…that is approximately how many minutes have passed since I graduated from seminary and moved from Texas.

A year ago, yesterday, I walked across that stage, and walked away from, what seemed like at the time, the most rewarding time of ministry in my life.  I thought that God had BIG things in store for me.  I knew He was calling me to do something I couldn’t do on my own.  I had dreams….I had ambitions.

But, I also had this sinking feeling deep inside me that I was walking into a dead end.  God wasn’t just calling me out of Texas; He was calling me to move back home…the one place I never thought I would go back to.  For me, it was the scariest place in the world.

And yet, here I am, a year later, still living in Auburn, AL and for the most part feeling blessed.  But it hasn’t been easy.

I have kept a journal since my senior year of high school, and I have this habit of looking back on my life to see where I was and where I have come, This week I have doing that a lot.  This past year has been one of the hardest years of my life (second to the year I lost my dad).  It’s been grueling.  It’s been painful.  I have gone through the darkness of the wilderness, and some days I feel like I’m still there.

There were points in the first few months after I moved back home that I was begging God to let me go back to Texas.  I felt like Israel begging God to return to Egypt.  I was in the wilderness and the only thing I wanted was to return to what I knew, because it was safe…even if it was bondage.  There is an entry in my journal that I read over and over because it is a perfect picture of what I was feeling.  It is from October 7, 2008:

“Today has been another one of those days — thick with silence and doubt.  It makes me wonder if I’m even alive anymore.  I feel like a dead person walking around…My life has lost its fervor…None of this makes any sense.  I have no idea what’s going on with my life, and I’m beginning to worry that the answer is NOTHING.  Why am I being made to wait so long?  Why am I being kept from understanding?”

Two weeks later I had my first job interview with a church called Cornerstone, and things haven’t been the same since.

But, I can’t keep looking back without looking ahead.  Today, I can stand on the other side of the unknown and say I still don’t know, but I trust God.  I can see how God has unfolded the events of my life to get me exactly where He wanted me at exactly the right time, especially over the past few years.  I wouldn’t trade that in for anything.  But, it also reminds me that the road to experiencing God’s pleasure often takes us through a path of pain.

What I can say is that last year at this time where I thought I would be this year at this time is nowhere near where I am now.  I thought I would be living in Atlanta, or Nashville, or Birmingham, writing or working as an associate youth minister.  I never thought I would be living in Auburn, AL working as a youth minister.  This was not on my radar.  And, I’m okay with that because it was on God’s radar for me.

I can’t say that one is better than the other, but I am thankful that in those moments, which are quite numerous, where I was ready to give up on God, throw in the towel and go work at the post office; He patiently waited on me and stood with me.  He didn’t leave me all those times I thought He had.  All the times I couldn’t hear/see/feel Him, it wasn’t because He wasn’t there.  He was there the entire time.

Now, I can look back and see much more than just his fingerprints; I see his signature.