Saturday, February 5, 2011

"The Day the World Stopped Turning: On the Street and On Foot"

Every now and then, in God's great scheme and purpose for our lives, He sovereignly ordains certain events to either happen or permits them to happen for our benefit. You and I call these events, trials, or tribulations. We sometimes dub them as "heart-aches," disappointments, testings, or downright disasters. We should be aware that trials are part of God's plan for His children's development. They shouldn't surprise us. But they do. We would really would like to "be-bop" merrily through life grabbing a brass ring after brass ring with no cuts, bruises, skinned knees, or boo-boos of any kind. For the most part we resist trials in our lives rather than embrace them joyfully. After being a Christian for some thirty nine years I still bristle at James command in the first chapter of his letter - "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4, (ESV) What was James thinking?

Here I was, twenty-three years old, with a wife, two daughters and preparing for the ministry. I had left San Jose with all my family and friends, sold almost everything we owned, gave up my dream of being a drummer in some successful Grand Ole Opry bound country-western band moved to Pomona, California. Up until this point in our lives, other than the squabbles married couples had, we had not experienced any real trial. 

Yes, in 1976 I had a car accident when I crushed the front end of my precious 1972 Monte Carlo into a 1968 Chevy El Camino. I had blown up the engine in that 72 Monte Carlo in a race in Fresno. The Marine Corp back in 1975 lost my pay record and we went a couple of hard months without pay. I guess you could count the thirteen months overseas tour away from Irene and Shannon as a trial. I had never considered what a trial was or what their purpose was in my life up until that point. I didn't know that these problems which most people faced were actually means of God testing and stretching my faith for His glory. We had some difficulties, but nothing like what we we about to face. 

God sent two trials our way in a very short time. I now know, that in His love, wisdom, and grace sent these to us as means of testing my faith. He wanted me to wait patiently under them while trusting Him to work for my good and His glory. Let me tell you, first, I was not ready for either one of them, and second, it was only by the grace of God that I was able to remain under them and watch God work. I think what was so wonderful about both of these tests is first, they were short in duration. God knew I needed baby steps. He was going to throw me for a loop but only for a short time. Second, God was using them to develop my faith in him and was weaning me away from self-confidence, self-sufficiency, and self-containment. Without further ado, let me share these trials with you.

On Foot - The Day the Vega Blew Up

It had been a very long day. It had begun by dragging myself out of bed around 5:00 AM in order to have some semblance of a quite time with the Lord. After trying to keep my eyes and my mind open in order to feed on Gods' word, I hastily dressed in order to rush out the door headed for my first period class. Sometimes the classes worked with me and were interesting enough to keep me awake. Sometimes they were not so interesting and I had to fight off the urge to ignore the droning on of the lecturer and curl up under my desk to catch 40 winks. By the way, what does that mean, forty winks?

After four hours of classes I had the chance to grab a quick bite at home and change into my uniform for the swing shift assignment. I was fortunate in that I worked for California Plant Protection as a security guard. I did not have a tough job that either mentally drained me of precious brain cells or a physical job that wore me down to a nub. I was able to sit at a desk and watch monitors and every 2 hours make my rounds with a key clock. The rounds were a blessing. I could read while I watched the monitors so I studied my textbooks and reading assignments. But sitting as the hot Los Angeles evening wore on made my very sleepy. Being able to get up every couple of hours and walk some rounds checking on doors and rattling locks was a god-send. Those rounds kept me from falling asleep on the job!

The shift finally ended. I punched out, walked out to the car, threw in my books and lunch sack and headed home. I use to love that drive. I would be on Interstate 10 and then about halfway home I would top out on the little summit of Kellogg Hill. I loved being up there. Kellogg Hill kind of separated LA from the Pomona Valley. I would look down on the lights of LA and just love it! Seeing all those lights representing all of those people use to break my heart. How many knew Christ? How many didn't? I loved those LA lights.

This particular drive home I heard a noise and then the Vega stopped running. I pulled to the side of the road and couldn't get it started. Looking under the hood doesn't tell me much, mechanical I am not. But anyone could tell this engine was a gonner. It was not going to start again. I was devastated.

Combined with fatigue from getting up early, classroom work in the morning, a long shift at CPP I lost it. I was angry and I began to break down and weep. I could not understand why God would let this happen to me. I cried out to Him, "God, why?" "Don't you know I am here preparing for your ministry and making sacrifices for you?" "Don't you know I need a car to get to work - didn't you say, 'If you don't work, you don't eat?' I need a car to get to church and to get to school. My family needs this car!" I was hit with a plethora of emotions - I was angry, scared, confused, hurt, and exhausted.

After awhile of crying and complaining at 1:00 AM in the morning on top of Kellogg Hill I began to hitch-hike home. Those were the days prior to cell phones. I got home and went to bed. I got up the next morning and asked a friend if I could ride with him to school. I didn't know how I would get to work, what would become of us, or what to do. I didn't even know how to pray properly. It seems sometimes you just don't need to.

I stumbled around a couple of classes in a daze. I was numb. Energetic, go-getter, self-sufficient, I can do hit something I could not do. God knew that. He was waiting to the right moment. Around third period a guy walked up to me and said, "I heard your only car broke down." Sometime I need to dedicate a whole post to this guy. He is amazing. I haven't seen him in 31 years but I love him to this day.

I said, 'Yes, the Vega blew up on Kellogg Hill last night." He said, "Here, this is our second car. We can make do with one, you need this. Here is the title and keys, its yours from us and the Lord." It was a 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass. I was flabbergasted! I was floored! He handed me the title and keys and walked away to his next class leaving me standing there sputtering like an arc light. No one had given me a car before. No one had given me anything before. Oh yes, my brother traded me the Vega for my motorcycle, but even thought that might have been a good trade (of course my brother offed Chevy's joke on America) it was still a trade.

God proved to me that He could take care of me if I trusted him. I don't remember now how long I drove that Oldsmobile, but it was a long time. I got to work that very day without being late and worrying about transportation. That might not be much to you and it is the way Christians are to be, but for this 23 year old former Marine, father of two girls, and a husband who had never been given anything he hadn't worked for it was huge for me. John G. and his wife sacrificed their second vehicle that made transportation issues easier for them by giving me that car. I have never forgotten that. John G. if you are out there buddy, I am typing this with tears in my eyes 31 years later. Thank you!

On the Street - The Day We Were Evicted

When I enrolled in PCBBC, I signed up for the GI Bill Education benefits. When I registered a check was to be waiting for me for X amount of dollars towards my education and living expenses. I also had arranged for a transfer of my job as a Security Guard at California Plant Protection. When I registered at the campus I discovered that my VA check was not there and I had to resign up and jump through the hoops all over again. Then when I arrived at California Plant Protection to check in they didn't have a spot for me. Needless to say I was devastated. I had made another mistake. I had counted on the VA check and the job being there rather than counting on the Lord.

Irene and I had been staying with Irene's aunt and uncle since we had arrived in Pomona. You know it goes, two families, one elderly, one with small children, it is difficult at best. It was decided by all that the time was right that we find a place of our own. We found what turned out to be a detached, one car garage behind a home that had been converted into a studio apartment. You know what that means one bed in the corner poking into the kitchen, while the living room was the space between the bed and the wall the TV was on. But hey it was ours. I had explained to the couple when I gave them the first month rent that the VA check was going to be late and I would be starting my job a little later than I had intended. They said, "No problem." I thought, OK, no problem. It has been too many years I can't remember if it was the second or third month there that we were going to be late on rent. I would certainly pay it and the late fee but could we have time. They said OK.

That month went by and the next one arrived and we still hadn't had really any money at all come in yet. Now the Land Lord wanted his money. He said, I don't believe you, I see you driving, you are buying gas, there are new tires on the Olds, and you by groceries, we see you carry them in.

He was right. The groceries had been provided by friends, the tires were a gift from a concerned party who thought we should have tires that didn't show the air in them so well, and I can't remember how we kept gas in the Olds. Thank God gas was only around $.85 then. He didn't buy it. It was pay now or be out by the first. Needless to say I was devastated and humiliated. I had never been thrown out anywhere. OK, there was one time back in the Marine Corps we were thrown out of the Silver Dollar Saloon in Iwakuni, Japan because we were too rowdy. Satisfied?

I was beside myself. Evicted. Me? How could God let this happen? What would happen to my wife and my two little girls? Again, still absolutely ignorant of God and his means of knocking off the rough edges of my life, stretching my faith, developing my trust in him, and the display of his glory.

One night on my night off I couldn't take it any more. I walked out of that little studio and started walking down Fernleaf Avenue. Fernleaf ended a few blocks down in a cull-de-sac which enabled me to walk down and then back up. However this was a walk I would never forget. Halfway down I saw on the left a couple of duplexes. Out in front of 736 a man with an obviously crippled and useless arm was painting the outside of 736. It was a warm but beautiful summer evening in Pomona, the kind of evening that was perfect for a walk. Except this was like walking the Green Mile. It was like walking the plank on Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge. I was as down as you could get. I was so low that you could spit on the floor and I could swim under the door. I had given up. I had given up on God and his calling. I couldn't be on the street. I couldn't be evicted. My wife and kids couldn't be homeless.

Well, sometimes polite society can be a pain in the neck. The man (God forgive me, I forget his name) saw me and said, "Evening, how you doing?" That made me have to look up, climb up to the top of my blues, look over the brim and reply. I said, "OK." I don't know what it was, but he wasn't buying it. He said, "Man, I can see something is wrong, what's up?" I didn't want to go into details with a perfect stranger, but since I hadn't unloaded on the Lord that day, I needed to unload on someone. So I told him. I told him everything. Everything from my call to the ministry, to the selling of everything to move, to the move, to the mishap with both the VA benefits and the job, and the eviction. He listened. Then he said, "This place will be ready tomorrow, move in." I told him I didn't have the money, I didn't know when I was going to have the money. I told him I was already being thrown out for not paying rent. He said,"I have 8 units, 6 of those units have people just like you (Christians) and he said you people pay your bills and you take care of the place. I will wait, move in and pay me when you can. I still wanted to refuse but finally relented and said OK. The mountain moved off my chest. I looked up and could only cry and whisper thank you God. Thank You.

My little family moved into that duplex where we lived for two years. We got the job with California Plant Protection as you know and he let us pay the previous land lord first. We paid up all we owed. Then VA finally started kicking in and we were able to finally pay him all we owed him. He went three months with no money from us and never one time asked me for it. When I saw him and was apologetic and said I would get it to him when I could, all he would say was, "I know, I am not worried, now forget about it. How's your homework coming?"

God stretched this young, immature, naive preacher boy. God taught me He could be trusted. God taught me that He did know where I was, what I was doing, and what was going on with me. My lessons weren't over, there were a number of them yet to come. I will never forget the Day the World Stopped Turning. At least it was my world. Small maybe to some, but huge to me.

Saturday - "Walk of Faith..." Segments of Christian Testimony

"The Day the World Stopped Turning"  is the fifth installment in the series "The Metcalf's Walk of Faith." Stay tuned for the next installment entitled, "The Slow Demise and Departure from PCBBC"

Join us as we take a look at back at the spiritual journey and blessings of the Metcalf's Walk of Faith


Seams Inspired said...

Wow! I think this is my favorite so far, Gregg. Our God is so amazing. I love how he knocks the breath right out of us, pushing us down until we have no choice but to stop and look up at Him. Great journey, Gregg! Thanks so much for sharing. Happy Saturday! :o)

Ma ~ said...

Awesome, just amazing;)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

This was a most awesome post Gregg, it was good to read.

Have a peaceful Sunday.

Brad said...

What a wonderful set of confessions, Gregg. Thank you.

Persis said...

Thanks, Gregg. Your testimony is encouraging and glorifies our Lord.

Brian Ray Todd said...

Love the autobiography and isn't it true that sometimes it takes hitting the bottom before the Lord say's "OK, now I can teach you". Oh, those trials of education by the Lord are priceless ... not fun, just benefital to our growing and mature for His purposes. We're here for a reason. GLory be to God!

Star-chuu said...

Hi Gregg, God is good all the time. Thank you so much for sharing and I am grateful that I across in your blog. I will back to read more. God bless you and your family.