Meaning of Life

The following is a true story.

Back in Chicago they both had good jobs. Back in Chicago they lived in a nice apartment. But that was six months ago. Now he’s twenty-three years old and living in an 8’x21′ travel trailer in the mountains outside of Talent, Oregon. His wife is seven months pregnant with their first child. Their trailer is so small that, in her pregnant condition, if she drops the soap in the shower she has to step out of the shower to pick it up. The only place for the refrigerator is on the front porch. His boss at the cabinet shop where he works tells him that the economy is bad and getting worse — the work is drying up. He has to cut his hours back to eight per week.

He is not a believer, but it’s been said that there are no unbelievers in fox holes, and he is in a financial fox hole. In desperation he walks out into the beautiful woods of Southern Oregon, kneels down and prays. He says, Lord, please, I have a baby on the way, my hours are down to almost nothing, we can’t afford to pay the rent on our little trailer, we’re broke. I need a job.

Friends and family tell him to apply for unemployment. But partly out of his foolish pride, and partly out of his own integrity, he won’t. Unemployment is not for able bodied men, he answers. With no job, my job is to find a job, he says. So he applies everywhere: wood mills, factories, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, everywhere. But nobody’s hiring.

Things get desperate. The baby is due soon and his pregnant wife is ready to move back to Chicago, where her family is, and where the jobs are. Where she can live in a decent place instead of a tiny travel trailer. During one tearful argument she has her bags packed and is at the front door. Just until the end of the month, he says. If I don’t find work by the end of the month, we’ll head back home.

He’s spending more and more time out in the woods, on his knees, praying. One time he prays something that even surprises him. He starts with the usual desperate plea, Lord, please, the rent, the baby, the bills, my wife has had it. I need your help. Please. And then, this unbeliever, prays something surprising. These words come out of his mouth: Lord please give me a job, and give me a job where there are Christians.

He and his wife are looking at help wanted sites when he finds a firefighter position advertised. Good salary, good schedule, it sounds too good to be true. Unlike many young men, he’s never dreamed of becoming a firefighter, in fact, it’s never even crossed his mind. I’m not sure about this one, he says. It really does sound too good to be true.

You’re applying, she says.

So he does. He applies. They give him a three hundred page binder to study, for a written exam.

Just a few days after he turns in his application, the baby is born. He learns something about what it means to love someone, in truth, he didn’t know he could love anybody as much as he loves his little boy. They pay part of the hospital bill with money borrowed from family. The rest they promise to pay on a little each month.

He’s in the woods again, on his knees. More desperate than ever. Lord, now on top of everything else, I have this baby to provide for! Help me to do that Lord.

The baby is five days old the night before the firefighter test. He crams all through the night then shows up, sleep deprived, at the local high school cafeteria where the test is being given. He walks through the door to find three hundred other applicants seated and waiting for the tests to be passed out. Look at them all, he thinks to himself. He almost walks out but decides, as long as he’s come this far…

The guy on his left seems to be acquainted with the guy on his right. Did you hear there’s a  firefighter from Portland who came down to take this test? The guy on his left says. The guy on his right replies, No, but did you hear there’s a Captain from Phoenix, Arizona who’s taking this test?

Wow, he thinks. What chance do I have. But I’m here. What else is there for me to do but to go ahead and take this exam.

A week later the phone rings. It’s the fire department. They want to do an interview. A week after that he’s in front of the Fire Chief and two Battalion Chiefs. He answers everything as best he can. A few days after that they offer him the job.

On day one, in the middle of his first full shift as a firefighter, one of his crew says, Hey, we usually take a little time to do a Bible study in the evenings. Why don’t you join us?

That unemployed twenty-three year old was me. And as you can see, I have found Jesus’ words to be true. You will too.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

–Luke 18:1-8

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