In the midst of failure, it is not always easy to see God’s purposes.
About seven years ago, I was in a set routine. I had already experienced life as an engineer for a Fortune 500 company, as well as life as a high school math teacher for everything from precalculus to the lowest level math (with students coming in from probation or alternative schools) along with a little stint as an instructor for science outreach programs in kindergarten through sixth grade. I had finally settled into a less intense lifestyle working as a part- time middle school math teacher at a private school. I always looked back longingly upon my engineering days (especially after that high-school-math-teacher experience), but I was not really prepared for what God had in store for me.
In September of 2007, I received a message from ExxonMobil stating that they wanted to fly me to Houston for an interview. I was caught so off guard that I did not even return the call for a couple of weeks. Finally, my husband and I decided to give it a shot as we realized that sometimes God opens doors that only He can open. Within a couple of weeks, I was in Houston at the interview where they gave me a job offer on the spot, even though I had not been in engineering for about five years. As I sat there staring at this six-figure income, I thought,
“Wow. That’s interesting.”
After all, I was only making $8,000.00 per year at that point.
Honestly, I was not overly enthusiastic as one might think. I mean, what about my routine? And our home? And the fact that my husband had always had a ban on Houston (which is a major reason I left engineering to begin with)? And let us not forget that when I graduated from Texas A&M with my first degree, Exxon was the last company I wanted to pursue for a career.
“Wow. That’s interesting.”
When the rest of the details about this job opportunity were delivered to our home, along with the offer to buy our house from us, pack and move all of our belongings, and provide a hefty bonus just for signing this piece of paper indicating my commitment, my husband and I just looked at each other.
“Wow. That’s interesting.”
The truth is, we were still saying, “God, if this is what you want, please make it crystal clear, as though you are talking to an itty bitty baby. Oh, Lord. Please make it clear.”
From that point on, my husband made no more money in his career in real estate. We were left with this opportunity vs. an annual income of $8,000.00. And would you believe that on the very next Sunday the choir sang, “You’ve Got to Move?”
After a bit more hem-hawing around, we accepted the offer which started a huge upheaval for our family as we prepared to move from Knoxville to Houston, shifting roles such that I would be the sole breadwinner and my husband would be a stay-at-home dad. Our two oldest children were four and one at the time.
About six weeks into this new lucrative career, I started to feel a heavy weight hanging on my heart. My job description and responsibilities shifted rather quickly to the point that I was working from before dawn to after dusk with the added bonus of being on call the rest of the time. It was a dark time for me in many ways. I felt icy talons of sorrow grip my heart as my life sank into darkness, empty from my family, and void of the deep spiritual intimacy I had felt with God in previous times. I longed to be with my family. I longed to feel God’s strong presence in my life. My family could not count on me to be home for supper. Many times, I was not even home for bath time. I could barely stand it as I heard the pitter-patter of little feet scampering across the floor—pitter-patters that were fading all too fast for me. One night, I broke down in my husband’s arms. “I’m not ready for this stage to be over. Please let me just weep about our decision to not have any more children.”
The first of miracles occurred here, for, even though my husband was now the overwhelmed stay-at-home dad, he completely surprised me. “Now wait just a minute. It might be okay to have another child…” And this is how we ended up with a little Texan in our family.
Now I not only had my career responsibilities to deal with, but now I had morning sickness in the late evenings when I already had so little time with my family! Day in and day out, I continued over the course of the summer to feel like an utter and complete failure. I was not there for my family. I felt like a total failure as a mom and as a wife. To top it off, I was not an enthusiastic engineer. I felt as though I was doing a terrible job with my job. I was a failure at home. I was a failure at work. As I wept to my husband in the darkness once again, my heart spilled out in an ugly mess. “Why did I bring us here?!? Why did I tear our family away from all we knew and loved?!?”
My husband whispered, “You did not bring us here. God did.” As a stay-at-home dad, that day he might have had a whole lot more to weep about than I did, but God strengthened him to be such a rock in my life—to keep pointing me to THE ROCK that was in control. My relationship with my husband grew exponentially that year.
About one year into the “Great Sorrow of Absenteeism,” Levi was born. Those weeks were so precious! I savored the moments of just being there. I was home for supper every night. (And breakfast and lunch!) I could help with getting them washed and ready for bed. Saving a company one million dollars did nothing in comparison to the feeling of being MomMom once again.
After about eight weeks, I returned to work part-time, but only to finish up a project before taking an extended leave of absence during which time God “sealed the deal” for me.
During this whole time—the daily dose of feelings of failure—God was changing me. You see, it was not about the job. It was not about things turning out the way I had expected them to turn out. It was not about finding fulfillment in a job God had provided. It was about my heart. God performed a miracle in my life; it was the building of character within me. My heart was never prepared to just stay at home. Never. I was always seeking after academic or corporate gains of some sort. I always longed to be where I was not. Now, I was finally fulfilled just where I was: at home. I was finally prepared for my husband to return to working offshore—another thing I never was willing to face until after my one-year return to engineering. Not only that, but would you believe that two months after I left ExxonMobil, God called us to homeschool our children? I mean, now I would really get to experience some failure!
Without the failure, I would not have recognized the true beauty and success of God bringing me to a place of willing and joyful stay-at-home-mom servanthood.
Yes, there are times I feel as though I do not know what in the world I am doing. There are times I feel and act completely nuts (like the day before tutoring my first CC class). There are times we have to pick ourselves up and start all over again. Our family has many opportunities now to work through failure together. But through it all, I am constantly reminded that…
God can turn our biggest failures into His greatest successes.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9, KJV).