The church that I was saved in and "grew-up" in was a very evangelistic church. Pastor Larry Chappel was a missionary at heart and loved the lost. United Baptist Church had an outreach ministry to almost all of the Santa Clara Valley.
Consequentially, our church was not "big" on discipleship. Unfortunately it was easy to have an enormous zeal for the Lord and yet remain immature in a number of areas of the Christian life.
Therefore, I did not know what made up a mature Christian. I also did not know how God matures His children. All I knew was that I was on top of the world! I had surrendered to ministry, stepped out on faith, moved to a bible college, and was going to be prepared for the ministry, what ever that meant. I was giddy. Here I was a bible college student and a "preacher-boy." I figured God would roll out the red carpet where ever I went and what ever I needed would somehow be provided. I had no idea what I had signed up for. I did not know the height of my pride nor the depths that I would soon be plunged into in order to begin the process of maturity. I certainly had no idea that Philippians 1:29 was even in the bible.
Almost immediately my education began. The Lord in His wisdom knew that He needed to mature and stretch my faith. We were faced with three immediate challenges as a result. We had some lessons to learn. If we were going to lead, teach, feed, shepherd, and guard the precious sheep of our Lord Jesus Christ I had to have first, some rough edges "knocked off" and second, I had to learn the preciousness of my faith.
So, the first lesson I had to learn was: Man makes plan but God directs his steps.
Lesson #1 Plans
We can often make the best of plans but sometimes those plans fall apart. I had two plans fall apart on me as I registered for classes. I have driven to San Dimas and on to the campus on top of the world.
When I completed the college application I signed up for Veteran's Affairs Benefits for education. I was assured that those benefits would begin when my first semester began. I knew how much VA was going to kick in toward tuition and books and I registered accordingly. Let's say I planned on these benefits being available at registration.
Lesson number one, plans don't always work out they way you planned them
I arrived at the beautiful PCBBC campus and began the registration process. The school authorities had set up tables with huge numbers on them in a large building. The object was to start at table number one and work your way through the system until you were fully registered and you completed all necessary paperwork at the last table included in your learning path. For me the last table was to pick up my VA benefits check in order to pay the enrollment fees.
I was not ready, mentally or Spiritually when I walked up to that table. You guessed it, the benefits were not there. Somehow my application and paperwork were no where to be found. The school said VA had it and VA said the school had it. It was liked getting kicked in the gut. I had to dig into family budget money designated for renting our first home or apartment in order to finish registering for that first semester.
How could God let this happen? He knew what day I was starting school and when I needed those benefits. You'd think a God who could create the earth from nothing could have a check waiting like it was suppose to be. Little did I know at that time - talk about being naive - that God sovereignly created needs in order to cause me to turn to him in trust and faith. I did not know that then.
The second lesson that I had to learn was: I am not dependent upon a job for provision, I depend upon God
Lesson # 2 Provision
Well, the day wasn't over yet. I finished the registration process and now it was time to head to the new job and check in. At least I had planned for that before I uprooted my family and moved some 340 miles. I was getting bored with the time off and I was ready to go back to work.The way things were worked out with the schedule I had about two weeks from leaving the job in San Jose and starting the job in Los Angeles. I never gave it a thought. I enjoyed a two week "vacation" and waited to report to the new job.
I had become a security guard for California Plant Protection. They assured me that they had an office in Los Angeles and when I moved there in August I could transfer to that company and have a job waiting for me. I was in for another surprise when I checked in at the main office. Wait, wait, don't get ahead of me. But you're right. They had never heard of me and there was no job.
Now I was in an absolute, full blown panic. You were coming pretty close to seeing a 23 year old former Marine, husband, and father break down and cry. First, no VA benefits and now no job. I went "home" actually back to Irene's aunt and uncles home in Pomona devastated. I could not see how God could allow this to happen. How could this have been so miss-managed? I had my part all together, all my ducks were and actually had been lined up since I made the decision to surrender to His call. After all, it was His call that caused me to be there.
Let's stop here for a minute and catch our breath. You should probably know that there were a few things missing in my vocabulary and theological lunch bucket. What prey tell you ask? Wells, for starters things like the sovereignty of God, the process of sanctification, the means that God uses to develop faith, trials or testings, and you might as well throw in the entire book of James.
I really thought, well God you called me, so everything will fall into place. I didn't know that God would actually place me in a situation where I HAD to trust Him. I didn't know at that time how faith was developed or stretched.
The third, and by no means the final lesson: Families mean well but you can wear out your welcome
Lesson #3 Promises
We had driven down Fearnleaf Avenue to get to W. Parcels where Irene's aunt and uncle lived. Irene and I saw a gorgeous little house, with a chain-link fenced yard, and a Andy of Mayberry front porch that had a little sign in the yard: For rent- 220.00. Wow, I figured we could rent that for that price and so we excitedly rang the bell. Turns out that little white house with the fenced yard and porch wasn't for rent. The owners had taken their detached one car garage and turned it into a studio apartment. That was what was for rent for 220.00. What are you going to do? We needed to move out.
I told the folks about my college, my VA benefits that would be arriving any day and my transfer to California Plant Protection which should happen any day. They took our 220.00 and said move in. We had saved all we could and sold everything we could to have a little stash to tide us over. Well they dipped into that stash. It didn't take long to move some kitchen items and clothes and such. This little studio was furnished with a bed, couch, stove, refrigerator. Remember we didn't bring much in that UHaul tagging along behind that sun-burned little red Vega.
Wow, we had a home. My beautiful 24 year old wife had left an 1500 square foot three bedroom, two bath two car garage next door to her mom and dad for a one car garage behind a house in Pomona, California. She made that little garage a home for Shannon, Sonja and me. Things were tight. I remember Irene feeding this little family of 4 on just 8 dollars a week. We ate a lot of beans and macaroni and cheese. We could buy four boxes of macaroni for $1.00. Irene found a way to stretch a buck at the grocery store. It was tap water throughout the week and we got milk as a treat on the weekends.
The details are a little hazy some 33 years later but we lived in that little garage/studio for a couple of months. A spot opened in LA at California Plant Protection and they hired me. I would get up and drive to school in San Dimas from 8:00 until around noon and then head home to do homework. Then I would drive to LA for a swing shift tour from 4:00 PM until Midnight. We were settling in a routine. This schedule went on for a couple of months when two more major events threatened to interrupt our lives once again.
To Be Continued...
"Lessons Not On The Freshman Guide" is the fourth installment in the series "The Metcalf's Walk of Faith." Stay tuned for the next installment entitled, "The Day the World Stopped Turning: On the Street and On Foot"
Saturday - "Walk of Faith..." Segments of Christian Testimony
Join us as we take a look at back at the spiritual journey and blessings of the Metcalf's Walk of Faith