“God takes you by the hand and guides you in darkness, as though you were blind along a way and to a place you know not. You would never have succeeded in reaching this place no matter how good your eyes and your feet.” Richard Foster.
In his quote from Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster describes well my transition from my life in Africa, where I lived very simply, to complicated life in America. In Africa, I lived by faith and I loved that life very much. But the life I loved was left behind, suddenly in an evacuation, so we journeyed back to the U.S. Without notice, my life went from being a stay-at-home-mother who home schooled to a full-time-public school teacher with four kids. We were all disoriented.
I suddenly became what I never wanted to be, “head-of-household”. Odd as it may sound, for the first time in my life, I had money to manage. That was new. Tithing, however, wasn’t new for I tithed in Africa. Over there, I had no money of my own so I had to be creative in the spiritual discipline of tithing (a principle quite clear in scripture). I distinctly remember tithing ‘my time’. I tithed a lot of it.
Here is how I figured it, since I was awake for approximately 16 hours each day, I would tithed 2 hours of that time to God. This did not include my regular “quiet time”/Bible study/etc. This would be a gift of time to God. During that time I simply prayed; I interceded for situations that gave me no personal benefit. My tithe of time was fully for the good of the church and for strangers whom I met in the market place. I tithed the only thing I had to give to God.
Suddenly, in the U.S., I had a job and I had money of my own to manage. Money was something new to tithe. My “test-imony" on tithing came more like a “pop quiz”. It had only one question written out for me, “Do I still trust God?”
The story begins with me sitting on a pew one Sunday morning. I held my purse close, tapping my checkbook.
The offering plate came closer and closer and a great debate began in my mind. “Oh, LORD” I thought, “I don’t think I have enough in my account to tithe this month!” “I will tithe NEXT month for sure!” “Yes, I will give FIRST thing next month, that way I know I have enough!” A tear fell as condemnation took over, “Ugh, Lord, I’m so bad at all this!” “Lord, you know I don’t have a clue how much is in my account right now!”
The loud debate was suddenly silenced when I realized that I was debating with the devil! That made me mad, so I responded, “Oh YES I WILL tithe this month!” I was so upset that the devil was trying to deceive me, that I opened my checkbook and impulsively wrote a check for $200 instead of my usual $150!
After all, didn’t God say in Malachi 3:10,12, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” Then all the nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.”
The offering plate came and went…and so did my check! It felt good and right to give back to the Lord, to give MORE than a tenth of my paycheck. Being generous in tithing….yeah, it felt like home to me.
As I drove home, tithing started to NOT feel good anymore! It occurred to me, “I actually DON’T know how much is in my account.” (This was before online banking.)
My thought became a worry. My worry became a plea. My plea became crying in the night.
I devised a scheme, “I’ll call the church and tell them that I’m sorry and ask them to hold the check until I look at my account.” With that, I closed my eyes and rolled over to sleep, but my eyes popped open again, “WAIT, our church is closed on Mondays!”
I was wide-awake in the night, so I did what I always do; I pulled out my journal. I never feel alone with my God, my Bible and my journal.
First, I confessed my folly, “Lord, I may have written a check that will overdraft my account.”
Then I rambled words all over my journal,
“I call on YOU tonight as the One who, for mercy sake found me, broken alongside the road, yet You did not pass my by. You committed to a full recovery for me; then You said that You are my Kinsman Redeemer, moreover, my Beloved, my Husband! I cannot grasp hold of this; thank you for loving me! I remember my mom quoting “I have never seen the righteous forsaken.” Psalm 37:25-26. And George Muller found You trustworthy in these crunches. You were faithful to meet his needs. I need You, Lord, to help me!”
Following that, I reasoned, ”Okay, I’ll sell the wrecked van so I can pay my rent. Please, Lord, give me favor in the eyes of the salvage guy to give me a good amount to cover my lack.”
Next, I sowed scriptures in the little spaces left on the page. “Let the weakling say, ‘I am strong,’” Joel 3:10. “But my eyes are fixed on You, O Sovereign LORD, in You I take refuge,” Psalm 141:8 “Therefore I will give her back her vineyards and will make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope. In that day You will call Me ‘my Husband’, no more ‘my Master’” Hosea 2:15-16. It was there that I found refuge as I covered all my fears in the “shadow of His wings” Psalm 91:4.
Quietly, I watered all the seeds with my tears (seeds are the Word of God, Luke 8:11). Exhausted, I finally fell asleep. Peacefully, like the farmer in the parable, I went to sleep and waited, Mark 4:27.
That was all on Sunday, May 1st.
On Monday, May 2nd, unbeknownst to me, someone in a church 90 miles away was responding to my prayer. (I praise God that THAT church wasn’t closed on Mondays!)
On Tuesday, May 3rd, my kids and I walked out to the mailbox. There, before our eyes, was a check, for the exact amount I had written to my church two days before! It said, “Anonymous Donor”. My kids and I laughed because, although we may never know who was this kind Anonymous Donor, we knew “the goodness of the Lord” on our behalf! (Psalm 23:6, Psalm 27:13, Psalm 69:16, and Psalm 109:21)
Oh, …and remember the prayer about the wrecked van I needed to sell? Well, instead of $250 that the first man offered, I found a salvage company who offered me $500! I smiled to think how I gave the Lord what turned out to be the last $200 in my bank account and He gave $200 back in my time of need, plus an extra $300! I marveled how I had become like the African in the market place who was blessed by a stranger who tithed.
As my 101-year-old friend used to say, “You cannot out-give God.”
I journal to remember. “Remember your journey, that you might know the righteous acts of the Lord” Micah 6:5. I am never alone, He is always with me, going before me. “I will go before you, I will level the mountains and give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places so that you might know that I am the LORD, God of Israel, who summons you by name” Isaiah 45:2-3.
Notice the name on the check for $500. Do you see what I see?! “Salvage.” That word certainly has my name on it! The definition of “salvage” is ‘the rescue of a wrecked or disabled ship from loss at sea.” Jesus is a rescuer of wrecked or disabled lives.
Yes, for over 25 years, I have travel though life with journals, glue sticks, scissors, and my eyes wide open looking for the hidden treasures that He has scattered along my path. These are my paper stones of remembrance, “when your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them” Joshua 4. Each represent a testing of my faith,“test-imonies” that have built my trust in God.
As I glue down little paper treasures on the pages of my journal, I remember the words, “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear” Isaiah 65:24. “At midnight I rise to give You thanks” Psalm 119:62.
This unique experience may never happen again in my lifetime, but it happened once and that is enough. I learned to trust God with my time in Africa. I learned to trust God with my money in America.
(Scriptures from the ESV Bible)