50 cake photo Well I just turned 50. Wow! 50 years and where have they gone? And hello mid-life crisis! Truth be known it’s been here for a little while already. I’ve been thinking about a variety of different things lately; things like what have I accomplished in my life, what do I value and what’s important to me, what is retirement and what does that look like, what is my legacy, should I be making a bucket list, and more.

And what about the regrets and failures. The wasted years of my youth, a bankrupt business, a failed marriage, my addiction, or just bad decisions in general.  And then there’s the trap of ‘chasing’ things to make up for your shortcomings or just to keep yourself feeling young. For instance I still don’t have a muscle car and I’ve never travelled outside of North America. Or that pimped out Rider boat that I saw by the Rochdale Superstore a couple summers ago. It was even for sale, and two hobbies in one (fishing and football), does it get any better than that?

Well I think you get the picture. Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker put it this way: “He who does not know the past can never understand the present, and he certainly can do nothing for the future.” Though said in a different context, I’ve been reflecting on his words and thinking about those areas of my life.

The past

We’ve all done things that we’re not too proud of, things that we’d do differently now. We just usually don’t share them because that makes us vulnerable and opens us up to judgement. We’re so scared of being real. As an example, I’ve never gone to a high school reunion. Why? I came from a poor broken Mennonite family and I was teased about that. I never went to my grad either, I was still too embarrassed. I thought everyone else had a ‘normal’ life. I didn’t think I did and I thought I was a failure.

When I was 20 I had a really good well-paying job. I worked for Northern Telecom at its fibre optic plant in Saskatoon. There were other great benefits that came with the job too, and while everyone around me at work was buying houses and building their lives I was chasing the party scene and living for the moment; short term pleasure! I wound up quitting that job because I wanted to party the summer away. Bad decision! And then there’s me going back to school at the age of 28 so I could have a better life, for not just me, but for my then girlfriend, and in the end for a marriage that didn’t last and wasn’t very healthy right from the start. Then all those absolutely dark days of my addiction. They were awful!

The present

Fast forward to today and my life looks like this. I have an amazing wife! Very loyal, very sacrificial, and very loving. She deserves so much more than just my love! I’m so proud of all of our children and grandkids, and the ‘family’ that has blossomed out of the seeds of our brokenness. They are all amazing and we both love them very much! I’ve been blessed with some ‘real’ friendships, not like the artificial selfish relationships from my past. Mike & Violet, David & Beth, Dennis & Charlene, you’re the best. To all of you, I say I’m sorry for allowing the busyness of my life to get in the way of us spending more time with each other.

And last but not least my current job, though I wouldn’t really call it a job, more of a ‘calling’ and more of a ‘bigger plan’ I guess. Today I’m the Executive Director of a well-established Inner-City mission. I oversee numerous programs and services for the poor, homeless and addicted, and I have more than 40 staff. I help people get another chance and I get to play a part in the reclamation of their lives, and when it comes to reclamation I can relate to that in a variety of ways. Now that’s purpose!

The future

Well nobody knows what the next day holds for them, but I’ve never had it better than I have it right now. My life has meaning and there’s a peace about it. I have a calmness that I didn’t have before. Ya, I still got dreams but in a way they’re different now. I’d like to find the time to write a book. I’d like to go see Domy our first Compassion child in Kenya. She’s almost 15 now and we’ve been sponsoring her since she was 5 years old. Nancy & I want to go to Hawaii for our tenth anniversary; we never had a honeymoon.  I can tell you a lot about Hawaii but I’ve never been there, I’ve just heard a lot from my friends and I’ve seen a bunch of documentaries. And so on…. but let’s take a look at one moment in my life that changed the way I thought about everything:

July 15 1999

This was the day that my life fell apart. My gambling addiction had run its course and I’d spent all of the money in our bank accounts. I was way out of control and I had blown it one too many times. In the end I lost my house, my marriage, and the custody of my children had been awarded to my ex-wife. My son had just turned one and my daughter was three and a half years old.

Now through all of this there was one thing that I did do right. One day I simply woke up and I said enough. I couldn’t take it any more. I cried out to the Lord and he rescued me! I acknowledged my mess, I took responsibility for my decisions, I accepted the consequences, and I asked the Lord for forgiveness, and through Christ’s grace I was able to start all over again with a clean slate! I loved my kids as best as I could and like I’d never done before! Today, we have a great relationship even though I’ve never been able to be the everyday father that they deserve.  Was it easy? No, my life had been changed forever. Yes, there was a lot of pain but now I had hope, I had new dreams, and the promise of an eternity with no more sorrow! I was free!

There is an amazing story in 2nd Samuel chapters 11 and 12. A story of pain and hurt, a story of a consequence for a bad decision, but it’s also a story of forgiveness and reclamation, and a story of hope and a future. You can read it in its fullness if you like, but I’ll try and paraphrase it for you now.

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David is the King of Israel and in this story he makes some really bad decisions; he sleeps with another man’s wife and when he can’t hide his actions any more he even goes so far as to kill that man. Anyway, when he finally comes clean, the Lord tells him that because of what he did, the child of his adultery (she had become pregnant) will have to die. This was the consequence for what he had done. David begs for another chance, even fasting and praying for days, but it’s too late and the sick child passes away.

Then, after all that, David gets up one day, has a shower, a shave, eats a hearty breakfast, puts on some clean clothes and moves on with his life. He has accepted the consequence of his actions.

And as I reflect on my mid-life crisis here’s my point. Regrets and all the ‘what if’s’ will simply rob you of your future! We all make mistakes, and even though we can be forgiven for our decisions and actions, sometimes the consequences still remain. Accept it and move on. Unfortunately, there are still people who wind up living in a state of anger and denial, never accepting the responsibility for their choices. So sad, because life can still give you so much more. Even more than before! You just have to let go. Don’t let your past rob you of your future, and never forget your destiny. (Hebrews 13:14)

So…. boat or muscle car? Which one is it? Hmmm, perhaps neither, let’s just see what tomorrow brings.

Joe


Joe Miller – Executive Director

Joe Miller is the Executive Director for Souls Harbour Rescue Mission. After working in the manufacturing industry for many years, he felt called to move from 'building things' to 'building people.' He has a passion to see the people that walk through the Mission's doors, get the help they need; whatever their situation may be. He enjoys fishing and the outdoors and often finds God in the stillness of nature. He writes here his thoughts on poverty, society, faith, and his reflections on life.