Months before my ruthless firing in the spring of 1989, I started looking for another job. Though written in French, the writing on the wall of our Memphis headquarters was easily interpreted. I knew I was a marked man and that my company was in big trouble. Broke and broken, I was looking for shelter and a fresh start for me and my family. I found both in an Indianapolis-based leasing company owned and operated by like-minded Christian men. Our courtship provided triage for my bruised ego and wounded heart. Was it really possible to run a business with a people first philosophy to the glory of God? I would soon find out, but not before fielding a curve ball out of far left field.
The long-awaited decision had been made. We were moving back to Indianapolis to start a new IT consulting division for that small leasing company. After six years away from our Hoosier home, Elaine was thrilled to be moving back. I too looked forward to reconnecting with family and friends, but my primary focus was upon the new business I was about to start. While my new employer would provide support services and modest financial support, it was up to me to figure out how to start a brand new line of business. The thought of it both energized and terrorized me.
The curve ball from left field was thrown by the senior pastor at our large church in Memphis. Pastor Jimmy had somehow inherited responsibility for a small, troubled Christian college in the area. He was looking for someone to run it. Someone like me. When Jimmy and his entourage showed up at our front door, I was more than a bit confused. But, when your highest spiritual authority with skin on comes calling…you listen. Besides, I was still looking for the silver platter that my head had been handed to me on just a few weeks prior. To become president of a college at the tender age of 32 was pretty heady stuff. And, to have the backing of one of the largest churches in Memphis sounded much more secure than the unchartered territory that awaited me back home again in Indiana. Just when I thought the decision waters had cleared, my mind was once again as muddy as the mighty Mississippi just a few miles to the west.
I’ll never forget what my second highest skin-clad spiritual authority had to say when I posed the dilemma to him. Since we first met in the spring of 1975, Tom had been my “go to guy” whenever I was facing a tough decision. He never let me down. This time was no exception. After I laid out the pros and cons of the two very different career paths before me, Tom asked me a question that I’ll never forget. “Brad, I see your dilemma. You have two very attractive, yet very different options before you. In choosing one over the other, I would encourage you to ask yourself this question—am I running towards or away from something?”
Tom had wisely discerned that my primary attraction to the college choice was the additional security it seemed to offer. I wasn’t particularly passionate about post-secondary Christian education. But, I was very passionate about starting and eventually owning my own business, though admittedly losing sleep at the prospects of entering the world of entrepreneurial terror. Tom helped me to see that if I ran away from it, I could be running for the rest of my life. With that, I ran towards my greatest fear and haven’t looked back.
What about you? What are you running from? A broken relationship that’s easier to ignore than to endure the pain of repairing it? A destructive habit that’s sapping the life out of you? An unconfessed sin that you can’t get past? Whatever it is that you’re running from, consider a change of direction. Consider turning around and moving towards that which scares the daylights out of you. Consider facing your fears.
Unlike the physical world, in the emotional and spiritual realms, scary objects shrink in size the closer you get to them. Because “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). Recall, our one-word definition of God—love. If we substitute “God” for “love” in the previous passage, we see that “There is no fear in <God>, but perfect <God> casts out all fear. The reason fears shrink as we face them is because God is facing them with us.
On the flipside, consider what passions you feel prompted to run towards? In my case, back in 1989 I was prompted to run towards owning my own business. Looking back, I probably should have been running faster away from the toxic environment my employer’s workplace had become. The gold rush was over before the acquisition took place, much to the chagrin of our new owner. Then greed took over. I was never privy to the details, but it was pretty clear that the good ole boys of Memphis had sold the Frenchman and his Euro banker buddies a pig in a poke. With each passing miserable day, he and his minions were in an increasingly foul mood over it.
But I digress…
For me, owning my own business was more about keeping my fate out of the hands of others than it was about putting it in my own. I really didn’t want full responsibility for my future, but I was sure fed up with the alternative. As a Christian, I’ve never believed that my family’s destiny was solely mine to determine. There are many passages in the Bible supporting this view. This is one of my favorites:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:17).
Back to you. Consider the possibility that the above passage is not only true, but it could be true of you and yours today. Then, for the sake of illustration, let’s oversimplify your complicated life. Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re in one of three states of being. You’re either running towards something, running away from something or just plain stuck, not knowing which way to run. So, your first task is to determine which state of being you’re in. Simple enough, right? Or maybe not so simple.