uring college, I decided on a career in banking, specifically commercial real estate. It was during college that God revealed His forgiveness and love for me in Jesus Christ, called me to be His, and began to change many areas of my life. I attended a good Bible church, got involved in the singles ministry, and taught a junior high Sunday school class. I was also part of a small accountability group with four other guys from church, a group that was a significant stabilizing force in my life at that time. All of us later went through the decision process to get married at about the same time—the wives-to-be would have paid a lot of money to hear those conversations! Not a chance, though; strict confidentiality was the rule. As back then, I have been in a men’s accountability group for the past eight years, meeting at 6:30 a.m. every Thursday at a local diner. The fellowship and encouragement are awesome, reflecting the truth in Matthew 18:20: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them.”
In 1980, a job offer with First International Bank of Houston, in my hometown, was particularly appealing. My parents were kind enough to let me live at home for a while to get my feet on the ground—an amazing turnaround, since they were eager to have me leave home after my high school days! After almost four years at First International Bank, I accepted a job offer from a friend I met at church who ran the Houston office of Wells Fargo Realty Advisors, a real estate group with more of a national real estate presence. Shortly thereafter, the Houston economy hit hard times. I worked out many loans with developers and watched several fortunes ruined in a rather short period of time. After spending some time in Washington, D.C., working on a project in 1988, I was offered a position with Wells Fargo in D.C. to take an active roll in building a book of business in New England. It was difficult to leave Houston because I had developed many great friendships and was actively involved at First Presbyterian Church. In fact, it was there that I had met Caroline Chapman, a wonderful southern gal who would become Caroline Broussard shortly after my move to Washington.
In spite of leaving family and very close friends, the Lord helped me settle into Washington, D.C., very quickly; Caroline did as well after we were married in May 1989. My job was very enjoyable, challenging and rewarding…for a couple of years, until the New England economy and real estate market went into a depression. The Washington, D.C., area would soon follow suit, as would California, the home base for Wells Fargo. Right about that time I went into depression, too!
The markets did eventually turn around, and in 1993 I was given the chance to manage the Washington, D.C., office. At Christmas time that year, we were blessed with our first daughter, and on Good Friday in 1995 with our second daughter. Work was very much a “sweatshop” environment, with only a handful of us covering the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. I was a “player-coach” and burning the candle at both ends as well as the middle. Problem was, I had a young family, and the workload I had committed to as first a single man and then a married man with no kids was not allowing me the time or the physical or emotional energy I wanted and needed for my wife and children. I knew something had to change, but I didn’t know how it would change. God did.
At the end of 1997, I was told that the company wanted me to stay on, but someone from California would be taking over the management of the office from me. I remember one thing clearly—that solution was not on my prayer list! Needless to say, I had lots of emotions wrapped around a lot of disillusionment, leading to a long period of deep soul searching about life and work. Perhaps the most surprising and painful realization was that I had really allowed my position at work to define far too much of what I thought of myself. My identity had become wrapped up in my career. I decided to accept an opportunity with Bank of America’s real estate group, in part to make a complete change from the organization I had been with for 14 years, but mostly to get more time and energy back for my family. A change that I had thought would take at least a year happened in less than 30 days.
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