Beak-Fed; or, A Long Walk

Coming up: a longish update-like post that shows how God sometimes works, which contains pretty big news at the end.


Here's Elijah in the desert, surrounded by sand and rocks and thirst. God tells him, “Go down to that brook so you can have some water. I'll worry about your food.” Elijah is brought bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat at night by the beaks of ravens. I've thought a lot lately about how it must have felt for him, not know where that food was coming from, but knowing that it arrived every day just when the hunger pangs kicked in. Never in glut, never in want.
 

I am obviously not Elijah, but I still have a distinct feeling, which I will express with a borrowed metaphor: I'm standing barefoot at the beginning of a brambly path, and there is just an insurmountable number of things in front of me. Slowly, very slowly, like God is playing a game of thoughtful chess, pieces start being moved around and out of my way and the path in front of me looks a little bit more clear. I am told to simply stay and wait, even when the path looks like something I could get around on my own. Finally, when the last piece has been removed, God will hand me my shoes and says, “Alright, now you can start walking.”


For five years now, I've been praying about and searching for full-time work, but the answer has always been thunder-clear: “Wait for Me; My ravens come.”

So I waited. But unfortunately, God's mandate that I wait doesn't come with a while-you're-waiting check to cover expenses. So I've taken my bread and meat from the beaks of the birds as they've been brought to me, assuming that there may be a meal somewhere over the horizon (though it is just as possible that I eat crumbs forever. Oh to be a dog at the feet of my Master's table!). I gathered these scraps and I suppose I turned into somewhat of a professional freelancer.

If you've never received your full income from freelancing, here's what it looks like, by way of a few of the jobs I've worked in the last couple of years: I've been a ghostwriter, I've edited dissertations, I've written term papers for busy college students, I've tutored Middle Schoolers, I've transcribed love letters with dip-pens onto parchment paper, I've taken ill-paying musical gigs, I've interned as a copywriter, I've written life group curriculum, I've polished (and compiled) books, I've tracked guitars, I've written for publication, and I'm currently commissioned to research and write a book. If I leave work at the Middle School where I tutor, I go to my house but I do not go home; I go to an office where I have a steadily growing pile of things I don't want to look at. A shadow in the corner of my relaxing eye.

That's not everything; it's just a sampling. For the last two or so years, my workday has started at 4:30AM and has ended around 8PM. Some days are shorter, some are longer, but the line of best fit around the scatter plot of my brain shows a person who has forgotten how to turn off. I'm someone who always has something that needs to get done that I simply do not have the energy to finish right now, because I have bills that need to get paid and a family I have the privilege of supporting.

I'd pray about it, God would say “Wait for Me; My ravens come,” I'd say, “Okay.” I'd take my pieces with a face of gratitude but a heart of growing frustration. My wife would peek at me under my pile of to-dos, a little perturbed, and tell me that I was being taken advantage of, which may have been true. I would reply, most of the time more frustrated than I probably let on, that I didn't really understand anything other than that it was just my place to wait and make a supper of my bread.

Here's what I didn't know: I was getting practice the whole time. I was learning how to be content in the busyness. That it was a blessing to have somehow found such a continuous flow of work. That there was always another corner to search if I needed an extra buck that month. I was getting practice doing a huge variety of things, learning how to adapt quickly, and being wriggled free from any notion that it was I who was in control.

Because check this out: I have applied for a huge number of jobs, but I've never gotten a job that I've applied for. I've been called back and have had interviews, but have been passed over for the person with field experience or who was a little bit older. As I look at it now, every single opportunity that has come my way has come while I was looking for something else. It's been someone I worked a job for telling somebody else, and then them calling me as I sit in my crevasse by the brook in awe that exactly what I need keeps being dropped in front of me.

 

We call this providence. This is the ultimate me-not-being-in-control.

 

Well, I got my first pair of walking shoes this month after twenty-six years of being barefoot. I got a call (from someone I hadn't ever submitted an application to, for a position at a place I had never even expressed interest in) telling me that there was a team being assembled and that there was a place for me on it. They were going out of their way to put me on it. They were going to make it so that I could focus all of my energy into one place, give me a space that is not in my house to do my work, and encourage me by calling me a member of a team rather than just a freelancing content-producer.

While I was once frustrated with my repeated and vain efforts to turn just one of my contract occupations into something that was full-time, I now see that the entire reason behind my waiting was that I had to learn to trust before I could learn to walk, and I had to learn to work before I could be trusted. I had to learn what I was worth before I could earn it. I had to learn that I am nowhere near done learning.

I'm just twenty-six, so I have a great many more years to learn the myriad things I still don't know, but it was through these initial five post-college years that my education started: Trust. Obey. Seek the face of Christ before all things, and correct myself when I see that I'm not doing so hot at it. Know that I'm not being persecuted, I'm not being beheaded, my family isn't being killed because of my faith; all I am doing is keeping my ear to the earth and my nose to the grindstone—not by my strength, but by the strength of God.

So with this being said, I'm sure we'll do a more formal “announcement” thing, but Morgan and I are going to be selling our house, rental house shopping, and packing up Baloo, Mowgli, and Bagheera to move to Hendersonville in the next couple of weeks, where I have accepted a job at Long Hollow Baptist Church. It will be hard moving away from our friends and family, but our “yes” is on the table, and all we can do is follow where that "yes" leads.

I say none of this to bring myself any kind of glory (like there's nobility in waiting bitterly), but to direct it back on the One who deserves it. Every ounce of praise to the God Who sees.

 

I'll keep my ear to the earth
I'll keep my head to the ground
I'll keep my hands from shaking
I'll keep listening for the sound
I'll keep my eyes to the sea
I'll keep these words in my heart
I'll keep Your name on my lips
Until it tears me apart.
-O' Brother: "Oh, Charitable Thief"

 

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.