After absorbing and then processing the news, we decided to take a 6 month break before looking for employment. By worldly standards, it was a risky thing to do. David was an unemployed banker in a banking city, which was filled with 2,000 of his best friends in the same situation. But we knew who held the cards. We knew for whom we actually worked. We were given the gift of peace. Our hope was simple. We wanted to step back, enjoy our family, and open our hands to receive what had been planned for us. This was an opportunity to live in the kind of dependence for which we were created. Great peace came from living in the moment regardless of the outcome. David, who tends to be prone to anxiety, slept soundly. We loved having him home. The hamster wheel had stopped, and we were having a happy little hamster party.
Within a few months, two ministry opportunities unexpectedly surfaced and became viable possibilities. Well-meaning friends would ask, “Do you feel called into ministry?” Our answer seemed somewhat illusive, but it was true. We’d answer, “We don’t know if we’ve been called into ministry, but we feel like we’ve done what we were supposed to for today.” Seven months flew by, and it turned out that neither of the two ministry opportunities would be our ultimate destination. During those months, David had chosen to pour himself and his talents into organizations and people we loved dearly, and that had been a gift unto itself. But still no job.
Eight months into the adventure, it was time to consider banking opportunities that may exist in Charlotte. He began the job-hunting process. With 2,000 of his best friends. Although were not married to a particular home or life-style, we had been holding white-knuckled to our amazing community in Charlotte. We couldn’t fathom leaving. “God, we’ll do anything… but that. “ Of course, it’s the “anything but that” which he uses to teach us that all we really need is him. And it’s the “anything but that” which proves that idols don’t have to come in the shape of houses, country clubs, or lifestyles. They can also come in the form of Godly people and unique community.
Shortly after commencing the job search, David received “the call” from a bank in Nashville. We had always said that we would grow old here, but if we ever had to move, Nashville would be our top city of choice. I started doing homework on churches, ballet studios, and music programs. We made the house-hunting trip, and I found a beautiful old bookshop in which to make my dwelling while David had his final round of interviews downtown. The kind old shopkeeper asked if I’d like to go behind the shop to the warehouse, and I spent over an hour digging through stacks of dusty, ragged books. This could be my new home. The great finds in the bookstore helped. I do have my priorities, you know.
We returned to North Carolina and put our house on the market. Homes in our neighborhood had been lingering on the market for months, and we didn’t want to waist time. We had talked for years about moving to another neighborhood, so there seemed to be no downside and we had plenty of time to sort out the details. Or so we thought. Our home went under contract in less than 12 hours and after 3 showings. We were shocked. We were moving.
Later that week, David received an unexpected call from a former colleague. We were surprised to learn that he was a final candidate for a job in Charlotte. The folks in Nashville graciously allowed him the time to decide, and the folks in Charlotte sped the process up beyond what we could have anticipated. You can guess the end of the story. We’re still here.
Although we all know that life can turn “on a dime” and that we ultimately have little control of our own destinies, we spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy fighting that universal truth. We think we can plan, maneuver, and even convince God to give us what we want. We’ve inherited an insidious spiritual cancer that tries to convince us that we know best. Then God is gracious enough to intervene and remind us that it’s not true. That he knows what we need far better than we do. What we need is often not what we want. What we need most is dependence on Him.
Today, we stand grateful for the invisible thread that led us through such an adventure. The path was never clear. It was full of twists, turns, caverns, and surprises that didn’t make sense at the time. We experienced many great gifts during those months – time together, peace in the midst of turmoil, steadfast friends, and the storybook ending of staying in Charlotte. Yet we’ve seen enough life to learn that although these are good things, they too could be taken away at any time.
The greatest gift that we received along the way has been the assurance that “no, we are definitely not in charge.” And yes, the One who is in charge is good and faithful and true. He gently leads if only we’ll choose to unwrap our white-knuckled fingers from around whatever it is that we grasp – in order to hold tight to the invisible thread. We can’t hold both at once. May we remember and believe, as Irene’s grandmother promised, “You must not doubt the thread. Of one thing you may be sure, that while you hold it, I hold it too.”