Monday, April 18, 2011

Faith to Believe

I did something on Sunday that I never thought I would ever do:  I found myself texting in church.  As our pastor was speaking from the front, I pulled out my cellphone and initiated a text conversation with someone not even in the room.  I cringed as I imagined my oldest daughter, a few rows behind and to the side of me catching sight of what I was doing.  After all... hadn’t I threatened her within an inch of her life if I ever caught her doing the same thing?   Then there was the fact that I was in plain view of my pastor as well as all those around me.  I could only hope that either (1) he didn’t see me (yeah, right) or (2) he knew me well enough to know that something unusual was happening as I made furtive glances towards my phone and then slid open the keyboard to enter a reply... more than once.  Me... texting during the service.  Definitely not something I ever envisioned happening.

But, then, something else was happening that I hadn’t ever envisioned happening.  I’d come dangerously close to standing in the way of my husband’s leadership... and closed my heart to not only his leading, but God’s.   And the very thing I nearly resisted was something I’d found so easy in another lifetime.  Not literally another lifetime, of course... but it seemed a lifetime ago.  But that was before something happened that had shaken my faith.  And now with weakened faith, logic had nearly over-ruled it completely.  I can remember several years ago sitting in a meeting on the other side of that fence – me, sitting with faith, and watching logic over-rule it.  I remember crying afterward knowing that I’d just sat through a meeting where people had gutted the very programs God used to build that church because they were looking at dollar signs instead of changed lives... and forgetting the God who had always provided – usually just in the nick of time, but never, ever, failing.  Now... here I was... in another church... and I was the one clinging tightly to logic.

The small church we are now attending recently initiated a capital campaign to raise funds towards a property purchase.  We were asking members sign commitment cards  indicating a pledge over the next three years (which the bank will consider when approving a loan amount).  We were also asking for one-time gifts on this same commitment card.  Several times over the last few weeks my husband had brought up the topic of what we wanted to do.  Each time I indicated that I thought we could do a one-time gift, but I didn’t see the three-year pledge as something we needed to do.  We were, in fact, not even going to be a part of this church much longer – we were moving out of state within a couple of months.  We also had three daughters who were getting scarily close to college, a house to sell in a tough economy, the smallest amount in savings we’ve had in a long time, a lot of unknowns with the upcoming move... and were already giving above and beyond a “tithe.”   It just wasn’t our responsibility.  We’d been to a vision meeting for the campaign; we’d participated in the day of fasting; we were behind it 100%.  But... it just wasn’t our responsibility.  I had the feeling that my husband felt otherwise, but I didn’t give him much room for discussion.  It was time to take care of our family. We’re supposed to do that first, right?  All through the campaign it had been stressed that we cannot sacrifice the necessities of our own family in order to provide for someone else.

It was now Commitment Sunday, when our commitment cards would be collected.  I had woken that morning from a dream in which my husband and I had agreed on a number for the one-time gift that was much higher than what I was planning on.  It wasn’t a bad thing in the dream -- we both came to the number separately and felt good about it.  It was higher than I was comfortable with in my now-awake state, though, so I took a deep breath and asked my husband what he had been thinking and got a surprise – his number was even higher!   That was a new experience -- always before we’d been of one mind; separately coming to the same numbers.  After some talking, the number we agreed on was much higher than what I’d originally thought (and a bit lower than what he’d thought), but it was close to what I’d had in the dream.   

We arrived to church a bit late and my husband headed to the nursery where he was serving as I slid into my place behind the front desk.  We had a slow trickle of people coming in after the service started, so I stayed out front a little longer than usual.  I missed the announcements; the first couple of songs; the meet and greet time... and finally slid into a seat beside my daughter for the last couple of songs.  I can’t remember what we sang or what was said – it couldn’t have been much, since I missed most of it.  But as I settled into my seat after that last song, as our pastor said his first few words, I suddenly knew...  I HAD to text my husband... right then, right there... in the middle of the pastor’s message.  Ugh.  Feeling extremely conspicuous, I slid my phone out of my pocket, put it on silent,  and typed as discretely as I could,
“U wanted to do something per month for the 3 yrs., didn’t you?  I’m holding back what u felt led to do, aren’t I?”
I waited what seemed like forever before I saw the notification light blink.
I slid the keyboard open again, and with a furtive look up at our pastor still speaking up front, I began typing again.
“Maybe?  LOL”
He answered with a smiley/wink as I typed my next question:
“What were you thinking per month?”
The reply to this one took longer.  I tried to be patient – he was in the nursery with several babies after all.  But I had no idea at what point in the service those commitment cards were going to be gathered, so I kept staring down at the screen – like my constant vigilance would make it light up.  Finally he answered with a number.  To my surprise, it was a bit lower than the one that I was prepared to write down.  Somehow I’d expected to come to the same number like we used to.  I quickly typed in my number in reply, thinking as I did that the one-time gift we’d settled on had been lower than what he’d originally suggested, so maybe this worked out.  I waited....  and I waited.... and I waited...  trying to listen to our pastor and watch for that little green light to blink.  Finally:
“ xxx is fine with me! 
Sorry, got three  babies back here and one wants to help me text!”
I smiled and pulled out the pen to fill out the commitment card – not with a feeling of fear, reluctance, or even obligation, but gratefulness.  I listened to the rest of the message, definitely applicable to where I was.  And for the first time in a long time I realized how much we’d been given – and why.  I remembered how good it used to feel giving, knowing that God was trusting us, using us.  And I hoped maybe this small step was the beginning of healing my damaged faith.  I wanted to get back to that heart I once had – the one that trusted completely.  And I wanted to see what He was doing.  

At the end of the message, the baskets were passed for the commitment cards as our worship leader sang “Blessings” (by Laura Story) with the words displayed on the screen behind him.  I’d heard it a thousand times on the radio, but now I sang it with my eyes opened just a little wider.  Then we came to the bridge.  Somehow, I’d never really quite caught the words before.  But now they hit with full force:
We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love

My throat tightened with emotion and tears streamed silently down my face ....
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

And into the chorus, tears still flowing:
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life... are Your mercies in disguise

And what if... surrender and faith comes in the form of a text message typed during the Sunday morning message... just in the nick of time? :) Seriously, I honestly have no idea what God actually used to work that change in my heart. But I’m glad He did. And I can’t wait to see what else He is up to! :)


The amazing thing? After I finished typing everything written above, I walked out to the mailbox to find a totally unexpected, fairly large check from our mortgage company – an unexpected “overage” in our escrow account. Received on Monday after surrendering on Sunday... into an open hand that had been tightly clasped the last time the mail was delivered. Amazing timing from an AMAZING God, huh? And, yes, I’m thinking this oughtta be good..... :)