While still in college, I spent the summer of ’82 in New York City. Fell in love with the energy and the people. It’s the kind of place to which people with big dreams gravitate, and though I’d always been “small potatoes,” I’ve always dreamed big.
After college, after trying “this & that” in my hometown in Arkansas, I decided to move to New York. The insurance company I had been working for was planning to expand into the New York market and I wanted to get there early; make connections; get to know people; build a business; and build a life there.
However, in a business sense, things didn’t go well at all. Being a relatively “small-town” boy; being incredibly naïve; having a great deal more ambition than common sense; my business dreams just didn’t take off. Oh, I made a living, thanks to the fact that I was a fast typist and learned WordPerfect and Microsoft Word “right off the bat.” But my big business dreams never materialized, and when I finally “chucked” the day job to try to make a go of it on straight commission – without a viable business plan – in the big city – with a big fat rent check due every month – with a young wife and child, and another on the way – the predictable happened.
We ran out of money.
And so, in August of 1994, we did the only thing we could do. We went home. We started over. Me, my wife and our two small children lived in Mom & Dad’s house for two years before we could afford to move out. I was 34 years old, and I was not happy. In fact, I was downright depressed.
From what I understand, you’re not considered to be “suicidal” unless you have put a plan together to do yourself in. And, for a moment, driving along U.S. Highway 64, between McCrory and Augusta, Arkansas, all alone in my car, I thought about, and then dismissed, the idea of driving off the road and running into something, just to get it over with. Don’t know if that moment fit the clinical definition of “suicidal,” but I was pretty low. And though that moment passed, the other moments, mostly revolving around my feeling like a failure, lingered. For years.
But what I didn’t realize at the time, was that I was going through the sweetest time of my life. Because of the wife God had given me; because of the children that God had given us; and because of our extended family, who loved me far more than I deserved.
I had heard it all my life. And I would have told you had you asked me that I accepted the idea that, compared to being a good husband and a good father, there’s not much else that matters in this world. However, I had to learn that lesson from the heart. And I learned it through difficulties and suffering in my home town.
See, it was in Searcy, Arkansas – a place that I couldn’t wait to leave and a place that I never wanted to return to – that we began training our children.
It was in Searcy, Arkansas – a place that my wife, when she agreed to marry me, made me promise never to make her live – that our kids learned to love, not only us, but my parents, who grounded them in faith, sang songs of praise with them, showered love and affection on them and taught them that home was a secure, safe and wonderful place.
It was in Searcy, Arkansas – a place that I never really appreciated until I had attained a few gray hairs – that I learned what was really important.
It was in Searcy, Arkansas that my wife learned how to be a preacher’s wife – even before I started preaching.
It was in Searcy, Arkansas that I found my mission, even before I realized I had found it.
Funny how God had a plan that was a whole lot better than mine.
Joseph, after his years in slavery and captivity had melted away into freedom and authority, as he looked back on what God had done – even as he suffered – was able to say to his brothers, who had done him great harm:
“. . . But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good . . .”
I’m no Joseph. And when I think about my given name, “Daniel,” I know all too well that I’m not him.
But one thing I do know: Even in the difficult days, God is there. And He’s doing something good.
And that’s why, Christian, we hang on! Not because we know what we’re doing. Not because we know what God is doing. But because we believe that His plan is better than ours.
(c) 2013 Daniel K Campbell