Finding Happiness and Fulfillment

Published on October 14, 2015

Categories: Faith Adventure

Kim recently showed me this comic strip. The rest of this post is tied to the idea in this comic. Read it before going on.

The last couple years have been interesting, to say the least. Let me go back to a few key points in my life first. When I was 5, I got my first console, an NES. I've been a gamer ever since. Within a year, I had decided that my dream job was to be a game developer. Somewhere around 2002-2003, I picked up a couple books on C and started learning programming. About half way through the second book, I got to pointers and references and couldn't understand it. I didn't have anyone I could talk to about it, so after banging my head against it for a while, I stopped. It didn't help that I had no practical use for C at the time. That didn't deter me from programming though.

In 2004, on a whim, I decided to learn web development. I got online and taught myself XHTML through a series of tutorials. I knew nothing of CSS, so the site I built was stylistically terrible (table layouts, enough said). After my first site, I didn't do much for a few years. Between 2008 and 2009, I took a couple classes at a community college for PHP and JavaScript. CSS was also briefly covered in those classes - no more table layouts! I enjoyed PHP and backend development more than JavaScript (at the time), and basically abandoned JS. In February 2014, I went to a local programming group where the presenter talked about a project he was working on using JS. That piqued my interest, so I dove into JS, figuring the best way to learn it would be to recreate an old NES game using JS and HTML5's canvas (which was also new to me). That was the first real glimpse I got of following my childhood dream of game development. While I haven't gone into that yet, I have gone into full time web and app (Android - I learned that last year too) development. My programming path had ups and downs, active times and a lot of inactive times, but the dream never died.

Now that I've covered the background, let's get back to what has gone on over the last year. A year ago, from outside appearances, I was on top of the world. I had a stable job, I was the executive pastor at our church, I had a house, I didn't have any debt besides a mortgage, family life was great, we had recently gone on an incredible road trip adventure - you get the idea. A lot changed in me last year though. I got involved in a couple local programming groups (like the one mentioned above) and really got serious about that. The road trip became an answer to over 10 years of prayer. I became dissatisfied with the status quo.

So, what did I do? I made a series of decisions that a lot of people didn't really understand (and I'm sure still don't, but that's okay). Last December, I stepped down from my position as a pastor. Why? I never felt the calling to it. It was what someone else believed I should do. I fought that for years and went along with the flow because I figured if someone else saw the value of me being a pastor, that's what I should be doing. And that's troublesome. Something can have value and be beneficial but still cause a lot of problems. Once I stopped going with the flow of other people's feelings about my position, and took a good look at what God's calling really was on my life, I stepped down.

In February, I left my stable job of almost 5 years, in an industry I had been in for 15 years, and switched careers. I left the field where I was at the top of my game, was a master of my craft, and willingly went into something I was a relative beginner in. Why? For 15 years, I did something I never really wanted to do. My first job in a dental lab was basically handed to me. Over time, I became really good at it, and so I stuck with it. It was stable and I was miserable. It didn't show every day, but those closest to me knew I wasn't happy with it and I wanted out. So, after spending most of my free time last year improving my skills as a web developer and learning Java and Android development, I finally got out of the dental field.

I mentioned the road trip was an answer to prayer. In the middle of that trip (16 days across 23 states and DC), Kim was finally on board with moving. I've been in New Mexico for 23 years and hated it ever since. I need green, snow, water, four seasons, etc. - all the things that don't exist in New Mexico (except in Cloudcroft, but it's still not the same). Kim started looking at areas to move to and we made a plan to move within 5 years. When I started my new job, my boss wanted us to move to New York where the company was based. That eventually changed and we were given the freedom to go wherever we wanted. It did, however, get us started on the process of selling our house. Since then, we narrowed down our move to western Michigan, somewhere between Grand Rapids and Lake Michigan. It has pretty much everything we were looking for in an area to move to.

With all that being said, where are we today? The company I worked for laid everyone off, so I'm unemployed. We're in the process of doing a lease with a buy option on our house and currently living at my mother-in-law's house. 95% of our stuff is in storage and will be there until we move. I'm in the middle of a lot of chaos and unknowns and I couldn't be happier. How does that make sense? I'm more in tune with how God created me and who He created me to be. In the midst of all the chaos, God has taken care of us in ways I couldn't have imagined.

Being let go from my job has led me to do some things I never thought I would do. A friend in Malaysia and I co-hosted a Blab (edit: site is no longer available) where I talked about the Android development process with him in front of a live audience. I wrote my first project proposal for an Android app. I've spoken with people from around the world thanks to social media. One person was from the UK about a potential job. Those are just a few things I've done that were outside what I would have done if everything had been stable. Instability has given me the opportunity to go outside my normal bounds and learn and do a lot of new things.

Living at my mother-in-law's isn't bad. Yeah, it would be nice to have our own place again, but that's just a matter of time. My mother-in-law and I have a great relationship, she gets to see her grandsons a lot more, and Kim and I get to go out fairly regularly now (which hasn't happened much over the last few years).

You see, despite the chaos and instability, I've never been happier. Throughout this past year, I've felt like Abraham (read Genesis if you're not familiar). God called Abraham out of the land he knew and away from his comforts, to be led to a place that God would show him. God didn't give Abraham directions - He called him out and gave him a promise. Abraham just needed to follow God's leading. So, in the middle of this chaos, I see God at work and His leading. That brings joy, peace, and happiness. Plus, I'm a sucker for a good adventure.

Sometimes, you need to let go of the comforts of life. The status quo won't fulfill you if it's not what you were meant to do. I've discovered that the dreams we have as children are generally what will fulfill us as adults. This is true for a lot of people I have talked with about that. So, for me, while I'm not a game developer yet, I'm heading in the right direction. I love programming - web and Android development (not design, there's a difference) are a lot of fun. It's more fulfilling to me than dental lab work ever was - that was just a paycheck.

Don't let the status quo and others' expectations define you. Remember your dreams and who God created you to be. Therein lies the path to happiness.