I placed a note on the kitchen table with the car keys:
"Calvin, verse for today 1 Peter 1:5. 'By God's power you are being guarded through faith.' Translation: It is only as you walk in faith that you are assured of walking under God's protection. Go out and do it. Love, Mom."
My son was headed for a job interview again. When I came back from my walk, on the computer screen was a page titled "Tie Guide," with step-by-step images of a man looping his cravat.
Calvin has been a casualty of various company slow-downs-floor tile installation, short order cook, landscaping-since he walked away from lucrative employment making water pipes and never looked back. Well, there's a hard-won skill down the drain, Satan must have whispered in his ear.
But Calvin knows the story of King Amaziah of Judah, who, to beef up his military, "hired also 100,000 mighty men of valor from Israel for 100 talents of silver. But a man of God came to him and said, 'O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the Lord is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. But go, act, be strong for the battle. ... For God has power to help or to cast down.' And Amaziah said to the man of God, 'But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?' The man of God answered, 'The Lord is able to give you much more than this.' Then Amaziah discharged the army that had come to him from Ephraim" (2 Chronicles 25:6-10).
There's the rub: Do we believe "the Lord is able to give us much more than this" when we open clenched fists and release our idols? The birds and the lilies of the field do not get nervous waiting for the promise. Children of men, less accustomed to hand-to-mouth dependence on God, are tempted to envy those who have found their safe niche. C.S. Lewis commented on that kind of security: "Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels he is 'finding his place in it' while really it is finding its place in him" (The Screwtape Letters).
Calvin returned from one interview and said he made the first cut from 38 applicants to the short list of five. "Did they ask the 'J' word?" I inquired (meaning jail). "They didn't ask the 'F' word," he smiled (meaning felony). "What if they had: Would you have told them?" "Yes," he said. "Good," I said, "because sometimes opportunities that seem to drop from heaven on a silver platter come with a little integrity test."
This is not a parenthesis in Calvin's life, any more than the Apostle Paul's three years were lost years when he "did not immediately consult with anyone" (Galatians 1:16-18) after the Damascus Road, but went off by himself with the Lord. I know an inmate of 50 who quips that he has just turned 41 for the ninth time, refusing to acknowledge life in prison as real life. But God does not see things that way. Career without Christ is not authentic living, and Christ without career is riches if we are in His school. Outside of God's blessings, "the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain" (Isaiah 17:10-11). We must count even secrets learned at the feet of Gamaliel as rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.
Before seminaries had endowments, a young man would attach himself to a country pastor, read the man's books, and follow him on his parish visiting circuit. It was not considered a substandard education, but real discipling of the younger in faith by one older. At the dining room table Calvin fills notebooks with Scriptures, one spiral pad for the Old Testament, and a different colored one for the New. In his spare time he goes to Sherby's house and tutors him in eighth-grade math, for love not pay. It used to be he shoveled money into bags with holes.
Do not despise the day of small beginnings, says the Lord. It is not how many miles you've traveled since you turned your ship around. It's that you're headed in the right direction and you know where home is.