My Friend Kansas Bob

A question came in on the comments today. It referenced a time in my life when I was a yearly director of a camp session at Gulf Coast Bible Camp (a great place to support or send your kids). That particular week’s theme was I Am A Friend of God.

The question: Do I still consider myself a friend of God or are we more like frenemies?

Good question. I’d like to believe I am not an enemy of God. I certainly don’t believe God is my enemy. We have been a bit estranged in the past year and a half. We have wrestled an awful lot–and I have yet to win one single match. But I still wrestle. I guess I am stubborn like that.

Often friends get crossways with one another. But getting crossways or having a difference of opinion doesn’t mean abandoning the relationship.

If rape and a double murder could be construed as God’s plan for me, my anger would be much greater. If God was trying to help me grow or teach me some lesson and thereby let this happen, then I would be sorely ticked off at Him. There are much nicer ways to get my attention. I don’t think God was doing that. I don’t think God caused the perverted creep to do the perverted creep things he did.

I doubt I’ll ever have full understanding, but I am thankful God has not abandoned me in my time of questioning and wrestling!

And you know what? I am not alone. There are lots of us out here who struggle to understand why our lives have fallen apart–why so many bad things have to happen–why we continue to endure while others skip through life with hardly a disruptive ripple.

We are many. And as long as this earth lasts unredeemed, we will be here.

We are not going away. Chances are, there may be an unwanted occasion when you become one of us. I hope not, but that’s the reality of this world…

In the meantime, I’d like to share a guest post from a man who has also endured much.

Blog, meet Kansas Bob. Here’s what he has written:

In March of 1990 my life fell apart. Ellen, my wife of 19 years, had a heart attack and kidney failure.

In the following four years my whole life’s focus was caring for her. Everything else I was doing, ministry-wise, stopped.

I slowly died on the inside.

It was during this time that I began to be confronted by the control issues that surrounded me and lived deep within me.

As I continually prayed for my wife she got weaker and weaker.
And my frustration got stronger and stronger.

I had no control over what was happening. My children began having problems in school. They too were dealing with a deepening grief about their mom’s health.

All the while I was being forced to change – I hated it. All of the things in life that I thought I had figured out were unraveling before my eyes. Everything that was important to me was falling apart.

I was dying on the inside and in May of 1994 my dear wife of 23 years died.

The past years had taken a toll on our family, my 14 year old son, my 10 year old daughter and me.

We were all devastated at my wife’s death.
We all expected her to get well.

That is what we prayed for.
I believed in healing and miracles.
Standing by her side I even prayed for a resurrection when my wife breathed her last.

The aftermath of her death found my son medicating with drugs, my daughter struggling with identity issues and me dealing with a broken theology.

I increasingly became aware of how much I had been led by principles and precepts.
Subconsciously I had developed a complex internal system of rules and logic concerning life.

These “of course” were all based in scripture and encompassed words like “authority” and “submission”.

Unclear to me was the real issue – living by rules put me in control.

For years I lived the life of a “led by the Spirit” Christian when in truth, I was more like a rules following control freak.

Sadly, my legalistic approach to life and Christianity bred an arrogant attitude towards people who didn’t see the scriptures the same way I did.

When my wife was sick, the arrogant attitude began to give way to glimpses of humility.

I was humbled when meals came into my home from friends at church for 10 weeks.

Coping with hospitalizations, doctor’s bills (from 40+ doctors), hemodialysis, and a boatload of medical problems brought me to a place of breaking.

I was losing control.
I didn’t want to let go of my legalistic ideas and practices but had no option.
I could no longer maintain and feed the on stuff that once brought my ego such satisfaction.

The years after my wife’s passing brought many changes in my life.

That major theme of losing control seemed to subtly resurface as my children began to outwardly grieve the loss of their mom.

“Control” is a major battlefield for one trapped in black and white thinking.
It is all about “control”.

That brings me to the end of 2002.

I had remarried and Ann, my new wife, was going through an intense health crisis that involved paralysis.

I was beside myself once again when the Holy Spirit began to speak to me.
He spoke to me about life and living.
About letting go and flowing in life instead of controlling.
He said that life isn’t something to be managed like a project but something to be lived.

God was beginning to slay my desire to be in control.

Little did I know how much this would be tested over the coming years.

In the summer of 2007 my wife had another relapse of this nasty neurological disease called Neuromyelitis Optica.

This time she did not bounce back like the many times before.
This time she could not walk.
This time she would need to use a wheelchair to get around.
And she does to this day.

In January 2008 I read this quote from G. K. Chesterton:

“Why be something to everybody when you can be everything to somebody?”

It got me crying.

And over the following months I became convinced that God was leading me to leave my job as a pastor.

That summer I retired to minister full time at home.

I still find it difficult to let go and not control but I am making progress.

I try to see issues in the color gray rather than in black and white.
I do things these days that have clear boundaries.
I listen more to the advice of friends and family.
I honor the choices of my adult children even when I don’t agree with them.

And in all things I remember that God loves me and wants me to trust Him.

Not that I always do.

After all, trust is an issue of letting go and giving up control.

Kansas Bob

10 thoughts on “My Friend Kansas Bob

  1. lots of tears reading both of yours and Bob’s words…. control is what I’ve wanted because in my past I had none. I’ve learned through some tough times that I have no control…. especially over others and things but it doesn’t change the fact that I wish I could have just a wee bit of it. Thank you for your insights… both of you.

  2. RE: “…others skip through life with hardly a disruptive ripple.”:

    Someone once suggested to me that Satan’s preference was to win each of us over to his team; however, if he was unsuccessful at doing so, he would happily settle for each of us to be a completely ineffective player on God’s team.

    Well, I won’t judge those who seem to “cruise through life at ease” – largely, because you never really seem to get to “know” those kind of people (I mean, it seems that we only REALLY get to know folks during or after some kind of hard times) – however, it is something to provoke thought.

    If Satan decides that he can’t turn us, but he deems us an ineffective member of God’s team, then it wouldn’t be an efficient use of his time/resources to pursue us. And, if he doesn’t pursue us, then we may likely have a more friction-free life. But, if Satan perceives someone as a threat to his own team-building activities, then he’d be motivated to pull out all the stops against them.

    Like I said before, I won’t judge others, but I have noticed in my own life that during times of seemingly Teflon-coated, Pam-sprayed, butter-greased living that (in reflection) I could have probably been classified as one of those ‘completely ineffective’ types. Not that I’m super effective during the other times, but at least during those other times I’m trying!

    So, from a certain way of thinking about things, I don’t necessarily strive for or expect or envy others for having a too-super-smooth time of it. On the other hand, I absolutely don’t long for the likes of what you have been through – not even close!

    Anyway, just food for thought.

    Love you, bro!

  3. Bob, wow! Thank you for sharing that story and insight with me/us. I think you are right on the money with your thoughts about ‘control’. Some of us seem to be infected with that disease more than others, I’m afraid. I consider myself a recovering control freak. I still fall off that wagon regularly, but I continue to get a little quicker at jumping back on after each tumble.

    God bless!

  4. There have been many times, when it was just me and God talking, that I have questioned Him or expressed my frustration with things not going the way I wanted them to go. There have even been a few times when, in moments of despair, I have asked, “Where are you, God?”

    Is that horrible? Is it shameful for a minister of the gospel to have such moments of weakness? I honestly believe that it just means I am human.

    I firmly believe that God is big enough and “secure” enough (to express it in purely human terms) to be able to handle my moments of weakness. He knows my weakness better than I know myself. Weakness is part of the equation. That’s why 1 John talks about Jesus’ blood continually cleansing us of our sins if we continue walking in the light. Even when I am walking in the light, there are going to be moments of weakness and sin in which I so desperately need Jesus’ blood to make me whole again. Weakness and sin are simply part of the equation, and God understands that. He’s the one who wrote the equation, for crying out loud!

    The key is to keep walking in the light; to get back up and dust myself off and continue on the path ahead of me; to not let my weakness or sin turn me around and permanently point me in the wrong direction; to beg for God’s grace and forgiveness to cover my sinful weakness, and for His strength to propel me forward even when all I can see and feel is darkness and confusion.

    When, in my moments of weakness, I turn to Him to seek strength, isn’t that in itself an act of faith?

    I guess my point is this. Instead of beating myself up because I am at times pathetically weak, it is more consistent with God’s grace for me to seek His forgiveness and spend more time and energy baksing in His love and being renewed by His mercy than focusing on the sins He has already forgiven.

    Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only one who struggles with these things.

    I have taken your name before the Father’s throne countless times, Les, since first learning of your family’s horrible plight. My heart continues to ache for you. Though I have lost a child myself, I cannot begin to imagine the hell you have been through. Thank you for sharing your faith struggle so openly. I know I have been blessed just by watching you from afar. May God continue to bless you, my friend, as you continue stumbling toward Him.

    • Paul, I share your grief in losing a child. If I remember correctly, I knew of your struggle before mine began (i think through my pal John Dobbs). Thank you for your words. I am struggling and fighting my way forward. Some days are better and some days are worse, as you well understand. I want to desperately understand how God chooses and answers prayers. I may not learn on this side, bit I will strive to understand anyway. I guess in some ways, the ripple effects only compound. Being 50 and starting completely over, losing job, career, insurance, financial stability, and a house takes a toll. Every single day it takes a toll. I am hoping through writing and speaking–if I can ever get it to develop, I will one day provide in a more consistent fashion for those I love. At any rate, I like what you said. My even better than limping is the concept of stumbling.

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