Chapter 28 – Hope Rising

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From my book Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure, rehab, jail and victory.

Through my own life’s journey I have discovered that if I have even a tiny ember of hope then I can pretty much live with anything. Without it I am toast. It is hope that gives me and everyone else the strength to go on after a loss or disappointment or the realization that the dream will never come true. At our first church, six friends planted it with no money, no building and very little knowledge. All we had was a God inspired vision for “a different kind of church” that He had entrusted to our half dozen hearts. Why he picked us I am not sure, but I am forever thankful that he did.  God allowed us to be a part of a litany of His miraculous ways which began with a horse trailer. He grew us up until we had 66 acres in the center of Nashville a little more than a mile for the expressway. A bank president told me it was perhaps the best real estate buy in our city’s history. I do not know about that. We just “stumbled” upon it.  God gave us an incredible building and nearly 1000 people and many new Christians. I have a list of folks who are in heaven because of that church and I am sure that list has been added to greatly since I left. The summer of 05 looked really good; to the naked eye it appeared to be the grand culmination of our 12 year dream. Appearance is often deceiving. Life appeared to be a ten……for a little while. But in life 10s tend to not last. Something unexpected happened. Highland Park Church that “The Six” founded as split-proof shattered like a crystal goblet hitting a concrete floor at warp speed. For me, in less than an hour one hot Tuesday September afternoon, suddenly my whole life was teetering on the abyss of hopelessness. And as the hour evolved into days and weeks and months,  I would be lying if I said I was not about ready to give up. Those who were around me at that time would know I was lying if I said that I was not.

This book is about truth, hope and an incredibly amazing “Big G” God. The truth is, at the very depth of my chasm of despair, death became more appealing than life.  That was as close to hopelessness as I care to venture. After a time of despondency and the grief process which included my trip to Sierra Tucson where I spent 30 days in the Trauma and Abuse Recovery Program, because of the love shown by so many friends, even though things were not as I ever wanted or expected, a flicker of hope began to burn in the midst of the ashes of our hearts. It was that tiny spark of smoldering hope that kept us going, sustained us, warmed our souls and in its time ignited into the blazing, white hot furnace of hope that we carry and spread today via our ministry. Understand something here; I expect that many of you find yourselves in similar situations even as you read my story. Things were rolling along until BOOM! — the bottom fell out and you land a crumpled mess barely able to sustain even one rational thought.

Since I started my blog I’ll heard from hundreds of people who feel hopeless — many of them feeling like Ellen who sent me an email at 2:35 am. “John, I do not know you, but it seems like I do…”  I gladly share with them my message of hope. Even in a world where things are not perfect, even when things are sometimes screwed up beyond our understanding God is still in control.  He still holds all the cards and His deck never includes Jokers. Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40 (NLT)

Highland Park Church is near an area of Nashville called the “Nations”. Approximately in the middle of the property, on the peak of what is known as “Knob Hill”, there stands a 1368 foot television transmitting tower that was constructed in the fifties.  The original tower collapsed as the antenna was being hosted. Four workers near the top rode the steel down to their deaths. It was big news at the time. After that I had become fascinated with the tower since it can be seen for many miles.  When we started planning our building Dale, our co-pastor, for reasons I have never completely understood, did not want a cross on the building.  It was not that he was against what the cross represents; that certainly was not it at all.  It was a notion he had in his mind about the cross “turning off the unchurched”.  Against his wishes we did finally end up with a cross shape recessed in the brick front of the structure. So it does have a cross, but it is very unobtrusive.  In any event, I had considered that TV tower our “cross”. Often when driving on the west side of Nashville  I could see our 1368 foot “cross” and each time the sight of it reminded me of what an incredibly awesome God He is. I’ll never forget the first day I saw the tower after the split and I had returned from Sierra Tucson. Cathy was driving and we came around a bend on Interstate 40, I got a glimpse of it rising into the deep blue sky and I literally balled my eyes out. Folks understand I did not sob! I wailed! Something that I had loved to look at for fifty years now only brought tears.  I cannot describe the pain. That day for the first and only time in my life I lost hope. I wanted to die! No amount of well-meaning Bible quoting from friends or family did a blame thing to alleviate my pain or reignite my hope. My heart was dead but God was good! I give Him praise for never leaving me during that time.

Up next: Chapter 30 – Blown Calls

For the complete beta version of my book  for free Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure,rehab and victory. http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877

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2 Responses to “Chapter 28 – Hope Rising”

  1. Don Thompson says:

    I was raised in the Sylvan Park area of West Nashville. Heard the WSM Tower fall, & I was there when 30 mins. of the disaster. My grandfather saw it fall. What a horrible sight it was. Once I had some small pieces of metal that I had picked up at the site (long since lost). Didn’t realize HPC was in that area. Still reading your story. Jumping around though. Quite interesting.

  2. john says:

    Actually Don when they rebuilt it they moved the location to Knob Hill off White Bridge Road. The people around the original location, which I think was around 37th ave N did not want another tower. So they moved to 100+ acres out in the “country” with the idea if the tower fell again it would not be around any houses.

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