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As I reflect on the familiar words of
Charles Dickens, I recall one of the best and worst times of my life. July 1, 1994, began a period that I can best describe as a long, cold winter--a stark, lonely season during which
I found myself without all the things that gave me comfort,
purpose, meaning, and identity. It helped a little that I
entered this season willingly. It was a necessary transition from a very successful, almost twenty-three years in
Fullerton, California, to an uncertain future in Dallas,
Texas. I never doubted that I was where the Lord would have me and I knew it would be difficult, but I never imagined just how much it would challenge my character and stretch my faith. I felt more than lonely. I felt alone.
I was living in a small apartment over a friend's garage while pouring myself into my new duties as president of Dallas Theological Seminary, the institution that had launched me into ministry thirty-one years earlier. The world of academic theology, while strange to me, was stimulating.
Those with whom I worked could not have been more gracious and kind . . . but nothing was familiar. It would be another two years before we could move the headquarters of Insight for Living from California to Texas, so
Cynthia had to divide her time between Anaheim and
Dallas. That left me with a lot of solitude, something I typically enjoy. But this was far more than I had anticipated or wanted. I was separated from all of my children and grandchildren for the first time since they were born. The deep friendships I had cultivated for twenty-three years were fifteen hundred miles away. The home we had lived in and enjoyed belonged to someone else, and the ministry that had given me such joy and fulfillment was now only a memory.
Moreover, I was a shepherd without sheep. That loss kept me on my face before God.