The other day, a co-worker asked me some questions about my career in Education and my time of being a principal back in the day. When I began talking about it, I suddenly felt myself getting stressed. I unconsciously began fidgeting with my hands, my voice changed slightly, and my breathing became shallow.
It was like I was back in my old office again.
I quickly answered his basic question and laughed it off with a line I have used for some time now,
“That was 25 years ago, and Mr. Lee died a long time ago.”
I get different reactions when I say that. Some get it… they realize that that was a long time ago. I am no longer that person.
I have often told my wife that I have blocked out most of the memories of that period of my life when I was a teacher and principal of a Christian School in Fremont, Ohio. Although she doesn’t really believe it, I hold to the fact that the statement is true. I have watched videos that were taken during that period of me speaking and I don’t recognize the person that they say is me. I don’t know who that person is. It surely is not me. It bears a resemblance of me, but I struggle to remember being a part of any of the events.
For me, the years I spent there are much like watching a documentary on the History Channel. I remember being taught that the events took place but I am not part of it. I vivid memories of the time I was in college. My days at Liberty University are clear and I have wonderful memories of college life and being part of a missions team that traveled across America and around the world. I can remember specific events and even conversations I had with people. I remember and think of these memories often, but memories of the school not so much.
In truth, I know that the memories are there. I choose to block them from being in my daily thought process. It is better to leave them where they are. When I run into former students of mine, my memories of them are still stuck in the 80’s and 90’s. They have not moved on in life and in my mind they are still in 8th grade and not the 40-year-old that stands before me. When they address me as Mr. Lee, I quietly ask them to call me David. Again… Mr. Lee died a long time ago.
When my co-worker asked me those questions, I was shocked at how easily I plunged back into that old reality. It has been over twenty-five years since I was Mr. Lee.
I post that as a simple statement of the fact. If you think I make that statement as a reflection of something I view as negative, let me make something very clear… I don’t.
I don’t view it as a negative time in my life at all.
No offense to any former student or staff member during my tenure there. It is just some of those memories I’d really just rather not remember. That includes both good and bad memories.
I hold that time in my life as very precious and it took years for me to be able to move on. It took me years to come to grips with the loss of my ministry. When these memories are dredged up in my heart and mind I am reminded of the times I was in my office working or in the classroom teaching. Those were the times I cherished and when I had clarity that I was doing what I was intended to do at that time. I was confident that I was doing what God wanted me to do.
That was and is a wonderful place to be. Being confident that you were doing exactly what you were supposed to do. Not many people ever get to really experience that in their life. I am grateful for the 12 years I spent there. I cannot deny that there is a part of me where that office still resides deep inside of me. Even after all these years, I still have a space in my soul that defined who I once was.
I ran from God for a long time. As a matter of fact, I ran from Him for almost as long as I was in the ministry. Twelve long years. I avoided anything that had to do with my life as Mr. Lee. I worked real hard to kill him. I could not find any peace with God. I could not forgive others and more importantly I could not forgive myself for what I allowed to happen. I made sure that Mr. Lee was buried before I stopped running.
A prodigal son. We all know one, have been one, or are waiting for one to come home.
Then a miracle happened. No… I did not walk on water and no water was turned into wine. But it was a miracle in my life and it’s significance could not be any less than of those. I found a place where I could heal and I did not have to carry the baggage that I carried for all of those years. I think of it in terms of being spiritually rescued. I had lost hope and a life line was thrown to me when I was about to go under for the last time. Grace Community Church of Fremont, Ohio was that refuge that I needed and when I felt there was no place for me to turn to, I felt the warm embrace of fellow believer’s allowing me to sit in church without the judgement and disdain I had felt in other places.
I needed to sit. I needed to heal. I had felt so betrayed by the pastor’s I had worked with in the past that I had sworn that I would never be “pastored” again. After running so long on my own, I realized that I needed to be under a pastor’s teaching and leadership once again. I found that in Pastor Kevin Pinkerton.
So I sat. I took the time to sit and be still, heal and be forgiven. Slowly God began working in my heart and I started to have forgiveness towards those I had felt had done me wrong. I started to write this blog in 2008, and there is no doubt that for the past seven years it has almost filled the hole in my heart.
Finding a place to heal and recover from failure was a miracle to me. We’re foolish to assume that miracles don’t happen anymore. I have learned that miracles come out of a gut-wrenching need and your last flashes of hope. If were not this way, we would not think of it as a miracle but as something common and not from God. All things would then just be taken for granted. Finding a place to sit and heal, finding a place to forgive and be forgiven is nothing short of a miracle and I will never take it for granted. Still it took years to forgive myself.
Walking on the water means burning doubt and the terror of roaring seas, it’s not an option you choose for fun. It’s what you pick when you have to know that Jesus is big enough, and that He can come through when it’s devastating. Believing in miracles is one of life’s hard lessons I have learned.
I choose to still believe.
It is with that aspect that I still wonder what the future holds for me. What is next for me? As I wrote a few weeks ago in my post, The Next Big Thing I am no longer looking for something “BIG” to happen for me. But I can say that I am open to whatever God would have me do. I am looking for open doors of opportunity.
Mr. Lee died a long time ago. I want to leave him buried where he is. I have no desire to bring him back. In so many ways… I am a much better person than he was all those years ago.
The next stage of my life will not completely take the old memories away, but it will continue to redefine them and I can always pray the prayer from Psalm 139:22-23,
Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Try me and know my thoughts.
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.