I can’t actually tell you what time I was born on March 2, 1983, because I’ve never bothered to look. But here we are, 30 years from that day, and I mark the end of the first quarter of my life with one thought dominating my mind: I’ve done so much, yet there is still so much to do.
First, let me answer the question you may already be asking…what do I mean by ‘first quarter’? Well, I believe in God and in the Bible (which is helpful, being a pastor!) and the scripture says in Psalm 91:16 “with long life will I satisfy you, and show you my salvation.” God has indeed shown me His salvation, becoming my Lord at only 8 years of age, with me really understanding what it meant to live for Him around 12. Many people say that the promise of a long full life is fulfilled at 120 years, because of the reference of Genesis 6:3. I don’t really know if I want to live that long, but at the moment it sounds like a good plan, so I’ll go with it. 30 years times 4 ‘quarters’ of life would be 120.
I don’t think that it’s any accident that I am where I am and about to step into the roll I am as I turn 30, because I believe my life is strategically planned by an incredible God. While I hate to make any seeming comparison between myself and Jesus, I think the fact that He entered into the ministry He was called to at 30 years old was more than just chance. I don’t believe for a second that He just woke up one day and said ‘oh, now’s be a good time to go save the world!’ Everything He did before then prepared Him for what He was going to do. Everything I’ve done has prepared me. (that’s where the similarities end)
As Elizabeth and I prepare to transition to our campus with Life Christian Church and begin slowly assuming the role of assistant and eventually lead pastors, I find myself thinking about some of the things God has done for me, through me, with me, and in spite of me to bring me to this place. As I celebrate my 30th birthday, I’d like to share some of these moments with you.
1) The earliest memory I have in life is sitting on the couch just before my third birthday watching Muppet Babies and feeding Mac ‘n Cheese to my Teddy Ruxpin and suddenly violently throwing up. Initially my parents would be told I had the flu. Within days, I was almost dead as my appendix burst and the toxins spread throughout my body unchecked. I can amazingly recall in vivid detail the morning my mother came into my room and I was unable to move anything except my eyes because I was septic. That mistake by the doctor should have cost me my life. But even before I knew there was a God or that He cared for me, He was taking care of me. Several days later I would come home and find a brand new teddy Ruxpin (my first one was ruined from the Mac ‘n Cheese and vomit) waiting to tell me stories.
2) While I have the general allergies to flower pollen that many people have, I also am allergic to cilantro and wasp stings. There is no reason for the cilantro, as I didn’t always have a problem with it. The wasp venom however was the result of a fateful indecent that occurred when I was still very young. I’m sure my parents could tell me exactly how old I was if I asked, but I didn’t. My horse swing on the playset I had became the spring home to a hive of wasps without us knowing it. One day, while swinging away, they became angry at the fact I was riding their home and I was stung over 100 times. Not only did it just plain hurt, but the venom in their sting overloaded my system leaving me susceptible to essentially being poisoned if I am ever stung again. So to this day, I wig out and run whenever I see wasps…or I empty an entire can of wasp killer and then stomp them into fine powder! Big of me, I know.
3) Before I became a Christian at 8 years old I was a rotten kid. I was a bully, I had a problem playing well with others (so much so that I had to repeat pre school for that reason, or so I’m told), and I was terrible liar. Even after meeting Jesus, I still struggle to play well with others! Seriously though, my life changed as a child, mostly without me knowing it, because of the influence of Peggy and Kirk Redding. My mom and I had show horses. Appaloosas to be exact. And they weren’t half bad, either. Good enough we needed a trainer to help us and help the horses. Peggy was that trainer. Over time we ended up not only riding horses with the Redding Family, but also riding to a small town church called Living Word. It was there I met a silver hair pastor named Bob who would become my friend and mentor, and my inspiration for ministry. I had many adventures with the Redding family. Specifically with the two daughters who were around my age. One of those even involved me blowing up a motor home by flushing the toilet and then us jumping out while driving down the interstate…but that is a story for another post. One of my favorite memories was standing next to Stef (as I called her) in church and looking at a ‘really old lady’ who had her hands lifted during the worship song and was speaking in some form of gibberish. Before Living Word I had only ever attended a Methodist church, so none of this made sense to me. Stef explained that this was all in the Bible and was ok for us, which was good enough for me. So I closed my eyes and lifted my hands and said “God, I want to speak gibberish like that really old lady!’ That was how I got filled with the Holy Spirit!
4) Two times in my life I have audibly heard God speak to me. The first and most dramatic was in 7th grade on a Wednesday night in youth group. I arrived late for the service and was sitting in the back. That night was movie night and the movie was already going. I grabbed some popcorn and took a seat on the floor in the back. After several minutes I began to hear someone saying my name. Several times this happened and I thought someone was messing with me. Only there was no one sitting further back than I was. So final I went to my youth pastor and told him. He said (maybe half jokingly) “Maybe God is talking to you.” I certainly hadn’t considered that as an option, but I went back to my seat and said ‘God, if that’s you I am listening.’ That was the night God spoke to me and told me that I would become a pastor. Sadly, my dream of being POTUS (President of the United States) would not be coming true.
5) I remember my Senior year of High School as i was preparing to go off to bible school. Through a serious and tragic series of events Pastor Bob ended up leaving the church. My pastor for 11 years was, as far as I was concerned, being kicked out. The details I won’t go into, though both he and his successor have shared with me everything that that happened and of course it was much more complex than it seemed. But I remember being so angry and telling Pastor Bob ‘if this is what ministry is like then I don’t want anything to do with it!’ He, with an incredible grace and poise, explained to me that ministry has many sides and that even when it doesn’t seem like it, God knows what He’s doing. He then left me with one thought. “Devin, I want you to serve the next Pastor just as well as you would serve me.” Though I wasn’t sure about that at first (cause at 19 I knew everything!) I agreed. It turned out that Pastor Doug would become one of my best friends, would help launch me into ministry, and would even be the best man at my wedding. As much as I loved (and still do) Pastor Bob, I’m so thankful for the friend and mentor I gained through what at first only seemed like a disaster.
6) Leaving Living Word after three years was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Though I was only a volunteer, I wanted to spend my entire life in that church serving it’s people. But again, what I was comfortable with wasn’t what God planned. So through a series of events He made it clear that my time there was over and opened the door for my first full time ministry job. And what it job it was! Going from a small church of 400 to a mega church of 2700 left me more than a little overwhelmed. God taught me so much in my time at Cornerstone Church, and I will forever be grateful to Pastor Bob Keich for taking a chance on me and Pastor Joe Mutter for believing in the gift God had placed in me. I can honestly say there were many days I thought he would kill me, but Pastor Joe used tough love and trial by fire to help me realize just how much God had placed in me. God used me to create a whole new ministry program for our Children’s Ministry, allowed me to be a part of an explosive expansion of the Kingdom through salvation and numeric growth, would use me to cast a demon out of a teenage girl in a dramatic expansion of my faith, and is also where He would introduce me to the incredible woman I get to call my wife…
7) March 2, 2007. Another birthday that seemed like just another day. In fact, it was a work day. We had a parents night for ministry workers and Pastor Joe had me sequestered in the kitchen preparing the food. My mother, who happened to be visiting for my birthday, was down with the kids. I knew by Pastor Joe’s repeated requests that I temp the chicken nuggets (and other stall tactics) that she was up to something, but I didn’t know what. It turned out she had the paid worker and all the kids making a birthday banner for me, and when I finally arrived with the food there was cake and ice cream. Wouldn’t you know, the paid worker who would happen to have been scheduled was a young and beautiful girl by the name of Elizabeth Lusk. Two months later we’d be dating (That is another great story for another post!)
8) If I’m going to talk about highlights form my first 30 years of life, I have to mention my wedding. One, because I married such an incredible person. In fact, she’s really much too good for me, but don’t tell her I said so! In all seriousness though, we got married on the beach at sunset standing in the sand. It was perfect. And then there was the honeymoon…let me just say two words about how awesome that was: Pirate Ship!
In looking back over my first 30 years, I could find 300 things to point to that were life changing, impacting, or transformative. There was the trips to Promise Keepers as a teenager with guys from Living Word. There was my mom working so hard to keep it together after my dad left. Or my dad, working so hard to build a relationship with a teenage son who didn’t want to have anything to do with him for awhile after he left. Thankfully he didn’t give up and we have a great relationship today. I could reflect on my time coaching High School Basketball at Christ Lutheran. Or starting the Insider, a student newspaper in my high school. There were the not so happy times as well, such as the death of my grandfather on Thanksgiving followed some 12-15 years later by the death of my grandmother at the same time. Or the time I destroyed my brand new Honda Accord after driving it into a ditch (I loved that car). Or the time I almost ended my life by cutting my wrists in my bedroom. There was the way God showed his faithfulness in Jackson to Elizabeth and I providing for our needs, or the way He opened led us to Crosspoints church and gave us a fresh start after things in Jackson fell apart. There was the shock of learning my time in Crosspoints was over, which set me up for the step I am about to take but still required more faith than I realized at the time I had. And of course, the birth of my son, Titus, a little sooner than expected.
Each one in some way helps define who I am. They show where I’ve been and help set the course for where I will go. There are moments that have held me back because of decisions I’ve made and moments that have propelled me forward. Moments of failure and moments of success. But each moment has brought me here, to where I am right now. Like the Children of Israel with Joshua about to cross over into the promised land, it’s like I’m on the bank of the Jordan, figuratively, and I’m looking into the promised land.
Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t ‘arrived’. I am still a lump of clay on the wheel being formed and made by the potter. But I just know, I sense in my spirit, that something great is about to happen. The things God is stirring in my heart overwhelm me. I think about what He’s brought me through and what He want’s to still do, and I am in awe. I don’t deserve the life I have. So many times things could have taken a much different turn…and a few times they almost did. Yet here I stand, writing this in my last few moments being 29, about to walk into 30. It’s just a number, just another birthday. Yet there is something more.
I wonder if Joshua felt standing on that river bank as in awe as I feel right now. I wonder if David felt as humbled when Samuel anointed him king as I do, knowing God has anointed me to lead these people and impact this area. I wonder if Paul felt the weight of responsibility not only for the churches of his day but for the future as he wrote his epistles, even as I feel the responsibility for the multitudes that stand in the valley of decision God is calling me to reach.
Those men had moments that made them, prepared them, for what God would have them do. I don’t know that my life is anything quite so grand or dramatic. But I know that it’s no less important, because I know what the stakes are in the next Quarter of my life that is about to begin.
As I reflect back and look forward, thinking about it all just leaves me speechless. Thankful, honored, excited, broken, focused, determined, and speechless.
These are my moments, and as good as they’ve been, the best is yet to come.