constant tension of telling my family ‘Not now’ or ‘No’. An escape from the quilt of a grocery item that is not a necessity for the family. An escape from the lies that haunt my mind in quiet, in the car, early in the morning or late at night. I just want an escape. But today, I learn from a man that I hardly know, but trusted him for a conversation with the fragile walls of my story and current place in life. I learned as he spoke what I know now was the kind and gentle words of the Holy Spirit, my soul is not desiring escape – I forget too easily that I am in His hands, not a terrible situation. I am truly desiring peace in my soul. My bankrupt emotions, need not a refreshing Diet Coke, they need an encounter, they need communion with an Almighty Heavenly Father that knows, understands, and is willing to speak –as I listen.
Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule your hearts.”
Now this verse has the undertones of living at peace with “one another”. But I know this to be truth, if you are not at peace with Christ, then with yourself, you will not be at peace with others. And if you’re not at peace with others, you will begin to live your life in bankruptcy.
You see at the beginning of this little essay on Bankruptcy, I spoke of a bounced $1.00 check. The truth of the matter is, in life, true bankruptcy comes when you feel alone, when you sense that there is no one there with you – loneliness is the most devastating bankruptcy there is.
Being in this transition for the last 7 months, I have learned that the thing I miss the most about having a position within the walls of the church – are actually the people that you learn to love, the people you do ministry with, the people that you end up living life with. They begin to know you and the deepest things, sometimes the darkest things, always the silly jokes and the places that they can poke fun of all in the name of LOVE! Without them, you begin to feel as if you have nothing to lean on, no one to carry you in your weakness, no one to carry the load and burden.
King David penned it this way…
Psalms 62:1-2 (NLT), “1 I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken!”
The Message says it this way, “God, the one and only – I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle: I’m set for life.”
So, guess what? “What?”, you ask. I’m glad you asked, ‘You are NOT bankrupt, and neither am I!’
Why? Because you and I have the rock. Yes, for the moment, things may seem a little bleak. The water seems like it is rising. There is not a job on the horizon. Friends may see to be less than numerous. The future is just a thought, a dream, perhaps a fantasy of mirages. But, take heart, you and I are in a good place. Broke only leads to a great inheritance. Before you go and get all “He’s in the Prosperity Gospel!” Nope, I am into the Gospel that gives some great promises…
Psalms 51:17(NLT), “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God!”
Lamentations 3:22-24 (MSG), “God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”
Lamentations 3:32-33 (MSG), “His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way…”
Psalms 86:11 (NIV), “Teach me your ways Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness: give me an undivided heart, so that I may honor you.”
Funny thing is, I don’t drink Diet Coke anymore, yet it has left a mark on me from all those years ago. I laughed a few weeks ago, as I wrote a check to the church for a tithe of 2 weeks of work God had provided for me. I chuckled as I remembered the story. I thought of King Art. I felt the bubbles in my tummy. I smiled, because I was writing a check to my church…I AM NOT BANKRUPT after all!
I appreciate your honesty and transparency in sharing your story. It takes great humility and strength to do so, especially, as an Assembly of God pastor where transparency is often viewed as weak and unspiritual, whatever, unspiritual means.
Be well! May the Lord guide you through His Word!
Thank you John! The Lord is guiding, in a very winding road, but it is guiding and I would be dead without it! Covet your prayers! Until we meet, may He guide to the Coke Machine of His choice!
Much Love and Many Thanks…