What follows is taken from a brief testimony I was able to share with our church body recently regarding a new journey my family and I have set out on.
This past July, my family and I took the leap and I entered the self-employment/entrepreneurial world. I'd spent the previous 13 years as a multi-line agent for an insurance company. The pay was good. In fact it was really good, especially in comparison to what the median income in our area is. Most people would say it's crazy to do something like this without first having built up a stable secondary income source. But here's the thing, it wasn't fulfilling and had gotten to the point where waking up each work day was not fun and there was no joyful anticipation of the day ahead. In truth, I'd know for a while that what I was doing wasn't what I wanted to do. And, when you are seeking to follow God's direction He quite often doesn't do things the way people think it should be done.
Over time, thanks to my own personal health improvement journey, I'd developed a passion and excitement for helping others improve their fitness and overall health. I'd gotten my certificate of personal training as well as group fitness certification and specifically certified in teaching the P90X® Live group format. I'd been teaching group classes at a local gym for a few years and being in that environment was very fulfilling. I'd gotten to the point where I really felt like I needed to be spending more time working with, coaching, and training people to live healthier but was limited in doing so due to my full-time position as an insurance agent. My wife and family was aware of my desire, but we all knew that financially the best (and safe) option was for me to keep working.
Things changed when just before new year's in December 2016 we were notified that our pay/commissions as agents would be reduced by 33% in March of 2017. At that point, we knew we would be struggling financially anyway once that occurred so my wife, children, and I agreed it was time to make the jump and give being an entrepreneur a shot. At the very least we knew that by doing so I'd never have to live with the regret of not trying regardless of how things turned out. So we planned, set my exit date, and waited while beginning to prepare for the change. It is a HUGE change going from the security of benefits and a somewhat steady monthly income to nothing guaranteed. It's been a fun yet challenging 3 1/2 months so far. Starting your own business is hard, hard work and honestly we wouldn't have been able to attempt it without having trust in the Lord to care and provide for us. We had to (and still do) trust that He is leading us into something new through this process. On our own we'd have no peace about this endeavor.
So far, here are three things I feel like I've learned and am still learning during this process:
1) God's Timing Is Always Right (Learning Patience)
Left to my own decision, I'd have made the jump much sooner than I did. However, I knew that doing so without my family being 100% behind it would have been a disaster. Without us being in this together 100% the challenges would have created tension in our relationships that we would not be willing to come together on to overcome. To do something like this is a team effort. The family must be of one mind and mutually supportive of the journey. If I'd have done it without them being on board, my lack of patience would have had a negative impact on our family relationships. I had to be patient. I had to wait on the Lord's timing. My family knew what I wanted to do but they did not feel secure in it, so I had to keep moving forward where I was and trust that the Lord would do things in His time. It was not ideal that it took a massive pay cut to bring us to a consensus, but that was the catalyst. In waiting on the Lord's timing, we were able to all be of one mind when making this massive shift. We expect there will be tough times, times of uncertainty, and times of questioning. It's our human nature. Traveling through the desert/wilderness will be part of the process and we will have to continue to remain patient and faithful, trusting in God's timing for what comes next.
2) Following Christ Quite Often Brings You Into The Desert/Wilderness (Learning Trust)
The desert is a dry and barren place. In the wilderness there is wandering and there are no guarantees. There's the recurring questions of "where is the end?" and "was this the right decision?". When following the Lord, we do not always know His plans. It's in this time that we realize the value and importance of a little vs. taking the much for granted. We are beginning to learn to celebrate the manna ( the sustenance) when God gives it and we are thankful for the water (the refreshing times of "success") when it comes. One thing we trust in is that Christ doesn't leave us, He leads us. IF we keep our focus on Christ then we hear Him say not "you go", but "let's go, follow me".nWe only know that we need to follow Him; to allow Him to be our cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Daily, we must remind ourselves that is is Christ which sustains us, even more so when in the wilderness and questions and uncertainty abound.
3) When There Is Nothing, Is Christ Enough? (Living The Truth Of Christ Is All)
At this point, we don't know how things will turn out. We don't know if we will be "successful" in terms of my business becoming a viable income and life for our family. Six months or a year from now this could come to an end. We have no guarantee of anything except that we love and trust God and that we are in this together as a family no matter what. One day all of our material possessions will be gone. Whether that happens now as a result of financial difficulty or later (we can't take our stuff with us when we die!), we will lose our comfort, or plans, and our security/feeling like everything is safe. Our question becomes, if the only guarantee we have is Christ, is that enough? Christ wants to be central and supreme in our lives. We must decide that in whatever we are doing, are we in it for our plans, purposes, and desires or God's. We joke about it or at least I do (and it's really not haha funny), but if we were to lose everything and have to live in a cardboard box we still be together and we'd have to if Christ would still be enough for us. This is the question we have to know the answer to and comes to grips with. To follow Christ is about a life centered on Him and not us. As I said, right now we have no guarantees. Right now the worldly necessity of financial need raises it's head every day to look me in the eye. Right now there are many times of uncertainty, and quite often multiple times each day. But in the end I and my family have to decide who and what we will serve with our minds, hearts, and our daily efforts as we continue to walk this journey. Joshua 24:14-15.
When you feel that God puts a desire in your heart and He leads you on the journey into it, that doesn't meant it will be easy. Most often following the Lord and trusting Him requires our patience as He leads us through the times of wilderness and uncertainty. We need to trust that there will be provision even when we can't see how it will come. We will be tested and must decide if Christ and Christ alone is enough for us; that if things don't turn out like we want, hope, and plan we will still hold fast to the truth of who Christ is and who we are in Him.
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