Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Spiritual Testimony

Something occurred in the last few days that really highlighted the growth God has graciously facilitated in my life and heart. I used to worry and fear and wonder what would become of us, especially after we went down to one income in 2005, and then husband lost his job in 2009.

We went against the grain. I didn't return to work and we continued to homeschool. It was hard and I fretted. In those days I wanted things before I felt the need, not after, but giving up I just wouldn't do. I never entertained the thought of joining the dual-career households and saying goodbye to my children.

Slowly, through the years, a pattern emerged. When there was genuine need, the need was always filled. My fretting tapered off as I began to trust what our history had shown me: God always provides for my needs.

In all the years we didn't go to restaurants like a typical family (and still don't, unless we get Pizza Hut gift cards). We never went to movies, or on vacations, or on expensive outings, and we still don't. Our kids don't know what a decent restaurant or a movie theater or an amusement park is like. They know the County Fair and the library and the lake beach and numerous hiking trails and nature centers. We lead simple American lives.

Sometimes I worried that my children would be defined by their American-style poverty. True, they knew a warm house and decent things and when something was truly needed, God provided.

But they don't know much about the fancy or the new or the latest. They don't know what it's like to have needs met ahead of time. We are behind the Joneses in even this, a lower-class neighborhood. The neighbors go to the movies and to restaurants and they can afford yearly camping trips and fancy phones...and even land phones, which we forsook long ago.

Another pattern emerged. I saw blessing in our lifestyle. When my kids did get something new from relatives or friends or from us, I noticed a sense of entitlement creep in, fueled by getting used toys from Goodwill too, a few times a year.

The more they got... the more they wanted...and the less they appreciated.

I love them always but I like them best when long stretches occur without gifts. I prefer the unspoiled versions of their personalities. There is something precious about a child receiving the unexpected. The eyes light up and they're amazed. The first thing they want to do is hug you and thank you, gratitude bursting from their little hearts.

I have come to understand human nature more through my children (and my own folly). Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and he shall make your paths straight.

Straight paths aren't fortunate paths, necessarily. We won't come into our fortune by acknowledging God's ways. Straight paths aren't new furniture, new cars, new paint and fancy trim, a trip to Disneyland and a remodel of the bathroom.

This verse speaks of a spiritually straight path. We kicked and screamed some, but God put us on a hard road that yielded much in the spiritual realm and I am a different person.

My kids will flourish more because of what they don't get. I'm sorry it has taken me ten years to really learn that, but I'm so grateful for the lesson.

So, this week we had a hard three days and instead of fretting, I trusted God completely through it all, calmly. I just knew God was working and I let him. I even enjoyed it.

Here's the scoop...

Thursday, after my husband arrived home from work at 7:00 PM, my plan was to grocery shop. I bundled up and got into my van, only to learn I had a dead battery--probably due to the extreme cold.

I took my husband's van instead, and upon my return my husband used the jumper cables and presto, my van was back in business.

The next morning, Friday, his van's battery was dead so he used my van to jump his.

That night on his drive home he got a flat tire and pulled into a church parking lot, which happened to be on an incline, making the jack useless. A good Samaritan pulled over to help but he couldn't get the jack to work either and it broke. The good Samaritan called Triple A.

They had a long wait. Apparently the man had been on his way to an AA meeting (Alcoholics Anonymous, that is).

The kids and I piled into our van thinking we could at least bring Daddy some dinner, but van's battery was dead again.

My husband has been a Christian long enough to know that if you get a flat tire in frigid temperatures and someone on their way to AA stops to help you, then you better bring up God, because why else would such a thing happen? Our personal business can be all manner of things, but God's business is souls and my husband knew better than to think he could get through this and not try to witness to the recovering alcoholic, who just might have been a little inebriated, even though he "hadn't had a drink in 18 months".

My husband never drank or smoked or had premarital sex--no bad boy history to use to change someone's life around with a miraculous tale of God's redemption. He only has this simple story: When he was seven years old, having been in church all seven of his years, he knew he wanted to go to heaven and that he needed God's forgiveness, so he said a salvation prayer and never looked back.

Was it enough, this simple tale?

Every time my husband tried to bring up anything spiritual in their two-hour conversation, the man changed the subject.

When Triple A got there, the possibly-inebriated good Samaritan moved his car out of the way and apparently side-swiped the Triple A tow truck, which angered the Triple A guy. He suspected this man had been drinking so he called the police, who came and found the Samaritan's blood alcohol level unacceptable. He was arrested.

By this time husband really needed help and couldn't worry about the man's fate, but it did raise his eyebrows and he thought...okay God, I wasn't expecting that.

The temperature was dropping, the hour was getting late, and our mechanic wasn't answering his phone. My aunt and uncle are still in Florida and the Triple A guy wasn't helping.

Our mechanic has become a friend over these last ten years. Our old vehicles have visited his back-yard shop pretty often. Our kids love seeing him and his huge dog and looking for crickets and grasshoppers on his two acres. He's come to our aid in library parking lots at 10 PM, and doctor's office parking lots at 2 PM.

And he's not saved yet. I suspect when he does get saved, our cars will break down less.

On this particular night he wasn't available, so our friend Dean the airplane mechanic who lives 40 minutes away and was bored anyway, came to my husband's aid.

He brought another jack and they moved the van to flatter ground to lift it, only to find the van's spare tire flat and useless. They go to get air in it and then put it on, finally making it to a McDonald's before 11 PM for some food.

Dean's been having a tough time and needed the company, it turns out.

Coming out of the McDonald's, husband tries to start up his van but the battery is dead again. Dean jumps the battery, and then all is well and husband makes it home.

But when he goes out this morning to go to work, and northeast Ohio is barely waking up from sub-zero temps, his van's battery is dead again and mine is still dead.

It being Saturday we wait for people to enjoy their morning sleep-in before pleading for help. A little later, we ask our neighbor to jump husband's van, but it just won't turn over.

Dean was coming anyway for dinner and a boys-night-out college basketball game, so he comes early and takes husband to the store for a battery, which does solve the problem for husband's van. My battery is only a year old so it has to go back to Walmart for inspection before they'll replace it.

I remained calm throughout. I didn't worry about the money or my husband freezing to death, or about the lack of transportation, or how my husband was going to get to work.

And when the nice neighbors mentioned they were going to the movies and offered to leave us their battery charger, I didn't worry when one son asked me later why we never get to go to the movies.

Don't lean on your own understanding. God has a plan in all of it...a spiritually rich plan. 

Despite the childish comment, I see evidence that my children are distinguishing wants from needs and gaining fulfillment in spiritual things. Already, they have a treasure trove of spiritual knowledge and faith built up in their young hearts and minds. I was spiritually dead until age 31, and a spiritual infant for years after that. I marvel at the privilege of watching my own children experience the spiritual blessings I never knew as a child or young adult.

My peace and joy are a testimony that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to his purpose. 

Do you have a spiritual testimony of God's faithfulness in the last decade? Write it down...share it...tell it! There are many who need to hear: the spiritually dead who need to awaken, and spiritual infants who need to mature. 


Tesha Papik said...

WOW that is a crazy story and anyone would be tried by those circumstance. You are a truly a Godly woman to keep such a good attitude! That was a great testimony of trusting God, praying that all works out!

Christine said...

It's nice to hear from you, Tesha! You are busier than ever as a mom and teacher and I know it takes time to comment. I always appreciate your sweet comments and the time you take to be encouraging.