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Coming Full Circle in Life

We need purpose. We need to see how things connect. Here’s my story of finding purpose and connection. It’s a story that spans three generations. When I was nine, my father left my family for a year to serve in the Viet Nam war. It was a sad day in our family when he left. We didn’t know if he …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

We need purpose.

We need to see how things connect. Here’s my story of finding purpose and connection. It’s a story that spans three generations.

When I was nine, my father left my family for a year to serve in the Viet Nam war. It was a sad day in our family when he left. We didn’t know if he would return one day in a body bag.  My mom had my younger sister and me and life wasn’t working too well.

Every week my father would send a letter or tape from Viet Nam telling us about the horrors of war and how much he loved us. My mother would get my sister and I together on the couch and share them with us.

If your father has ever left you, you know how painful it can be. There was a hole in my heart that only the love of a father could fill.

Though my mother loved me very much, she couldn’t give me a father’s love. The weeks went by and my father’s absence was a great void in my life. There was no one to throw the football to me. No one to take me fishing. There are things that only a father can do for a son. All of us have a hole in our heart that only a father can fill. I craved a father’s approval and his affection. 

One day Shirley Wratten, a friend whose husband Gary had died in the war, shared with my mom about a God who loved her in spite of her shortcomings. Who chose to make a terrible sacrifice to build a bridge to her.

And my mom decided to put her life as she’d lived it up for foreclosure. She decided to move from a place of stiff religion to personal faith. 

My mom went all-in with her new faith. Later, as I entered by teen years, I realized that she looked to the world like a crazy lady – a fanatic. But to us, as kids, her life of faith was normal. Mom passed out tracts to parking lot attendants. She led Bible studies in the bad part of town. She got up early and prayed on her knees.

My dad came home from Viet Nam, a hero. He had saved many lives with an innovative blood transfusion procedure. The army honored him with an award named, of all people, after Gary Wratten. 

Later my dad took Wratten’s son, Chris, and me on a two-week hike in Wyoming. He could see how Chris missed his dad and he wanted to reach out to him.

The years went by and we lost track of Chris. He grew up, got married and had a family. Then we heard the horrible news that his daughter was killed in a tragic car wreck. 

Her best friend Emily was devastated. And then a few years ago, Emily heard about the World Race. God used the World Race to restore Emily’s faith.

We’ve watched in amazement as the circles keep looping back on themselves. Emily’s parents, Tim and Lisa Wright, who are also friends of the Wrattens, became World Race coaches. They have brought life to so many young racers.

The story is still being written, but I love how it shows God weaving events over the years. He brings the story full circle. The tragedy of Gary Wratten’s death was redeemed by the way his wife Shirley sowed life into our family.

Life is full of pain. It is an unavoidable part of being human. We come into the world screaming and we leave whimpering. Yet God keeps bringing redemption in the place of pain.

So often we get caught in a dark, painful spot in life, unable to see how God brings things full circle. We struggle to believe he’s good when terrible things happen. We yell at him in our anguish. What else are we to do?

Our choice is to ignore him, shake an angry fist at him, or to wait for the day of redemption, when he shows us the bigger picture.

My story is that I’ve done all three. At times I’ve tired of waiting and I’ve wanted to give up trusting.

But at the end I’ve seen the truth that indeed, “all things work together for good.” It’s not easy believism – it’s born out in our multi-generational story of pain and redemption.

He is good and he can be trusted. His time table is not ours, but his circles do get closed. Our job is to choose to trust when we can’t see how.

Comments (7)

  • Such a good post, but all I can think about is that the poem I wrote for you is titled ‘Full Circle’. (I think?) Haha. Either way thank you for your dedication to my generation and granting us an avenue to find out more about God and ourselves!

  • Thanks, Seth, for this article. Just another flicker of light and hope and encouragement in Jesus to keep moving forward knowing He won’t leave those loose ends untied…

  • Seth – I’m so glad you pointed me to this post that shows how God’s plan is far better than anything we could put together ourselves! I love how Jesus uses us in our brokenness to lead others to Him – the way Shirley Wratten’s legacy is echoing in your life, and therefore in others (including myself)! WOW! God is good! To see how God weaved so many lives together for His glory is truly how the body works… When we look back and hear stories like this, it’s hard not to increase in ‘believism’. Thank you for sharing! – Hannah Maher

  • Hi Seth,
    My daughter launched for Gap Year in September 2017 and Shirley Wratten, and her daughter Linda, are my dear friends. We didn’t realize your connection to them until after my daughter, Katie had signed up to do Gap Year. Shirley has reached many lives but I’m not sure anyone else has had the incredible impact you’ve had all over the world through Adventures in Missions. Such a cool testimony! God is great!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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