Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Seven-Year Zap

My adult life has been structured by cycles of upheaval happening at roughly seven-year intervals.

1973: I should have been riding on top of the world. Everything seemed to be going my way. I’d achieved everything I had set out to achieve in college. Yet I was a total mess. And it was this mess that led me to becoming a Christian.

1980: We had moved to St. Louis from Houston. The Texas housing market was at a standstill, due to state usury laws capping mortgage interest rates at 10% (and the prime rate was well north of that). Two contracts on our house in Houston had fallen through, we were paying for a mortgage in Houston and an apartment in St. Louis, my wife was pregnant, and we were worse than flat broke. This mess led me to become understanding of depression, the need to confess weakness, and the need to depend upon others.

1987: My father died, the leadership structure at the church we were attending blew up (blowing me with it), and then events at work led to what looked like my career blowing up. We would eventually find another church home, and what looked like my career dead end became the pivot point for my corporation,

1994-1999: This seven-year “zap” extended over three years. The CEO I was writing speeches for announcement his retirement; his replacement was, unfortunately for me and the eventually the rest of the corporation, a mess. The company went through three years of intense turmoil and upheaval; I was spun-off with a division and the mother company was eventually itself bought up. This is where I truly learned that ability, experience, and even reputation counted for nothing in the corporate world. What mattered was politics. What mattered to God was something different.

2003: The recession caught up with my communications consulting business. It had been gangbusters for two years, began to sputter the third year, and then was looking for a crash landing the fourth year. What I learned was to not dismiss unexpected opportunities, like working as a director of communications for an urban school district.

2009-2010: Back in the corporate world, a string of major career successes led to – a deliberate and ultimately successful effort to destroy what had been one of the best functioning staff organizations in the company’s history. Major lesson learned: the world, when it feels the status quo is threatened, will actively oppose even what’s in its own best interests.

These times were difficult. In questioned what God was doing in every one of them. I often shook my fist. I often felt abandoned. But I hung on, sometimes by my fingernails and many times with the help of others. I knew I was being taught something. The “something” only became apparent after the fact.

In The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges says that “…in times of adversity, do not despise it by refusing to acknowledge God’s hand in it, and do not lose heart under it by failing to see His love in it.”

It’s about time for another installment of the cycle. And there’s been a situation going on for several months that’s been hard, one that it would be easy to learn the wrong lesson from. So I wait to see what God is teaching me this time.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges. To see what others had to say on this chapter, “The Discipline of Adversity,” please visit Sarah at ReadingBetween the Lines. This concludes the discussion.

Photograph by Lynn Greyling via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

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