19 – deja vu all over again
M and I moved to Arkansas and started over. We had only recently bought our first home in Gulfport and settled into our first real, adult jobs. Now we had relocated to the hills and had to find new jobs, new friends, new church – the whole thing. From scratch. That was intimidating, but we felt it was what God wanted, so we jumped in. There’s something about a guy losing his dad (or, I would assume, a girl losing her mom) that makes you realize you’ve been playing adult until now, and now you’ve got to really do it. Get it right. No choice anymore. You’re carrying the weight and can’t hand it to the parent when it gets too heavy.
But we did move to my family. And they did help. We moved into a small white rent house and made a connection with a local attorney with whom I could work. I began work there and studied for my second bar exam. I had a very different perspective on the bar this time. I knew the real practice, so I had to remember the academic answers the examiners were expecting. For example, when a question lays out a criminal case fact scenario and then asks you to analyze and describe your approach, you can’t analyze it politically or in terms of negotiation leverage, you have to give the “text book answers.” This took some effort. But I studied and passed again. I must admit that I had to have been hard to work with then, as my mind was generally on the bar exam, Dad, or M, rather than whatever I was paid to do. It wasn’t long before I felt the same discontent as I did on that mountain bike trip in ’96. (iuris) I began praying, again, and God answered, again. The same way. Go figure.
“I’m miserable again . . .”
“I see that.”
“Could you help me out of this mud?”
“Haven’t we been here before, Dave?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about . . .”
“You prayed this same stuff in Gulfport; I gave you instructions and you blew me off.”
“Oh that. Yeah, well, I wasn’t ready.”
“How about I tell you when you’re ready instead of the reverse. Remember what ‘Lord’ means?”
“Same answer as before, son. I’ve already answered this. It’s your turn. Obey or don’t, but don’t give me re-run prayers with no obedience.”
Yes, I believe God still talks to people who listen.
I talked to M and told her it was time to start a charity law firm.
Remember when Gabriel came to Mary and said she would have a baby? It happened in Luke Chapter 1. You’ve probably noticed, as I have, that Gabriel visited Joseph as well, with similar news. Matthew 1. I think the reason for this is that God doesn’t call one half of a marriage without guiding the other, and I don’t believe He sets us up for marital discord by only talking to the bride or the groom. I guess there may be situations where He tests the leadership handling skills of the marriage, but generally, I think He calls both if He calls one. I believe this applies now as it did then. If I had gone to M and said it was time to start a charity law firm, and she didn’t agree or at least understand and encourage, I would return to prayer.
But she agreed and encouraged me to move on it. I started Christian Legal Service, as instructed, and contacted the local homeless shelter and women’s shelter to offer free legal services. We trusted Him to take care of the bills in the absence of the salary I had given up. After taking this leap, the national Christian Legal Society contacted me and offered to fly me to Chicago for training on running a legal clinic. No expense to me. I would be meeting Chuck Hogren – founder of Cabrini Green Legal Aid of Chicago – as well as a few other pioneers in what I was doing. I took this opportunity and Mr. Hogren provided some excellent advice over the next year to move me in the right direction. The very next year, I received another invitation for the same conference in D.C.. This time, though, I was to be part of a round table with Mr. Hogren and several others, talking about the future of Christian Legal Aid in the States. How could I pass that up? M and I took the trip as a semi-vacation that we couldn’t have possibly afforded otherwise, and when the ultimate question came up at the round table, I suggested that we attorneys should live a little more spartanly and less luxuriously to give more to the people we were serving, and that we should advocate more strongly for the freedom of Christians to be true to their faith in light of the free exercise clause of our Constitution.
Shortly after returning home, I received a letter from Alliance Defense Fund inviting me to be trained in Constitutional Advocacy. I was flabbergasted, and I saw a pattern. God seemed to be providing the training for the very things he called me to do. He was killing my excuses for disobedience at the same rate I was offering obedience. Just a hypothesis at this point, but the evidence was mounting. M and I, and our 6 month old baby (I’ll backtrack to that soon) were flown – no cost to us – to an attractive destination to undergo a very intensive week of training for me and some R&R (as much as is possible with a 6 month old) for her.
While I was standing close to a wall, not engaging with people at one of these training sessions, a young lady approached me. She was about my age, and explained the awkwardness of approaching, but felt like the Spirit was moving her to introduce herself. She did so – Tara from Montana. I reciprocated and as we chatted she became more enthusiastic as I told the “reader’s digest version” of my story from “iuris” to the present. She finally explained that she was the executive director of Peacemakers International. Peacemakers is an organization that trains people to mediate disputes between Christians in order to preserve the wholeness of the Body of Christ. She then said she understood why she was being directed to me, and offered me a scholarship to be trained in mediation. Hypothesis shifts to theory! I accepted the offer and after returning to Arkansas with Legal Clinic training and Constitutional Advocacy training under my belt, I soon started on the road of mediation training.
So as I obeyed, God equipped. He did that with Abraham and the lamb (Gen. 22), Elijah and his food (1 Kings 19), Israelites and an angel (Exodus 23), and on many more occasions in the New Testament.
So not only does He still speak, He still equips. In someone who had come from such strong doubts, He was building strong faith. He is today who He was in the beginning.