When the Lord Calls
I received one of those invitations from God that rattled me. The kind that made me shake my head - certainly God wouldn't ask THAT of me... would he? I turned my question vertical. With the gentleness of a Father and the subtlety of a freight train, he reminded me of a few people in scripture.
Noah was at least five hundred years old when God told him to build an ark in the middle of nowhere. Apparently a flood was coming sometime in the next hundred years or so. Noah started building.
Peter and his brother Andrew had a fishing business with their father. They were still in the boat when Jesus said "follow me." They left the family business, no matter how it would have dishonored their father, and followed.
God isn't in the business of comfort. In fact he gave us a Comforter in the Holy Spirit because he knew following him would involve a lot of DIS-comfort. He does not enjoy watching us panic. He loves watching us discover peace in him. We can't discover peace in him until we accept that it does not exist apart from him.
I didn't realize how much I depended on me for that peace. As a single woman living on her own I was very aware of how much I needed God to provide the job that would pay my bills and enable me to have the schedule to keep doing ministry. He'd worked incredible little miracles over the last few years making sure that happened.
Then he asked me to trust him on a whole new level. After one job ended I began looking for and praying for a replacement.
"Do you trust me?" I felt my Father ask.
I'm pleased to say I answer that question correctly faster than I used to. Even though such a question tends to precede a very difficult task. "Yes."
"Let me provide for you," he seemed to say.
You know that feeling when you reach into a cookie jar when you know you're not supposed to? As I looked for work that feeling got stronger and stronger. As I searched for jobs I felt like I was dipping my hand into a jar that wasn't for me. This didn't make sense. We're created to work. Adam worked in the garden even when there wasn't sin in the world.
"Let me provide for you," God seemed to say again.
I argued with him for about a month as my bank account slowly dwindled and the few places I did apply to never got back to me. I know how to stretch a dollar and I've been in really tight financial places before. I've worked jobs scrubbing other people's kitchen floors, cleaning up other people's excrement, mucking horse stalls, answering phones, organizing corporate events, and more. I believe in the value of hard work and the importance of working hard - no matter the job. I believe government assistance is a very helpful tool for those who really need it, like the single mom or the guy fresh out of jail trying to get on his feet.
That wasn't me. And yet...
During one of my prayer hikes I sought him for more clarity about this whole thing. It was as if he said, "Let me provide for you. You need to know that your value to me isn't dependent on what you can do for me or for yourself. Rest, and let me provide for you."
I think I would have preferred his invitation to Peter to walk on water. And yet this journey of learning to see my value apart from what I do, what I have to offer, is a frightening and beautiful experience.
The last couple of months I've continued to stretch every dollar, while maintaining a conviction to live with the expectation of my God to provide. We take care of what we value, and I believe God does as well. So I determined I was going to continue taking care of myself and trust God would provide the necessities to do so.
Rather than adjusting my grocery budget to accomodate all-processed food, I continue to get some fresh fruit and veggies and make more casseroles, soups and stews. I've learned half a dozen ways to enjoy eggs and potatoes. Rather than quit seeing my counselor, I adjusted our schedule to bi-weekly instead of weekly. I carpool into town as often as possible rather than turning down opportunities to spend time with friends and loved ones. If I hear friends are cleaning out their closets I take first dibs on the bag before it goes to Goodwill. I use my library card or seek out the 25 cent rack for used books at thrift stores. I hike closer to home.
I will say Black Friday was a huge test of my willpower. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to pay rent come the first of the month, and as I followed family around the various stores I had to continually check my heart. I have used and homemade gifts for people this year and I needed to be creative and okay with that - no matter how great the sales were.
At one point I walked into a Victoria Secret and felt a surge of anger that there was such a great deal on bras - the one clothing item I couldn't bum off a friend and really needed. I walked out as calmly as possible and sat on the couch in the mall, shamefaced.
"What are you going to do about it?" a voice seemed to ask. I grit my teeth, took a deep breath and watched dozens of people walk through the mall. It dawned on me how many of these people were spending way beyond their budget, maxing credit cards and trying to buy their way into loved ones hearts.
I was broke, but I was with people who loved me no matter how much money I had to my name. So I started praying for people as they passed. Praying they'd see their own value apart from what they bought their child or spouse for Christmas, or the Christmas bonus they may or may not get. I prayed for wisdom as they made purchases and prayed against spirits of greed and gluttony.
After a few minutes of that, I felt free. Not excited or necessarily happy, but free. As family came and sat beside me to wait with me, fully aware of my situation and loving me regardless, I felt very, very blessed.
This month three opportunities came to me for financial provision. I didn't seek them out. God presented them. A new ministry needs a website and offered to pay me to do put it together. A friend's daughter in need of some help to get back on her feet again needed a place to stay, so I got a wonderful roommate. Another friend asked if I'd write a workbook for an exceptional class he's been teaching for a couple of years.
It doesn't exceed what I need, but together they provide what I need to pay my bills next month. I'm grateful, and I'm learning how to literally trust God for my daily bread.
When the Lord calls, it hurts. It hurts because the call is always to shed us of our pride, shame, fear, and all the other things that prevent us from knowing him and knowing who he created us to be. The call is always an invitation to a deeper love in him. I'm far from figuring this out, but I will say there is immense peace when I just take the day one hour at a time and just express a lot of gratitude, present my needs and desires to him, and get to know him in the process.
I'm surprised at what I'm learning about myself in the process. When the Lord calls, it's always an adventure, and yet you never feel like you've left home.