Just thoughts.

The end of this month will be 19 years since I left Orange County, California, for Florida. I arrived here on 1 July 2000. My then wife of almost two years and I packed all our stuff into the front end of an ABF “U-Pack” 18-wheeler and I left everything I knew behind, apparently “for love.”

There are still major parts of me that feel it was the biggest mistake I ever made. There were many ministry opportunities that I left behind. I ran into a hasty marriage that I found I was totally unprepared for. I’m surprised it lasted 9½ years—there was no way it should have lasted that long, no way I should have been able to adopt a son a few years later, before I was finally dumped by an email and walked away from it all over again. My now ex-father-in-law was very right when he confronted me one night and said I never wanted to stand up and face my own issues, that I was more willing to run away than stand my ground.

A little over a year after the divorce was finalized, Vondalee took a flight out of California and came to live with me in the one-bedroom apartment I had in Plant City after I signed away my rights to the three-bedroom, two-bath house in Lakeland. Neither of us had a clue what we were doing; we just did our best to figure it out as we went. We married in 2013. It lasted 3½ years, through lengthy unemployment, two near-evictions, and a forced moved to Tampa (I suppose that it actually worked was to the surprise of *both* of us), before she literally dropped dead for reasons the doctors were at a total loss to explain (the coroner would simply review the hospital’s records and call it an accidental overdose even though there was nothing in the drug screens to suggest so). That happened three years ago this coming week.

I’m still here in this Tampa apartment, because after four years of unemployment, a bankruptcy, and then loss of a spouse’s income, my credit is so destroyed that I could never get a place anywhere else. I’m grateful for what I have here but it seems I’ve gained what I have because of what others have done for me and not because of anything I’ve done; the same thought is also humiliating if one wanted to be fully honest.

The reason this all comes up is because I just got done listening to a sermon from Harborside Christian Church that I went to for a short time earlier this year before the social anxiety became so overwhelming that I stopped going.

Of course the sermon had to be about the parable of the talents—I spent months working through that story when I was in bible college; I did one of my exegetical papers on that story. I kept digging into it even after I graduated. And now I hear it again and come to realization after 47 years of life that I’ve become that third servant—the one who buried what I had and stood before my Master with the dirty talent dug back up and nothing else to show for what I had been given. While to everyone else it would have been totally acceptable, it wasn’t what the thing I was given was intended for, and the master’s shocking rebuke is totally deserved. And now I'm that “worthless” last servant thrown outside the master’s house into the darkness, “where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” So much that could have been used to give back, gone.

Before the question is asked: HELL NO, I AM NOT SUICIDAL, but I do feel like if I were taken away and there was nothing after, I wouldn’t consider it a loss. Midlife crisis? Maybe. Am I still going to heaven? ABSOLUTELY—“[T]his is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12). But there is always that pain that there was so much more in reward waiting there, but lost because instead of using what I believed I had been given, I squandered it away until there is now nothing left to give back—not even the single talent that was entrusted to me to start with. Perhaps there is just a tiny bit of hope that I may get one more shot, but I’m very doubtful.

The pericope from which I quoted in 2 Timothy seems to depict Paul as someone who knows that his life has been appointed to suffering, like so many other followers of Christ in his day, because of the gospel that was entrusted to him. I suppose mine is also appointed to suffering, but because of squandering it.


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