(written by my Matt Parker)
IN THE BEGINNING:
We began to be us in the summer of 1999. Before that time we were me and her…or something. Anyway, 1999 places me in northeast Arkansas and Suzanne in southeast Arkansas working for a children’s home. Through the providential hand of God, we somehow ended up together after several years of a sometimes shaky friendship. To make a long story a little less long…it was love at 148th sight (all figures approximate). We were married in 1999.
We bumped along for a couple of years, working hard to develop the perfect dysfunctional relationship. We did a pretty good job of severing ties with everyone we knew and cared about. We have also done our share of moving around. We moved from northeast Arkansas to Mississippi, to southeast Arkansas, 3 more moves, and eventually back to southeast Arkansas.
LET THE WAKE BEGIN:
We have left many friends, acquantinces, and enemies in our wake over the past several years. It is for this reason, at least in part, that I write this. I hope to share our hearts with people we see or hear from that have known me or Suzanne. I want to set the record straight. We have done much wrong and a little right. If you are in the “done wrong” category (and there are a bunch of you) we sincerely and deeply apologize. We want to make it right with you.
A LITTLE EXPLANATION:
Our shortcomings, together and individualy, stem from a misallocation of priorities and goals. Initially, we each unconsciously decided to seek the best/easiest route to find normalcy in life. Seeking stability and the pursuit of happiness, we made some mistakes that have had some pretty severe consequences. Our most prominent and ill rewarded mistake was our decision to “put” God way down there on our priority list (way, way, way down). This led to a string of bad decisions. It has proven to have had a domino effect in our lives. We have YEARS ahead of untangling some of these mistakes, and we have some that will never be completely untangled.
To make this more applicable to the “done wrongs”, I will try to go over some of the most grievous offenses we have commited. First, our friends and families, got hung out to dry during our rebellion to God. We have had, and amazingly still have some of, the greatest friends and family ever. I apologize to you “done wrongs” for being too selfish to further develop deep, meaningful relationships. With no Christ-focus, we did not see the importance of loving the people we were around as Jesus loves them. We were selfish, petty, lazy, unkind, and uncaring. So to our parents,David, Brian, Kenney & Elizabeth, Jessie, Tom & Meredith, Jim & Danell, Brandon, Bill & Shereefa, Steve & Kim, Chris & Stacy, Michelle, Jeff & Farah, Terry & Dymphna, Andy & Linda, Brock & Mike, Juanita & Webb, Mike, Tadd, Robb, Russell, David & Deeny, Sara, April, Dallas & Olethea, Bart & Amy, Doug, Jeff & Summer, Melanie, Peyton, Straight Burger, Young Bucks, Brannon, Sarah, Nikki, Josh, Kevin & Lisa, Amanda, Trish, Joanne, Keith & Pam, Lisa, Jeff, Steve, Danny & Leanna, Angela, Vu, and Danny, I am truly sorry. I know there are more of you who should be included in the “done wrong” listing. To all of you, we are deeply troubled over not being the friends we could have and should have been. We want to make it right! Please be patient with us as we try to correct our mistakes over the next few months and years.
I think the story of Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, best summarizes our story. In many ways I find myself to be a lot like Jonah. Jonah, in brief, knew God. God called him up to go do some work. Jonah split the scene and began a journey running from God. After a little “correction” from God, Jonah set out to do God’s will. This story pretty much sums up our story. We, like Jonah, knew God, but we decided to not to do the work he was sending us to do. If I have learned anything about God in the last 10 years, it has to be the truth in the idea that you can run from God, but you cannot hide! So after a little correction, we finally moved on toward God’s will. I still carry alot of Jonahness with me, but now I know that there are only two roads in life…God’s Will Blvd. or Harder Than Hades Highway. God has shown us that there is peace and joy in following Him, and there is heartache and misery in not.
THE ROAD TO TARSUS:
While running from God, we realized that religion is not all that it is cracked up to be. The churches on the toll road to Tarsus were full of hypocrites and misguided zealots. We were glad to have been finally enlightened concerning this obvious fact. One problem that we never were able to solve however was our own hypocrisy. Anyway, as we traveled further from God, it became less bothersome to travel away from God. We realized that the road was long, dusty, and riddled with potholes, but we thought that the infrastructure of life was just so. We moved from bad decisions to worse decisions. This is where a lot of the friend and family “done wrongs” began to pile up. Nevertheless, we were somehow “satisfied” with this lack luster existence. With all of the traveling, there was very little time to stop, rest, and think. We were very reactive to everything going on in our lives, and we did little to plan for the coming weeks, months, or years. We finally made it to the sea port and boarded a ship bound for “Far Away From God.” By this time we had all but forgotten that we were even running. We were living the life! The salt air was nice and you should’ve seen the sunsets…, but still there was plenty to complain about. One day, while taking a nap in the depths of the ship, I was awakened by my beloved mate Suzanne. She stood holding a little white stick with a little window on it. She urged me to look in the window of the little stick. Huh…two little pink lines. The next thing I knew there were people casting lots, and I wasn’t getting any sevens. Overboard we go. My panic of drowning was quickly replaced by my fear of large fish. Guuulllp. Let me tell you, it stinks inside a fish. There is absolutely only one good thing about being inside of a fish. The inside of a fish is a great place to think. “I don’t want kids…I don’t think…do I?…I have got to get a good paying job…I need insurance…why is Suzanne so excited about this while I am so scared?…how do you raise a kid?…….HOW DO YOU RAISE A CHILD?!!” I began to think much more deeply than I was familiar with. The thought of raising a child was quickly making me realize that I needed to be doing something differently. I began to think about what was really important in life. More than anything else, what do I HAVE to teach this child? The answer to the question was clear, but I kept asking myself the same question over and over anyway. Every time I asked, the answer would come back clearer. I guess there is something about the stomach lining of a fish that filters the murkiness out of answers to importan questions. Over the course of several months in the fish I realized that the most important thing to pass on to my child was life. How simple is that. I want this child to have real life! I want the road that my child takes to be much better than that one I took down to the sea port. I don’t want potholes and dust for my baby. In my heart I knew that the only road that I could trust my baby with is the road that leads back toward God. And so it was. Suzanne and I called out to God. “God, we know you know a better way for our baby and for us. If you will still have us…”, and I think it was mid-sentence that God made that fish nauseated. Suzanne and I found ourselves (and our new baby) on some remote shore-line.
ON TO NINEVEH:
Amazingly, we discovered that God does not wait on us to get where he told us to go before he will talk to you. Nothing had changed! We were the same people with all of the same consequences we had before we responded to God’s calling. We still had the same dysfunctional relationship with each other and with our friends and family. The new road we found had potholes too! We quickly learned that the new road was in many ways harder than the old road. To brave the new road, we would need to develop some new habits. We will need discipline, tenacity, compassion, and love. We are in the process of walking on this road now. It does make more sense now than it did a couple of years ago, but there are still days when we stop and sulk under the shade trees on the side of the road. We have a lifetime ahead of walking toward Jesus. We have found that the new road, though challenging at times, is full of joyful sights. There are also watering holes lining this road. On that old road, we hardly ever got a refreshing drink! Now, peace and rest is abundant. We get to stop and be reinvigorated regularly. Suzanne and I are excited about what lies around the next corner! We hope that it is you! If it is, we will all have to stop at the next watering hole and drink in the goodness of Christ together.
IF YOUR BURDEN IS HEAVY:
I know that the Jonah analogy may have gotten a little out of hand, ok…way out of hand, but the truth of the matter is quite simple. Jesus said, “Come to me if you’re tired and weighed down with burdens, and I’ll give you rest.” We don’t have to wonder if He wants us. He plainly told us to come on with Him. He’s not asking for GREAT men and women to get everything just right and then come to him and say “I’ll see you at church Sunday Jesus, but I got to get some stuff right before we can talk.” We like people to get a bath and put on some deodorant before they come over to our house, but Jesus isn’t like us. He says, “Come on over and get a bath at My house and you will never need another bath again.” He knows you are dirty. He knows you are tired, and He still wants you to come over because He cares for you.
Knowing God is not about church and religion. It is simply realizing that God loves you so much that He sent His own Son to die for YOU…dirty tired old you. If you will stop walking away from Him, turn around, and ask Jesus to lead you in a new direction, He will do it. God says in the bible that if we admit that we are going the wrong way, He is faithful to forgive us of our sin. I would urge you not to wait on a fish to swallow you before you stop to think about what is really important in life. If you think this is hogwash, and want to tell me so, e-mail or call me. If you think this is exactly what you need in your life, and you want to talk about it, e-mail or call me. Suzanne and I are moving toward God (although sometimes slowly) and we need your patience and graciousness. As I stated earlier, I know we have made alot of poor decisions, but we want to make it right. Come and join us in the Sonlight!