Last night I attended an exciting game where two of my worlds collided. The high school where we joyfully invested over a decade of our early years of ministry was playing against the high school that Dan and I were given a vision for starting and have passionately served for the past 14 years! It is in moments like these that are filled with memories, emotions and reflections on what was, what is and what might have been.
In 1986 as a single young woman, serving as a youth pastor and just months away from becoming “Mrs” Dan Lambdin, the high school that rented our church building was in need of a part-time girls PE teacher. They had just completed their very first year and were getting an influx of students from another local high school that was merging with them. I eagerly took the position as it would provide me another opportunity to minister to youth (my passion and calling), it was flexible and convenient to my current position as a youth pastor and it didn’t hurt that I could use the extra cash to pay for my upcoming wedding. Little did I know how much that one decision would dramatically change and shape my life.
It was during that year that I fell in love with the ministry of Christian education! It was like having youth group everyday. I could pour into the lives of young people, mentor and disciple them in such a greater and often more effective way than I was able to as a youth pastor, where I often only got to see the kids two times a week for a couple of hours at the most. (and a bonus: the students couldn’t just leave if they got mad at you for something you did or said or if they decided that they were ”done” with being a believer….so you actually had the opportunity to walk them through the hard things instead of them disappearing, never to be seen again like what often happened in youth ministry) I soon realized that it was not only the students who I was able to minister to but their entire families as well. I was excited about the unlimited opportunities to impact others for the Lord through this avenue of Christian education.
After we were married, Dan decided to go back to school and get his Bachelor Degree in Bible & Theology. Besides renting out a room in our tiny apartment to pay for his tuition, he became the school janitor to help pay for college. Before long he was coaching, became the athletic director and was even teaching a class. He too became passionate about the ministry of Christian education and after graduating became a full-time Bible teacher at the school.
For over a decade we faithfully served the school, giving wholeheartedly of our time, our talent and our treasure. In fact the positions we held were vast and various (little did we know that God was preparing us to have the experience and tools to actually start a school years later!) Believe it or not we did all of the following jobs during our years at this school:
- Teachers – Physical Education (we both taught this!), Bible, Typing (yup…those who can’t “do”…teach!), Government(no laughing Class of ’91), Leadership, Journalism & Yearbook
- Support Staff – Janitor, Secretary, Bus Driver
- Coaches – Volleyball, Softball, Soccer
- Advisors – Student Council, Yearbook, School Newspaper, Christian Club, Class Advisors
- Administration – Athletic Director, Vice Principal, Principal, Dean of Students, Director of Admissions, Director of Student Affairs, Guidance Counselor, Director of Development
Yes, we pretty much did everything. We basically lived at the school. Our children even had a small room off my classroom to play in while we spent many after school hours working. It was our heart, our soul and our passion! And the results were phenomenal! We saw the school triple in size during that time and the programs, athletics, activities and academics flourished. We had a very close and united staff who were our dearest friends. We developed life long relationships with students and families that continue to be strong and steadfast today. (In fact we are now teaching & ministering to many of our former students children!) We saw God move in amazing, miraculous and life changing ways during that season that we affectionately refer to as “the glory years” at BCHS….some of the best times of our lives.
And then the unthinkable happened. On March 6, 1997 I was fired. Dan (along with many other long time staff members) subsequently submitted his resignation.
Without getting into all the murky details that led to that fateful day (suffice to say I had done nothing immoral, illegal or wrong that would be deserving of this termination), it was shocking, heart wrenching and simply unbelievable. We felt as if everything we held dear was being ripped away from us. We felt betrayed, attacked and abandoned. We grieved deeply and questioned God’s will in it all. We also found ourselves in a desperate situation – instantly going from two incomes to none (with no opportunity for unemployment benefits) with four young children to care for and a home that was partially owned by our former employer, unsure of God’s will and direction for our lives and dealing with heartache and depression. It was truly a moment in time that left its indelible mark upon our hearts and lives.
However, this seemingly horrific - trial by fire – in our lives was used by the Lord to burn several principles into our hearts that will not only ”stand the test of time” but reap amazing benefits to us, our children and our children’s children as we walk through this life.
God Alone is our Provider
I have written a lot about this paradigm over the years (you can read several posts here) so I am not going to say too much as this could be an entire book. This one experience was the beginning of a true change in what we really believed about God and His provision. Of course, like most Christians, we said out of our mouths that we trusted the Lord to provide for our needs….but in reality we mostly trusted in our own abilities and actions as well as in others to provide a paycheck. When that was ripped out of our hands and we were left standing with nothing…..but God….we came to the harsh reality of how truly small our faith and trust really was (and I don’t say that proudly). We worried about losing our home, feeding our kids and having to declare bankruptcy. We fretted. We stressed. We cried. We prayed. And slowly the Lord began to use His Word (see Matthew 6:25-34, Philippians 4:19, Philippians 4:6) to penetrate our unbelieving hearts and change the way we see things and the way we live.
And we have remained changed! We have had seasons of prosperity since that day and seasons of poverty and yet we know, that we know, that we know that God IS OUR PROVIDER! He will meet every need. He will not forsake us. Even now as I am looking at the realities of an empty gas tank, an upcoming property tax bill and an unpaid gas & electric statement…I have simply not an ounce of anxiety in my heart or mind because I know who pays my bills and meets my needs. If simply learning this lesson and having this type of peace was the only lesson we learned from that experience…it would have been well worth it all.
It’s not what happens to you in life…but how you respond that really counts!
I read a quote on facebook the other day that said…“Everyone wants to be an overcomer but no one wants anything to overcome” Ain’t that the truth? We all admire people who face trials and adversity and come out victorious. We hear stories about them and our eyes well up with tears. We watch movies about them and wildly cheer them on. We read books about their lives and are inspired to be the same. And yet when we are faced with challenges, obstacles and trials we shake our fist and look up to heaven and shout (or whine depending on your personality)…”Why me?” Or we get mad, bitter and angry allowing our lives to be ruined by our challenging circumstances. We admire and aspire to be the overcomer and yet when the very trial that comes our way giving us that opportunity we let it bury us.
It was very easy for us to get angry and to allow bitterness into our hearts. After all we had been faithful and loyal. We had served and sacrificed. We had given up the better part of our youth and helped build a dynamic and successful school only to be cast aside, wronged and betrayed by those we loved and trusted. Didn’t we have the right to be angry? And there were plenty of people ready to feed that anger. It was a recipe for disaster. Thankfully we both had a pretty good handle on the scriptures that are very bold at pointing out that there is no place in God’s kingdom for bitterness and unforgiveness. And since we wanted a place in the kingdom both here on earth as well as for eternity we knew we better quickly get it right.
During this season the Lord taught us that when bad things happen in your life (and they will….you can count on it!), He is not caught by surprise (nope God was not shocked when I was fired) and that He is wanting us to have a right response for His glory! After spending some much needed time away a few weeks after my termination (I am so grateful for a godly husband who saw me spiraling downward and knew that I needed some alone time with God to “get it together”), the Lord showed me how I was to respond as an overcomer to the trials of life.
- Give thanks! Really God? You want me to thank you for this? No, Beth I want you to give thanks in this and for that matter in everything! “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Simple yes…but very hard. He doesn’t tell me I have to “feel” thankful just “be” thankful. So I began to thank the Lord in the midst of my circumstances. (and guess what after just a few days of thanking Him…I felt better! hopeful! encouraged!)
- Forgive fast and often If you want to be forgiven then you have no option but to forgive. period. end of story. It’s basic Christianity (you all know the prayer..forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us) Forgiveness is simply releasing someone else from your judgement. You don’t have to “feel” like forgiving them. It is an act of your will. I release them from my judgement. One of the things I found with forgiving though is that I can choose to forgive and then I find myself remembering & taking back my forgiveness (I am sooooo not like God)…so the Lord told me to keep forgiving over & over & over. And you know what? I have not one ounce of unforgiveness in my heart for those who hurt & betrayed me all those years ago. Somewhere along the line of forgiving daily it stuck and I truly was able to walk freely in forgiveness! Since that trial – forgive fast & forgive often has been my goal whenever the Lord gives me the opportunity to be wronged, hurt or betrayed (yup! It is an opportunity to be an overcomer and I seem to get them often)
- Pray for those who mistreat you If we all prayed for those who are a “thorn in our side” we would be amazed at the change in our hearts. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” Matthew 5:44-45 “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:28 Even as I type this I am being reminded of those I should be praying for right now. I hear you Lord!
- Sow seeds of kindness & love into their lives Ok so I forgive them, I am praying for them and now you want me to do something nice for them? What??? “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them…Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable…“If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads. Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:14, 17, 20-21 It was pretty clear to me that if I really wanted to overcome I needed to do acts of kindness to bless those who had hurt me. I gulped hard and I began to brainstorm what I could do and then despite how hard it was I did them! I am sure that those simple acts did something profound in my heart as well as opening up avenues for the Lord to bless my life.
It’s True…God really does work everything out for good!
The scripture often quoted in Romans 8:28 – “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” is not just a “nice” thought…it is truth. When I think about the end of that era of my life, like I did last night at the football game, with a “what might have been” perspective I actually shudder at the thought of NOT being fired on that day in 1997!
Out of the ashes of that trial by fire came some of the most amazing perfect blessings of my life!
- The creation of Jim Elliot Christian High School that stands out as a beacon of light for God’s glory. A place where lives are being impacted for eternity. A school that two of my daughters have graduated from and two currently attending who have benefited from the amazing staff who have taught, cared for and mentored them as well as given them lifelong Christ honoring friendships. A place that has provided my husband with his “dream job”…teaching Bible all day and speaking into the lives of young people as the school chaplain.
- Homeschooling my children! I can not even begin to imagine how different my life would be if I had not begun to homeschool my children after my termination (my eldest at the time attended the school’s private Christian elementary as a result of the tuition benefit which of course we lost). My relationship with my kids would be vastly different. My impact and influence on their lives would be vastly different. My children’s relationship with each other would be vastly different. I might even still be a “control freak” and not in recovery! In short everything would be dramatically different and since I LOVE the way it has played out I shudder to think what we would have all missed out on.
- Running a successful home business. I never ever considered working from home. I never knew the freedom and joy of being my own boss. One of the blessings of my life being turned upside down was running a successful profitable business from my home for over a decade. It was amazing! It was fun! It was fabulous! I did something I loved, got treated to unbelievable incentive trips all over the world with my husband, made friends who will forever be a part of my life and was able to perfect the gift of speaking, writing & motivating others as a result of my business. I simply cannot imagine my life without this business.
And those are just the really ”BIG” life altering things. There are countless other blessings that our greatest trial has brought into our lives. I can honestly now say that getting fired was one of the single best moments of my life! Of course hind sight is 20/20…right? Now I strive to actually stand on that promise in the midst of the trial knowing that God has a plan and that I will one day be able to look back and see the blessing that it has brought into my life!
If you are currently “walking through the fire” in life may these words encourage you today, build your faith as well as giving you practical and scriptural ways to overcome! One day you too will be on the other side looking at what was, what is and what might have been….and rejoicing in it all!