[for part 1, go here]
This was not the fig tree moment that I was trying to learn to be content with. This was the big, God-sized moment I had been waiting for… but it tasted a little bitter. It was still confusing. Did I want money, or did I want answers? And what did this say about me? That I could wickedly write a paragraph about my life that’s manipulative as hell (this is not actually what I did, just something I worried I had done on accident), or that God wanted to give me $10,000?
It felt like when you’ve been visiting your grandparents, and you’re really bored. The whole time you’re there you’re searching for cellphone service and watching cable. You can tell they’re disappointed, but what are you going to do? Maybe you grudgingly go with them to their Weight Watchers meeting or the YMCA. Then, at the end of your visit, they stuff a $50 bill in your hand, and you’re like “Naw, man.” And they’re like, “Keep it, keep it.” All does is make you feel lousy.
But as the Christmas season unfolded around me, I grew eyes to see. First of all, that $10,000 from God, intended by the giver to pay off student debt, meant that no “mistake” or decision of mine (or Brett’s), made as innocently as taking out student loans when we were seventeen, condemns us to a life of unfulfilled calling. (Praise the Lord!) With that came the realization that God could have just as easily given us $100,000 – enough to completely pay off our student loans, medical bills, and then some. But He didn’t. We could have been out of the country and on the mission field in a matter of months, but instead we still have a long way to go. What does this mean? I wrote in my journal days later:
This $10,000 is encouragement that I’m in the right place. He gave us what He wants us to have to work within His will and timing. We are here, and honestly, at this moment, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. How long has it been since I could say that?! Yet I’ve felt that feeling growing. At this moment, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! It’s not a profound feeling – not a mountaintop feeling – but it’s TRUE and SIMPLE and TRUE. And I am rejoicing in it.
Moreover, I started to realize that our missionary desires are rare and real. I used to imagine that most Christians wanted to travel to other countries and start home churches or make connections with their Muslim neighbors. Then it dawned on me that if that were true, more people would be doing it. And the chances that I would find someone to marry who wants the exact same things I do? One in a million! More than ever, I know that it’s going to happen. One day. Sometime. And that feeling has both motivated me to keep pressing on to make it happen soon, and relax into the life I have now. Maybe it won’t happen first of all the things I want to do in life, but it will happen.
On December 31, I paid the last of my medical bills. With the new assurance we felt that we’re meant to be where we are, we put 10% of the money into a savings account, with the intention to “tithe” it toward being missional here in our own neighborhood when a need arises. With the rest, we paid off student loans, one by one, until the money ran out. After that, we calculated… and realized that, with determination and zero setbacks, we could be on the mission field as early as 2020. This might not happen, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel, when before there was no end in sight.
When I started to share this whole experience with my friends, I began to describe this odd provision of $10,000 as manna. In the Old Testament, when God’s people wandered in the desert for 40 years, God sent a sweet bread from heaven to nourish them. It was daily bread. Every morning, the Israelites woke up, and, and like snow, it covered the ground. They had never seen it before, so they called it “manna” which translates to, “What is it?” That was basically my reaction to $10,000. WTF, God? What is this? What does it mean? Why now? Why are You choosing to bless me at a time when I feel so far from You?
At this point last year, I was six months in to trying to discover who God was in my life, in my own experiences, apart from any teaching or testimony. I’d been pondering the question (so theologically phrased), “God, what kind of guy are you?” And I’d been trying to find that answer in who God had been to me. In that six months, I’d dealt with depression, doubt, anxiety, and feeling ungrateful, like my heart was disconnected. This experience made me look at those six months with new eyes. What had God actually done in answer to my question?
He gave me the best community – everything I needed – the understanding, the depth, the being seen and heard and understood – in my Missional Community group. He gave me my husband back – Brett got a new job and was no longer traveling for work. He gave me wonderful interactions with my neighbors, sparking my desire to be a missionary in my own apartment building. He even gave me deep, meaningful experiences where He revealed His true self – on the beach after Ty’s memorial service, focusing on Jesus’ character in “Jesus 101”, Vista choir rehearsals that were more like worship services, Tammy’s text, and $10,000.
His provisions were nothing like I imagined. They weren’t exactly what I wanted. But they were good. God is good. He will sustain you. He will never leave you or forsake you. And I don’t know this because He gave me $10,000, but because through all this time and with all He’s done, He’s given me hope, and just enough bread to keep believing. His provision is manna – it’s curious. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. But it’s nourishing and sweet and there will be more tomorrow.
[This is part of a series that starts here.]