Gordon's Bottom

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Many of you have heard of Gordon MacDonald. He’s pretty famous in the Christian world. I know him as the writer of the book, Ordering your Private World. He tells of his own trouble which he didn’t understand.

He was approached by a Christian Organization to send in a resume to be its president. He didn’t think it would happen, but then they sent someone to interview him. Afterwards he was called to fly to another city and interview with the board. By that time, the choice had been narrowed down to two candidates. The interview went well and the board all but told him he had the job. In fact, on the flight home, his wife, who never would normally say anything like this, said, “They’re going to ask you to be the president.” He was excited.

The board was supposed to call him on Sunday afternoon to tell him the news. Anticipating the opportunity, he asked his staff to meet him at his home after the evening service to break the news. He waited and waited all afternoon, but the phone never rang. He went to the evening service and then his staff gathered at his home. Still no call. So, not knowing what to do, he told them that he needed to share with them a story that, so far, had no ending. For twenty-five minutes he told them what had happened and what he planned to do. As soon as he was finished, the phone rang and to his shock, he discovered that he had not been selected. In his own words, this is what happened next:

I stumbled into the living room to tell the staff the news. I said stoically, "You've been with Gail and me on many occasions when God has said yes. Now you'll get to see how we handle things when God says no."

After the staff left, I canceled the church elders meeting I had scheduled for the next morning (I had planned to resign), canceled my plane reservations to meet with what I thought would be my new board, and went to bed. The next morning, I was back at work at 8:00 a.m., as if nothing happened.

Ten days later the full force of what happened crushed me. I submarined into the depths of disillusionment. At a subterranean level, I told God, "You've made a perfect fool out of me. You drew me to the finish line and said, 'I'm sorry.' I no longer know your language. You speak a different language than I've been trained to understand." I was questioning God, something I had never really done. I doubted whether it was possible to hear God speak.

During this period, I resigned from Grace Chapel out of exhaustion, disillusionment, and bewilderment. By candidating for that position, I had lost trust with the leaders of Grace Chapel. That was 1984. My world had fallen apart.

I can say this only now, with more than a decade of distance from those dark moments, but I had to surrender to a much deeper and more mysterious God than I had known up to that moment. I had to surrender all of my prejudices and preconditions of knowing God. That takes time. God wasn't in a hurry with Moses (I often wonder what was on his mind for forty years in the desert), and God certainly wasn't in a hurry with me.

In retrospect, I can say that if the board of that organization had picked me, I would have failed. I wasn't mature enough. The job required characteristics I don't have. Even so, there's a memory of those days that has stayed with me: Don't expect everything to be cozy with God, for he is a big God and his ways are beyond us.

Our problems and difficulties laid a track for our future.

Perhaps the darkest moment taught me that even my worst moment had latent within it the hope of liberation. I'd been given a fresh opportunity to reframe my faith in Christ, to renew my marriage, and to discover my real friends.

When I add up all the dark moments of my life, I see in every one that God had a message for me. I can now say as Pilgrim did as he crossed the river: "I've touched the bottom, and it is sound."

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