The Tuggles

Episode 7: The Telling

November 14, 2017
telling

Quitting

He placed the last few glasses inside the cupboard and pushed it shut as the back door opened. Lynn shuffled across the threshold and headed towards him into the kitchen.

“Afternoon, sweetheart,” Tim chirped with a soft smile. She set her purse on the counter.

“I did it,” she declared.

“You did what?” Tim asked as he reached down to close the dishwasher.

“I put in my two weeks’ notice.”

He froze with the door half-closed. Letting go, it slowly fell back open and he turned to face her. “You did… what?” he stammered a second time. “Today? When’s your last day?”

“Two weeks. It’s kind of in the name.” She smirked sarcastically. Tim gawked at her.

For all the assumed astonishment he projected she would have at the original idea, here he was more paralyzed by the reverberating commitment of this huge first step, ironically taken by his wife rather than himself. And only a couple of weeks after their first conversation.

She leaned forward against the counter, eyes sparkling with growing excitement. “I walked into the office and asked the twelve chaplains if I could speak with them altogether first thing this morning. I explained to them the calling we received from the Lord and you would not believe the resounding encouragement they gave me. All except one—the only woman, go figure. She told me I was out of my mind and that I should have just told my husband no, but it wasn’t all that shocking coming from her. Besides that, the response was overwhelmingly supportive. They gathered around me at the end and prayed over me, and let me tell you, Tim—it was powerful.”

Warmth pulsed through her as she recounted the story. One could assume that closing the door on over 30 years of being a nurse would be somewhat bittersweet. Yet it was like pure sugar to the palate of her spirit. Putting voice to the events of the day stoked a fire within her that had been simmering unbeknownst to her for months.

“Well, then,” he exhaled slowly, heart pounding. “I guess that makes this thing kind of official.” They both chuckled out their nervous excitement. “Alright, then. I can’t stop smiling,” Tim laughed.

“Oh, when you tell Jerry, I’m sure a smile will be the last expression on either of your faces,” Lynn surmised. His palms began to sweat and a sense of dread rose up within him. “Just remember,” she continued, “like we talked about the other night, we are going to face persecution with this. There will be many who do not understand.”

A mixture of intense emotions fluttered through Tim’s heart as thoughts scurried across his mind. “How about you tell him for me?” She playfully swatted his arm as they walked out of the kitchen.

****

“Jeff Hensley needs us there at 8am tomorrow,” Jerry said while stacking disheveled papers at his desk. “It’ll be a quick one since it’s just laying tile before we head over to the Johnsons’ to finish the framing.”

Tim gripped the arms of the wooden chair more firmly with each tick of the clock. He had held off his news from Jerry all day, dreading the inevitable moment in front of him that he now could not escape. How would an unbelieving business partner ever understand hearing the voice of God, let alone that He might tell one to ride across the United States on horses? Beads of sweat began forming on his brow.

“The cement truck is scheduled to be there at 3pm, so we’ll need to get a move on it.” He glanced up at Tim across the desk and paused. “You alright, Tim?”

Tim shifted in his chair and cleared his throat. “Jerry,” he started. Clearing his throat once more, he continued, “I have something I need to tell you.”

Jerry straightened the stack of papers in his hand and laid them down. “Okay,” he calmly responded. “What is it?”

“I know it’s going to sound a little bizarre, but I truly believe God is calling me to do this. My wife and I are being led to sell everything we own and ride across the country on horseback asking people to pray for the nation and its leaders.”

The news hung in the balance between them for a few seconds. Jerry blinked.

“You’re kidding, right?” he asked flatly.

“No. I’m serious. This will be my last project with you.”

Jerry’s eyes widened and his brow furrowed into an angry scowl. He suddenly stood from his chair and hurled the tape dispenser across the desk at Tim’s chest, cursing and yelling. “Are you f—ing crazy?! What is the matter with you? Do you know how many people depend on you? What are you thinking!”

Tim backed his chair another foot away from the desk, bracing himself for any other flying objects. “Jerry, I know I sound crazy, but I am a Christian and I believe this is something God is asking me to do.”

“You’re an idiot!” he barked back, a vein bulging from his forehead. “We have three years of work already on the books! What the hell is wrong with you?” His face was so red Tim expected steam to come out his ears at any moment.

It was all he could do to keep his tone from rising to match Jerry’s. Everything in him wanted to chuck the tape dispenser right back at his face. Jaw clenched, he quickly prayed for adequate words. “I have put more thought and prayer into this than I could begin to recall. Sometimes the Lord asks us to do strange things, but that’s where faith comes in. I can’t just say no because I don’t understand the calling.”

“Sell everything you own?” he ridiculed. “You are a nut-job. How will you support yourself? You have to have money. You won’t last a month out there.” His scowl had evolved into a cynical scoff.

Lord, help me to not deck this guy right now, Tim prayed silently, heart beating out of his chest as he steadied his breathing. “I trust the Lord to provide for my every need.”

His anger softened with each word, slowly morphing into grieved compassion for this man who knew nothing of God’s kindness. Nothing of His provision or His love. Only a striving life of climbing the ladder of success and stepping on anyone and everyone to get there. “If He has called us, He will take care of us. That’s the kind of God He is.”

Jerry’s rage had subsided into mocking derision. He crossed his arms and stared at Tim with a piercing glare. “You are going to get yourself killed. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Tim stood, slightly shaking, and willed himself to calmly set the tape dispenser back on the desk before turning to leave, wondering how many other flying objects he would be dodging in the upcoming weeks.

****

Backlash

“Thanks for letting me know, Hank,” Tim responded dejectedly, gripping the phone a little tighter.

“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I just figured you might want to know he was saying all that about you to other people.” Tim hung up the receiver a few moments later. Removing his glasses, he rubbed his tired eyes and reiterated Donnie’s words to Lynn.

“‘I don’t see how in the world God could use somebody like a former alcoholic dopehead that did time in prison to talk to people about Jesus.’”

The auricular sequence of his own voice thudded against Tim’s ear drum like miniature tape dispensers. He took a deep breath of guilt and shame as the darkness of his past washed over him.

“Well, after Erica’s second blow-up yesterday I’m not one bit surprised to hear that he’s saying all that to near strangers,” Lynn attested. “This is why we put off telling them for as long as we did. If I had known my father wouldn’t be speaking to me over a month later, I wouldn’t have shared it with him so quickly either.” She scraped off her dinner plate over the trash can.

The sharp ridicule of his father-in-law’s voice reverberated inside Tim’s head. She continued, “Retirement. That’s all he cares about. If that prideful, stubborn man could find a humble bone in his body, perhaps the Lord could show him how little weight retirement holds from a perspective of eternity.”

Their only child to live near them in California, Erica was taking the news harder than the other five, and had no hesitation in verbalizing it at every opportunity. Her boyfriend, Donnie, on the other hand, was clearly their biggest fan as evidenced by Hank’s account of his openly reprehensive opinion tonight at the stables. His words epitomized the family’s viewpoint on Tim’s usefulness and worth as a professing Christ follower—He would always be the deadbeat addict they had known him to be for so many years. And here he was, adding insult to injury by forcing their mother to drink the Crazy Kool-Aid with him at 50 years old and abandon their whole lives with a gallop off into the Wild Wild West.

Tim scrubbed the dried flakes of crust out of the casserole dish over the sink. “When the phone call for the news team came yesterday right after the call about the request for a newspaper write-up, I knew she was going to flip her lid before she even started.” He added soap to the blue sponge and lathered the suds. “Her favorite word to use is embarrassed. ‘Are you really going to be on the news? Oh my gosh, how embarrassing is that!’” Tim mimicked Erica in a shrill voice. “‘You guys are going to be on the news about selling everything you have and just leaving on a horse?! Oh my God. And you’re going to talk to people about Jesus and you’ve been to prison? I can’t believe this. This is crazy.’” He hung his head as he rinsed the dish in the hot water, the temperature of his blood rising with it. His temper had been flaring up more and more with each of her outbursts. Donnie’s words, however, incited more shame than anger, catching him off guard.

Alcoholic.

Dopehead.

Prison.

The haunting words ran down the drain and he flipped the switch next to the sink for the garbage disposal, letting his guilt be shredded with the soggy casserole crust.

I am new, he thought. I am a new creation.

The meditative reflection washed him over like a hot blue sponge and lathered suds. He shut off the disposal and dried his hands.

Several hours later the two of them settled into bed and Tim turned out the light. The events of the day echoed loudly in swirling fashion around them in the hushed stillness of the night.

“Sweetheart,” Lynn spoke softly, breaking the silence. “You know that’s not who you are anymore.” The spoken truth shattered his doubts and confirmed his earlier thought.

“I know, Lynnie. I am a new creation.” He squeezed her hand and the weight of Donnie’s words faded with his consciousness into a deep sleep.

****

The Church

“This is so great!” exclaimed Tony, an assistant pastor of the several-hundred-member congregation. “I just know that we will financially support you because this is awesome.” The two walked side by side down the spacious hallway towards the senior pastor’s office. “You are really following Christ, Tim. What an exciting call.”

After multiple blows from friends and family members, the couple was relieved to finally find some solid support from their church leadership.

At the close of the first meeting with the board of the church, the hope of a partnership was brewing as they discussed the prestigious organization their church is linked with that supports missionaries all over the globe. The stir of excitement grew within them as Lynn joined for a second meeting to discuss logistics.

“We are extremely thrilled to partner with the two of you on this journey of adventure across the U.S.,” announced the lead pastor, his team of men smiling approvingly around the rectangular table. “We know as well as you that it will be a life-changing adventure and we are delighted to have the privilege to be your sponsoring church and to spend the next year mapping out your journey.”

Tim and Lynn exchanged a quick glance and reactively snickered to themselves. “I’m sorry, come again? One year?”

His pastor continued, “We will need that amount of time to create your itinerary. You will be visiting only churches affiliated with our missions organization, of course.”

Lynn bit the inside of her lip to keep from reacting further. The urge to laugh would soon derive into frustration if the conversation continued much longer in this direction.

Tim took a breath and composed himself. “We can’t do that. When the Lord calls you, you go. We can’t just tell Him we are going to wait a year to plan a journey that He already called us to do.”

The men stared. The pastor blinked.

Tim continued, “We are so appreciative of everyone’s verbal and spiritual support, but I don’t think this is going to work out beyond that.”

A few of the men chuckled. “You can’t possibly be serious,” the pastor smirked. “You need us. There is no way you can do this on your own.”

Noticing the heat in his cheeks, Tim steadied his breathing. Refocusing, “We don’t need to have a plan because we have a leading. A calling. He will always equip the ones He calls. You are trying to organize something that God has already organized.” Like a warm blanket the peace of God’s Spirit rested on the two of them as Tim’s words laid every argument to rest.

The clock ticked louder with every passing silent second.

The pastor held his gaze on Tim, slightly squinting as the edges of his mouth slowly curved up in a small smile. “That’s nice, Tim. You have quite a vision for this journey and we see that. God doesn’t intend for us to act without using our brains, though. If you attempt to do this without our support, I am certain you will be right back here in these seats in a matter of weeks.”

Lynn’s saddened eyes fell on his slight smile with ache and grief. The line was thickly drawn between them now. She had really thought he would understand. Each of his dogmatic statements cut into her with surprise and bewilderment. She glanced at her husband as he cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. Tim took a deep breath and contrasted Lynn’s grief with a clenched jaw.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” he controlled himself. “We hope to stay in contact with you throughout the course of our ministry, wherever the Lord may lead us.” Tim rose from his seat and Lynn took the cue to do the same. The pastor rose and reached out his hand across the table. “We commit to pray all of God’s wisdom over the two of you.”

Tim swallowed, forcing down his frustration. He inserted his hand into the pastor’s grip, and for a moment the stables and the pulpit embraced.

“Thank you, brother.”

The couple exited the church office and entered the lonely unknown of an unplanned future. A future that no plan could have prepared them for.

 

 

 

READ MORE:

Previous–Episode 6: The Calling
Beginning–Episode 1: The Funeral

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