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Starting over after you crash & burn

What does it take to reach your destiny? I think it takes a white flag of surrender. You need to reach the end of your own resources and realize that if God doesn’t show up, you’re through. Here’s how that worked in my life.   As 1989 ended, Karen and I were slowly, numbly coming to rea…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
What does it take to reach your destiny? I think it takes a white flag of surrender. You need to reach the end of your own resources and realize that if God doesn’t show up, you’re through. Here’s how that worked in my life.
As 1989 ended, Karen and I were slowly, numbly coming to realize what it meant to have five children under the age of six.  An avalanche of toys, diapers and baby paraphernalia filled our home in Florida and spilled out onto the driveway.  We had our heads down and we were gutting it out.

I had a new ministry and two or three little side businesses I was managing out of the ramshackle office I’d built in one half of the garage.   As cramped as this might have felt, it was still an improvement over the desperate start I’d made on the dining room table a year earlier.  That whole year was a scramble to survive, beginning with the ignominy of losing my position managing a small start-up ministry with my friend.  Without insurance, Karen and I turned to Medicare to help cover her through that last pregnancy.  

We were scrambling alright – for dignity and identity as much as for cash flow.  If the sacrificial investment I’d made to launch the ministry meant so little, what good was I, and what could I ever really count on?

We hunkered down – Karen with the babies and me with my ragged, partially-formed ideas for how to keep the wolf from the door.  It was a time for grieving, but there was no time for grieving.  So we stayed focused.

And as we looked around, even in fire-fighting mode, I was waking up to the needs of our children.  How would we bring them up to cope with all that life would throw at them?  How would we help them to go further than we’d gone?  How would we introduce them to a vibrant relationship with Jesus and his promise of abundant life when we were so obviously struggling to find our bearings ourselves?

Somewhere in that desperate place, I cried out to God for help.  And all I seemed to get in response was silence.  It seemed to confirm what I’d always suspected, but was coming to believe – we Christians could advertise a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” till we were blue in the face, but whatever relationship I had with him was decidedly impersonal.  What kind of personal friend doesn’t respond when you talk to him?  What kinds of friends have a monologue with one another?  Maybe a husband whose wife is in a coma rambles on at her bedside.  Is this what God expected of me?  Is this what I was to pass along to my children?

How on earth would they subsist on the thin gruel of academically-oriented Bible studies on which I’d been weaned?  In my present spiritually shell-shocked condition, it didn’t cut the mustard.  And I just didn’t have much faith that 1990 would be any different.  Survival seemed to be a pretty ambitious goal, “If we can just get through another year,” Karen and I would say to ourselves.

So, whenever life eased up enough that I could look down the road a bit, the outlook for anything more than a standard American-issue one-size-fits-all spiritual life for my children seemed bleak and left me asking God for answers.  Not for me, but for them.

How would we help them experience a reality that we hadn’t even tasted, that on years like this one seemed like a cruel, cosmic joke?

And I guess my whining must have reached critical mass in the ears of the Almighty because a year later, I got my answer. It came in the form of a crisis that made my knees buckle so bad I could do nothing but cry out in desperation to God. On the other side of that was what I was looking for all the time. It about killed me to get there, but once I’d said “uncle,” God  welcomed me as his prodigal son and began to speak to me in a way that I could clearly hear.
What about you? Have you crashed and burned yet? Have you reached the place where if God doesn’t show up, you’re dead? My advice is this – go ahead and surrender. He’s going to take you there at some point anyway. Why not give him what he wants now?  There’s life on the other side of your disaster, and it’s sweet.

Comments (17)

  • HAHA !
    How wonderful a Father has given us men and women of faith to show us that trusting in Him through all things brings fruit to our withering branches. We have been studying surrender with our smallgroup which has been crucial to the year we’ve had and continues to be. Will we surrender all? Are we on the Father’s mission or our own? Do we have an American dream or the Kingdom Dream?

  • I feel like I am just coming to life after the death. What a brutal season I have gone through, it was painful, sorrowful, God killed a lot in me, but the result has been something amazing. He has shown the truths of his kingdom that can only be seen through the death. I was looking back at a journal last night when I first started Listening Prayer and thought. “man I had no idea the depth of what God was saying in that moment of pain” coming out the other side I see a greater depth of his work in my life to bring me fully alive to his rule in my life, but it required my death in many areas. Now I am walking with several men as they pursue God in Listening Prayer and I see them entering in the same season I just emerged from. I feel like I am teaching these men how to die well! It is more painful if you resist and struggle.

    Seth thanks for your guidance and wisdom! There has been much I have fed on from you over the last year.

  • Little wonder He’s using you to lift and lead others past their disaster seasons into sweetness.

  • A year ago, while in the crash and burn stage, I would have read this and thought,”God, it worked out for him but what about me.” A rough year later I find he was with me through it all and I’m starting to see a glimpse of the sweet life on the other side. God is faithful, but life makes it hard to see sometimes.

  • This is the stuff this current generation needs to hear…

    Life isn’t easy…

    The pay off for surrender is usability…

    Thank you both for pushing through…

  • Wow – thanks for this Seth. Thanks for opening up to us and showing us a picture of your past.

    “It about killed me to get there, but once I’d said “uncle,” God welcomed me as his prodigal son and began to speak to me in a way that I could clearly hear.”

    This made me picture God having you on your knees in pain with your hands locked and you saying “Uncle!” Thanks for giving me a chuckle this morning (whether you meant to or not!). 🙂

  • It is too easy to think of the Gospel in terms of its effect on our lives. It takes true suffering to understand the Gospel is both the Person and the Work of Jesus. The Gospel is not salvation; is not the Bible; is not grace; is not a thing… the Gospel is a Person and the work He does in us. You’re right Seth… whether 20 or 75…our “getting it” comes when we see the Gospel as all that Jesus was, is, and shall ever be–what Jesus has done and all that he shall ever do. There is a risk in being principle-driven–it leads us to individualistic, unsustainable change.

  • If we could all learn to say “Uncle” before the arm twisting ever begins…yeah, that’d be better for both parties.

  • Stopped by again today…it has been awhile…but like last time I am refreshed and renewed- so thank you! I just love reading about your passion for discipleship. I was refreshed today as I read words in the convictions section of the blog that my husband and I have been saying for two years, but have so few agree with us (like two people)…that our emphasis needs to be more on discipleship than evangelism…*shock…gasp*

    It is so fantastically awesome to know there is someone else out there that truly understands the Great Commission to go, make disciples, baptize and teach. And that it does NOT mean strictly evangelism.

    I am praying more about AIM and our family and what God has in store.

    Thank you for your passion to make disciples and for being obedient all those years ago to God’s call in your life. Thank you for what you do in Swaziland. We pray one day we’ll be there and able to meet our boys there. Thank you for the assurance that they are being discipled.

    In Christ,
    Brooke 🙂
    (formerly signed “Anastasia”)

  • What’s more, us kids never knew it. We only knew a daddy that would work hard and play with us every night, a mom that was comforting and knew everything there was to know about life and what to do when Emily was in her room alone with the door locked, and parents that loved each other a lot. We were the happiest kids ever, buffered from the pressures of the world on our parents.

    Thank you for that, and for being vulnerable to help others thru similar situations.

  • This is beside the point… Karen must have an incredible amount of patience. I cried uncle this morning with 2 kids under 1 1/2. I understand what it is to need help, to be sitting in the corner crying at the end of my rope. So God brought me to Colossians, and then confirmed it with an email from our pastor in which he quoted Colossians 3:12-17. Exactly what this frazzled mom needed!

  • To quote Marc, “I wonder if it’s every day I find myself on the anvil again.”

    I remember God breaking through to me like that several years ago. It seems I have either forgotten that lesson or this is supposed to happen to us every once in awhile for the perfection of our faith- or both.

    Thanks for the reminder, Seth, to rely on the Lord and to seek Him first.

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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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