I looked at the calendar today and realized that ten years have passed since the events that I now affectionately call my personal grand slam. These were a series of four seismic incidents that all happened within a five-week period. I share my story to encourage anyone who might be feeling overwhelmed by what life is currently throwing at them by maintaining perspective.
On a roll, but not the good kind
Ever have a life-changing experience? One where you just knew there was no turning back the hands of time? Sure you have—we all have. Some of these events happen by choice—they’re part of the plans we make for our future. Others happen despite our best efforts to avoid them.
Ten years ago, my “perfect storm” started with a divorce. After assaulting my wife six years earlier, I’d worked hard to change my behavior and save our marriage. I knew I’d made significant progress and was no longer a violent or abusive person.
Still, my wife couldn’t, or maybe wouldn’t, see my transformation. Six years of counseling, journaling, reading, classes, and self-examination, all apparently for naught. It was agonizing to watch that much effort get flushed down the toilet. However, there was nothing more that I could do to preserve the relationship.
A few days after my divorce was finalized, my youngest child headed back to college after spending the summer living with me. I knew it was the last time I would live with either of my children. It was time for them to spread their wings and leave the nest.
I love my kids and love being around them. They are smart, funny, and interesting, and we genuinely get along well together. Having my youngest leave home right after my divorce was awful timing. As if the house was not vacant enough without my wife, it felt like an empty tomb without my kids there.
About a week after that, I turned 50. I think all birthdays that end in zero are milestones, but among those milestones, 50 is a particularly big one. Half a century of a life that is unlikely to see a full second half.
After a certain point, maybe age 25 or 30, few of us look forward to growing older. Our health declines, along with our opportunities—especially in dating. The idea of trying to start another relationship as a 50-something was daunting to say the least. Fifty not only felt like over the hill, but well down the back side of it.
A few weeks later, I got called into a conference room at work. As soon as I was greeted by the department head and human resource specialist, I knew why I was there. My 17-year career with the company was over.
Not every job loss is the same. Sometimes we’re genuinely relieved to get a break from work, a severance, and a fresh start at something new. But this was different: it had been a dream job for me. I’d invested in a graduate degree to get it, and worked my butt off to succeed in it. There was no way I could find a job that would provide the same gratification or financial reward. It had been a once in a lifetime opportunity, and now it was gone.
A surprising response
Had I faced any one of these circumstances six years earlier—around the time I was arrested for domestic violence—it would have been devastating. Experiencing all of them so close together would have crushed me completely. Maintaining perspective is hard when you’re up against it.
But surprisingly, I felt peace, hope, and curiosity rather than dread. No, I didn’t like what was happening. But I wondered what good things might come from these changes. What had changed? What was different this time?
Peace that passes all understanding
I chalk my serenity up to the personal relationship with God I’d found a few years earlier. That relationship began when I decided to put God in charge of my life and follow him, rather than the path I had been walking. It blossomed as I heard his promises for me and saw him keep those promises.
Trusting God meant I could turn over my problems to him and have confidence that he would provide everything I needed. My life’s circumstances were not on my shoulders, but in the hands of my heavenly father, who loved me. Submission and faith were all that I needed—all that anyone needs for this relationship.
Maintaining perspective: ten years later
Here I am, ten years later. My ex-wife did not change her mind. Neither of my kids moved back to live with me. I turn 60 later this month—another birthday that ends in zero! I did not replace that job. And, my life is better than it’s ever been.
After spending some time single, I met the woman who became my wife over five years ago. I’m so glad I went to all that effort to change my behavior, as we’ve been inseparable since and have a wonderful, loving marriage. She introduced two adult children of her own to my family, and each of them added a spouse or fiancée. My “kid” count has gone from two to eight—plus one grandchild so far!
Almost five years ago I took the plunge to start the Ananias Foundation. While I receive no financial compensation for what I do, my front-row seat watching people transform is priceless. Seldom a week goes by that I don’t receive some note of appreciation for the resources and encouragement that we provide.
I’m not telling you all this in order to brag. I’m telling you to illustrate the power of maintaining perspective when your life seems bleak and you can’t see the way out. Perspective is difficult when we’re in the middle of a storm. But know that the storm will pass.
Things can get better. How you respond to the challenges you’re up against will make all the difference. Focus on yourself and your actions, nobody else’s. Work to change behavior that is damaging your relationships. Strive to become the best version of yourself. Trust God with your future. Don’t give up.
There is a path to a better and brighter future. If I could do it, you can too. Change is possible!