From Joy to Joy
as told to Emily King
“Why am I here?”
The question nagged and confused me as it would anyone who knew me at the time. I loved teaching! I enjoyed the challenges and opportunities in teaching 8th grade math. But for the first time in my 13-year career, I felt out of place in my own classroom. I had a strange feeling of being unprepared and ill-equipped to handle classes for the year.
Previously at a retreat, my wife, Shirley and I separately felt led to offer our availability to do whatever God wanted. That evening, we invited our pastor and his wife to our small-group meeting. However, no one else showed up. The pastor seized the opportunity to ask: “Bob, have you ever considered full time Christian work?” Shirley and I sat stunned. We related our experience at the retreat.
When I told him of my struggles, he suggested I pray if I was to leave teaching, my unsettled state would continue. If I should remain, I'd receive the restored confidence and contentment typical of the past.
Confusion, turmoil in the classroom and personal doubt persisted. I sought counsel from trusted friends and from the Word. In sincere humility, I asked God to help me understand His will for my family and me.
Finally, peace came as Shirley and I pursued God's new direction. I turned in my contract unsigned for the next school year and prayed, “O God, this is exciting; yet apart from You, it is frightening. Thank You for the assurance 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.'” (Heb. 13:5, Josh. 1:5)
The next day, my classes went smoothly. I had more confidence than in the last six months and several students thanked me for helping with their math skills. This was unusual, especially in the middle of the school year, as though God confirmed my act of faith to turn in my contract unsigned.
Our journey took our family from Menomonee Falls,Wisconsin to Portland,Oregon as I enrolled in Multnomah Bible School. The decision affected our teenaged children, especially our daughter. I wanted to be sensitive to her skepticism, so several nights a week, she and I spent time in conversation and prayer to help her through the transition.
God provided in numerous ways, from selling our home in Wisconsin when we were down to our last dollars to gifts of money and cars when both of ours broke down.
We attended a newly formed multiple-leadership church. Eventually, I became an elder and staff counselor, which lasted for 23 years. In those years, I enjoyed my relationship with hundreds of people, a great delight and heart satisfaction in what God had privileged me to do. I literally held a front row seat as He touched and changed lives before my eyes.
It's been 37 years since Shirley and I first submitted ourselves to God's direction. He has proved faithful to provide, not just the necessities of life, but the joy of fulfilling service.
Bob TenHaken is currently a consultant
and facilitator to churches desiring
transition to multiple-leadership. He has
also returned to his first “joy” by
volunteer teaching math in the classroom.