A personal story
By Roger AKA “Boone”
This article refers to a life crisis that eventually changed the course of my writing.
A book of the Bible for my wilderness experiences
“In Deuteronomy, we see that the Israelites had to learn to worship God in the wilderness,” writes Joyce Meyer in the introduction to Deuteronomy in The Everyday Life Bible, “when the journey was difficult.”
My Bible inspiration for this article
One day I opened my Bible to look for verses I’d marked a long time ago, so I could ponder on a few again.
The first book I flipped to was Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is one of the first five books of the Old Testament that are in a section known as “the law.”
It’s been said that we need the Old Testament to show us where we’re gotten out of alignment with God; we need the New Testament to show us how to get re-aligned with God through Jesus.
I then wrote down the various topics I’d written in the margins of this particular Bible version (career, home-groups, prayer, homelessness, etc.)—for idea starters regarding today’s article. Most categories had one, or two, passages associated with them.
Very quickly I realized five passages had the heading of “homelessness,” four of which I’ll share today.
The life experience that gave me my passion for things to write about—as a Bible inspired writer—came when I was homeless several years ago. Even as a married person of almost 30 years, with a college education, and that has four almost adult children (at that time) can become homeless…given the right (or more correctly stated the wrong circumstances).
I’ll rewind a few years to help you understand how my writing became seriously sidelined.
An unkind word became my mental prison
When I transferred from a community college to a university in 1976, I’d shared with the head of the newly-formed journalism department that my long term goal was to get into some type of Christian ministry.
Two weeks prior to earning my Bachelor’s Degree, a couple of years later, my advisor told me I’d met all the technical requirements of the university prior to graduation.
He then asked me about my upcoming plans as a minister. I wasn’t sure what he was referring to as I’d planned four years ago to write for newspapers or magazines. That’s why I worked toward this degree in journalism.
I soon realized for the last two years he’d seriously misunderstood my life goal, because of the religious jargon I’d used with him when I first came to the university and he was my college advisor.
In the summer before attending this university, I’d fallen in love with learning about the Bible. My long-term goal after college was to write for (1) Christian magazines, or (2) a non-profit such as Focus on the Family, or (3) church publication departments.
My advisor thought I wanted to become an ordained minister.
Could he really think anyone would put themselves through four years of college, see their parents go through a divorce during that period, sit in lecture halls with constant pain from a neck injury, and have their girlfriend leave them after being together for over two years—just to use their degree for a hobby? Apparently, he did.
That’s when the formality of double checking that the “I”s were dotted and the “T”s crossed became my wilderness experience.
Then he said those cutting words to me just before I graduated, “I hope you never write in the state of Washington. Had I known you were serious about being a writer, rather than being a preacher, I would’ve washed you out of the journalism department long before now.”
I’d since put the thought of writing aside while pursuing unrelated types of work. I could indeed write as a hobby and pursue something else as a career.
Let’s fast forward to my life in the year 2000
A lumber mill I worked at downsized a wh0le shift of us, out of a 24-hour-a day and 6-day-a-week production schedule.
I eventually qualified for a 100 percent government-funded retraining program for two more years of college. Within a few months, I became a full-time online and independent study college student working on yet another bachelor’s degree. Since school has always been unusually hard for me, I decided every time while attending college not to work even part time.
My marriage at that time went into a third—and eventually final—separation. That separation lasted about six years and ended in my wife divorcing me.
Prior to that defining moment, I was once again a full-time college student. I also was Mr. Mom to our four children. My wife was supporting me through these two extra years of schooling.
First stages of my homelessness
Within six weeks of my now ex-wife asking me to move out, I became homeless.
I no longer could afford to stay in inexpensive motels from a small savings account. I no longer had friends or acquaintances who’d put me up temporarily (except maybe my mother, who lived five hours away from my children that I wasn’t willing to move away from). I left our three-story rented house with only what personal possessions I could cram into my Ford Taurus sedan.
I then spent the nights sleeping in various men’s shelters (I might eventually write a book about all those experiences) with 80-100 men, some of whom snored. I ate at community free-meal programs, so I’d at least get a couple meals a day. I spent many hours at the Worksource offices, and libraries looking for jobs online. I had no place to be until the shelters opened in the evenings, except libraries and fast-food places homeless people frequented.
My identification with passages from Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy 1:1, in the Amplified Bible, uses the phrase “in the wilderness.” Becoming homeless quickly became my deepest wilderness experience.
Everyone eventually goes through some deep wilderness experiences. I’m now, glad to report, one of the millions of testimonies of people whom God ultimately brings through their biggest trials of life.
“Only take heed,” Deuteronomy 4:9 states, “lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen and lest they depart from your [mind and] heart.”
I never want to forget this extremely painful part of my past—because it’s what makes me effective at touching the heart of my students and readers. I never want to forget the face of a person who no longer has any confidence—because sometimes it’s not possible to become a better person without hitting bottom. I never want things I felt so very deeply during my two years or so of homelessness to depart from my heart—because I learned volumes about how tough life can be for people without good support systems.
Some parts of a heart-wrenching past, help us later bond with other people who are experiencing similar situations.
Deuteronomy 8:3 states, “And He humbled you…that he might make you recognize and personally know…man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”
I now recognize—and personally know—that everything I marked in my various Bible versions during this wilderness experience eventually gave me hundreds of comforting and encouraging phrases—to use with myself and with others. I also use what I now call my “prayer guides” when helping other hurting people as a close church friend, an online prayer partner, and a “Bible inspired writer.”
“…the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing to you, because the Lord your God loves you,” according to Deuteronomy 23:5.
What seemed like the worst of curses at the time is starting to turn into a blessing for me, as an aspiring writer. What did I do to finally turn things around? It didn’t happen because I lived a blameless Christian life because I’m no more perfect than anyone else.
The Bible states, in Romans 3:23 of a 26-version Bible, that “all fall short of God’s glorious ideal.” The recent opportunities to write blogs and website pages came to me, according to this passage in Deuteronomy, only because God loves me enough to eventually take me through to the other side. Jesus loves every individual so much that he would’ve been tortured to death—like he was—just for them. Believe it…or not, as the TV show used to say.
Other comforts I’ve gleaned from Deuteronomy
This Bible book includes a wonderful section of “blessing” and “curses.” Chapter 28 verses 2-13, in the Living Bible, states “But each of these blessings depends on your not turning aside in any way from the laws I have given you, and you must never worship other gods.” These blessings include:
• “in the city”
• “many children”
• “blessings when you come in, blessings when you go out”
• “the Lord will defeat your enemies before you”
• “prosper in everything you do when you arrive in the land the lord your God is giving you”
• “all the nations in the world shall see that you belong to the Lord, and they will stand in awe”
• “he will bless everything you do, and you shall lend to many nations, but shall not borrow from them”
• “he will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall always have the upper hand.”
Deuteronomy also lists the curses, in almost identical but opposite language, in verses 15-19.
My negative first-impression of Deuteronomy
This Old Testament book, on its surface, merely covers religious ritualism (kosher foods, yearly welfare offerings in a theocratic society, a yearly celebration each April for the exodus out of Egypt, and capital punishment for committing “adultery.”).
Although much of the Old Testament depicts very ancient religious practices of the Jewish people, it still sets the scene for deeper understandings of the New Testament. Maybe the book of Deuteronomy will become one of your favorite Old Testament books of encouragement too, as you travel through the many wildernesses of life. It’s slowly become one of my favorites along with Psalms, the book of John, and many of the epistles of the Apostle Paul (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, etc).