Saturday, June 18, 2011

No Longer Needed

No longer needed. I will never forget the day these three words infiltrated my ear and bombarded their way into my life. I was on a field trip with my school when the hotel phone rang. Unbeknownst to me, the ringing of the phone didn't simply signal someone on the other end of the line, but that my 12-year teaching career at a Christian school was at an end, too. Words that took less than three seconds to hear have taken me three years to appreciate.

It's often hard to understand God's plan for our lives. When trials come, we are left with questions, doubt and oftentimes, bitterness. Yet, as Christians, we are promised that God is always with us and that all things ultimately work for our good. My reminder of these promises came later that same day during the first stop on our field trip.

Three months earlier, I made a reservation for my class to visit a museum of biblical archaeology. I had never been to this museum before, but felt impressed that the Lord could use our visit to teach my students about His realness, and thus become more real in each of their lives. It was my life, however, where His presence would be felt the most that day. What I thought was a reservation for a school field trip, was instead a divine appointment.

Upon arriving at the museum, I was greeted with a warm smile and a big hug from our hostess for the tour. After the earlier news, this welcome felt as though heaven itself had come down to greet me. Instantly, my anxiety vanished and God's peace began to fill my heart. We were ushered into a room filled to overflowing with ancient artifacts and given white gloves to put on. Not only would we be learning about some of these artifacts, but we would also have the opportunity to hold them in our hands.

As we sat in this room, surrounded by the evidence of God and His leading in the past, our hostess began to speak words that assured me of God's leading in my future. First, she handed me an old clay pot. During the days of Abraham, this pot would have been home to a continual flame, a symbol to all of God's continual presence. As the Bible scholar placed this artifact in my hands, she told me to remember that God is always with us, no matter what may be happening in our lives at the time. As I held this timeworn pot, a timeless truth took seed in my heart. Just as God was always with His children in the past, He is always with His children today.

Next, our attention was drawn to the amazing story of Joseph. Once again an artifact was placed in my hand, and a word from God was placed in my heart. With a few ancient coins, representing the amount for which Joseph was sold, I connected to this Bible figure in a way unlike before. We shared a lot in common it seemed. His brothers gave little thought to selling him for a few coins, and my boss gave no thought to "selling out" on me either. We were both no longer needed. We were each someone of little value and worth in the eyes of those who should have cared for us.

As the words of that morning's conversation replayed in my mind and overtook my thoughts, the words of our hostess brought me back to the museum and back to God. "Have you ever been treated unfairly?" she asked. "Have you been sold for a cheap amount and left feeling worthless and no longer needed? You can be sure of this promise, what Satan meant for your harm, God will use for your good." Then she closed my fingers tightly around the coins and said directly and boldly to me, "And for you, even better."

As I held these coins of insignificant value, God revealed to me the invaluable significance of His plans. The news I received earlier was not a dead end, but rather an avenue through which God was about to do something new and better in my life. Hope burst into my heart, shoving out the rejection and hurt that sought to take up residence. I put those coins back into the hands of our hostess, and humbly and gratefully placed my life and my future back into the hands of my God.

All too soon, our time at the museum came to an end. My class left excited about the next destination on our field trip, and I left excited about the next destination in my life. I stepped out into the sunshine and into my future, confident that God was still present in my life and that He was going to do something even better.

The "better thing" God was doing in my life started coming into focus the moment I learned of an opening in a school twenty minutes away from my parents' home. My father's health had been gradually declining, and my heart longed to be closer to him during his final days on earth. After sending my resume, and a quick interview, I found myself moving into a new classroom, and back into the home of my parents.

The God of Abraham and Joseph, in His infinite wisdom and love, had brought me full circle. Here, living under the same roof as my ailing father, my life kept on getting better. I was given the awesome privilege of ministering to my precious father in this, the most needful and fragile time of his life. I was the one able to sit by his bed, hold his hand, and listen to the words of his heart.

It was Christmas-time when my father passed away. Sitting at his funeral, my thoughts went back to that life-changing day three years earlier. The phone call...the museum...the artifacts...the words. Not the words "no longer needed," but rather the powerful words of a God who loved me so much he closed one door to open another. The words of God who longed to meet my needs while meeting the need of my father. I thought of the words from a faithful God who promises to be with us no matter what, and to take what Satan means for our harm and turn it around for our good.

The hostess was right and her words were true. God did something even better in my life. He didn't take from me, He gave to me a gift that would have gone unopened had it not been for that phone call, and those three words.

(Note: I was blessed to have this story published in the March 2008 edition of P31 WOMAN, a magazine published by PROVERBS 31 MINISTRIES.)

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