Back an Alley
My first significant encounter with the paradox of faith or stupidity came back an alley in the middle of the city. I was fifteen. My youth group had driven in minivans into the city and back the alley. We were going to a soup kitchen, our vans laden with potato ham casserole, Caesar salad fixings, bread, and dessert.
Before we could serve it, we needed to unpack our fragrant cargo. Young and unsure what to do, I followed someone out to help bring in food. They went back in to ask a question, leaving me alone by the open trunk. Well, I wasn’t really alone. By the entrance were half a dozen people standing or slouching on the ground. Some were smoking.
I wondered if I should be afraid.
Then an older girl came out and whispered to me that I shouldn’t be out here alone. You can never be sure with THESE people. In my heart, she hadn’t convinced me that I should be afraid or even cautious. After all, she hadn’t been along in Grade Five when my teacher brought my class to sing for these people. She wasn’t there when I had handed my box of Christmas cookies to the tired mom with straggly blonde hair and a plastic bag jammed with second-hand toys. She didn’t hear when my teacher shared her experiences of serving THESE people food and listening to their stories, loving their souls. This older girl didn’t know.
I didn’t know then that even nice people, when broken and down-and-out, turn to drugs. I didn’t know that ordinary people have come off a high with the blood of someone they love on their hands.
Was I safe then? I would do it again. Naive as it may be, I choose to trust people until they prove untrustworthy. In education, we call it “the law of expectations.” What you expect from your students is what you’ll get. Apply this to everyone. What you expect of people is how they will act.
I may be naive, but I still am alive and well today. I know God will protect me as I live in His Will. Call it stupidity. I choose faith.
In high school, I faced pressure from teachers, family members, and my own lofty visions to set forth into a career or life goal. Foreign missions topped my list, but God said, “No.” (If you have not already read it, I encourage you to read more on this story. Read “On His Mission” in the December 2015 archives.)
The short version of the story finds me teaching my fourth year, blogging, song writing, and trying to live like Jesus for my family and youth group. I have learned that God does give dreams. Although, the fruition often appears different than what we expect.
This summer, God has given me peace about pursuing a foreign mission. I still am called to teach come September. However, for this summer, I can live a dream.
I decided that I would not go anywhere through SMBI’s WATER program. Everyone does that. I would not do Asia. Everyone is going there. I pursued various ideas and missions, but nothing came together. So, one day I gave in and decided to look up WATER after all. (Never say “never.”)
I read and prayed through that brochure full of places to go. I stroked out all of the options that in my mind were a “no,” especially ones that mentioned kid’s clubs. I work with children all year. I will want to do something different this summer. I narrowed it down to four options. One was for Cambodia through GTO. The description had the phrase, “Be a pioneer.” I liked the idea. I didn’t like the price tag.
Above this description, was another one for Cambodia through DestiNations. I erased the mark stroking it out and read it again. Yes, it mentioned working with children which I was trying to avoid, but it tugged on my heart. There’s a song I learned long ago that says, “God doesn’t compel us to go against our will. He just makes us willing to go.” I can’t say it any better.
I wrote down Cambodia as my first choice.
Walking on WATER
With my application gone, the doubts came. I had balanced my budget but with the fall of the Canadian dollar, my precious saved money was losing value. What if I can’t afford it? What if I had listened to my own voice instead of God’s and this was outside His Will? Was I stupid to apply for something that would suck my savings? “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God,” rang in my ears.
Our Lord showed doubting Thomas the nail marks. He reminded me of His faithfulness. One Sunday evening after a service at another church, I joined a circle of girls who were listening to one young lady share her story. She wasn’t sure either, if what she was wanting to do was where she was called. She prayed, applied, and God had provided, making it very clear that He is paving the way for her to go. I thanked her for sharing her story and shared a few of my doubts. All of the girls there encouraged me to go for it. If it’s God’s Will, He will provide.
Blogs I followed shared articles about Peter walking on water with faith, a helicopter not going anywhere when it’s hovering, and another woman’s wrestle with God about the next scary step in her own life.
Matthew 6:25-34 came to mind. The key verse being thirty three, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
At a reunion with some teacher friends, I shared that I was hoping to go on WATER. “Oh, really? So is A!” I turned to A and asked, “What did you write down for your first choice?”
“Really?” I tell her that it’s my first choice too.
I met up with a friend at a mutual friend’s bridal shower. She asked if I would want to do coffee. The day we chatted, she glorified God with how He has provided “exceedingly abundantly” for her term at IGO. The awe in her voice, left me pleading God for faith that He is indeed doing His Will in my life.
As I reach for my Q-tips, I see the row of nearly half a dozen bottles of bath soap. It may seem small, but I have never had to buy myself bath soap. Never. There was literally a time when I only had a few squirts left, when a friend of mine gave me the next bottle. I have always taken it as a promise that God will provide for this teacher.
I remember that time my first year of teaching when I went to put gas in my tank. My card didn’t work at the pump. I assumed it was a pump problem and put in some gas. I went inside to pay, and my card didn’t work again. I had known things were tight, but I was sure that it should still work. I had some cash in my wallet, but it wasn’t enough. I paid as much as I could, feeling very ashamed. As I drove away, I noticed some stray coins in my cup holder. Pulling over, I counted what was there. Need I tell you that it was enough to cover the balance? I went back and paid with joy!
God has provided. I know He will provide, but I still wonder if I am mistaken. Maybe He doesn’t intend for me to go.
One evening, I get home to discover this package.
I still don’t know how God will provide, but this I know. What He gives is always enough.
Call it stupidity. Today. Today I choose faith.