It’s sad but true: “pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” What C.S. Lewis meant by that phrase is that it’s often not until we are really hurting from self-inflicted wounds that we are ready to turn from running away from God to running to God, only to find that the God is there to welcome us home. My friend Mike’s story of redemption and healing is one more example of this pattern. And it’s a great story….
On Highland Park United Methodist’s website, Mike tells of his anguish after learning his marriage of 12 years was ending:
I was in the backyard with our three dogs (two of whom were about to move away) and I fell to my knees and starting howling like a wounded animal. Eventually, it resolved into something resembling words, ‘Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…'”
God put great people in his life at exactly the time Mike needed them, and one of them invited Mike to both our church and his men’s group. I remember well the first interaction I had with Mike, which he describes here:
I made arrangements to meet with Josh [Mike’s friend and a member of my congregation] and he left me with one key takeaway: I should join him and Kimberly [Josh’s wife] at Munger Place Church that Sunday. I wasn’t particularly interested, but I was too weak to say no.
I walked into Munger, my first steps into a church for the better part of 20 years. I was pleased to find that the music was incredible. I was further pleased and surprised to find that Rev. Andrew Forrest’s sermon was both thoughtful and gracious towards those who weren’t all-in. I agreed to come back for a second week.
That second week, Rev. Forrest preached about a mishap in a river that led him to realize that swimming against the current is a fruitless and tiring exercise. It touched my heart and I felt better for the first time in a month. I wasn’t ready to believe, but I’d at least see where the current would take me.
I arranged to have breakfast with Rev. Forrest and nervously posited that I wanted to be a part of the community I saw growing at Munger. But, I wasn’t sure that I believed. Was there still room for me? (In retrospect, I can almost see Rev. Forrest reeling the fishing line as he welcomed me.)”
(What Mike calls “reeling the fishing line” was really just the grace of God hooking and bringing him in!)
God Really Does Want Good Things for Us
Neither Mike nor I believe in the so-called prosperity gospel, i.e., the idea that God just wants to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise. After all, Christ was crucified, and sometimes the “prosperity” that God has in mind for us is cultivated in difficulty and suffering.
But, I also don’t believe that God wants us to suffer, and I definitely believe that God wants to bless us. In Mike’s case the blessings that have resulted from him stumbling back to the Lord have been abundant:
Through my time in that group [a men’s group to which he was invited], continued immersion at Munger, a little C.S. Lewis, and a lot of Tim Keller, within a couple months, I returned to the fold. I believed as I never had before. I prayed a lot. I started doing all I could to make up for lost time, joining in a mission trip with 28:1 and making room for Jesus in every day. I’m not one to subscribe to the so-called ‘prosperity Gospel,’. But I found myself thriving in all areas of my life, including the launch of a successful new business venture that put me in a position to influence clients, employees and the public.
I felt His hand in my life in a way I’d never imagined.
You’ll remember there was a second name that God put in my head [after Mike’s cry of desperation in his backyard]. That was Crystal Decker, a woman I’d never met. Somehow through business connections she’d wound up a Facebook friend. I recalled she and her husband handling their social media-age divorce as well as I thought it could be done.
I met her and she quickly became my divorce coach, then a friend, then my best friend. She was a great advocate, but seemed pretty hard-boiled. So I was surprised when one Sunday she asked if she could go to Munger with me. She had avoided church for a long time too and thought Munger sounded like a place where ‘thinking people of faith could be in a community without being talked down to every week.’
Crystal and I married at Munger Place on October 5, 2013.”
I was honored to officiate at Mike and Crystals’ wedding. You should read Mike’s entire (relatively brief) story here. It’s a great story.
One Result of This: A One Day Conference on Faith in Business
Mike would be the first to tell you that he’s not perfect and doesn’t have all the answers. But what he does have is faith in a God of grace and love and power, and Mike is doing the hard work of what it means to be an imperfect follower of Jesus. As a follower of Jesus and a successful digital entrepreneur, Mike finds himself asking, “What does it look like to be faithful at work?”
As part of his attempt to answer that question, Mike and some other folks are putting on a conference called Faith in Business that we’re hosting at my church on Friday, May 1. It’s only $15, and that includes lunch! Mike Ullman, the longtime CEO of JC Penney, as well as other folks, will be there.
We’d love to have you. More info here.