Last night’s debate between Bill Nye (The Science Guy!) and Ken Ham reminded me of why I appreciate my seminary training.
And I needed a reminder.
Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, I have loved school. I have senioritis, so that’s saying a lot. But there are times I can’t stop thinking about the same question: Has it been worth it? The academic rigor, the physical toll, the sleepless nights, the vocabulary drilling, the money…it all takes its toll.
But tonight, I was reminded that I am called to speak intelligently to those who want (or demand!) logical, thought out answers. Including myself.
The “three-year ago me” would have been troubled by a lot of what was presented tonight by Nye. I’m not a science geek, and have never been. All that he said about rock formations, stellar astronomy (yes, when Nye said he was a “stellar astronomist,” I thought he was giving himself a compliment…and that’s after 2 semesters of astronomy in undergrad), microbes…let’s just say the concepts alone would have sunk me. They seemed more plausible than what Ham had to offer. Ham had good intentions, but when it came to the “scientific explanations” for certain things, Nye seemed to be able to do more.
Yet after slowly and carefully working through Genesis 1 last semester and asking a million questions from from different perspectives, I feel confident that the “Bible as a scientific textbook” approach to the Scriptures is a modern phenomenon which asks modern questions. The Bible IS interested in where we came from, don’t get me wrong. But if you begin to see the Bible FIRST as a story, and Genesis as the introduction to that story (and the nation of Israel’s story), the pressure to make the Bible answer questions it isn’t primarily concerned with dissolves. Do I believe that God is the ultimate Creator of everything? Absolutely. Do I also believe that we have an obligation to take Genesis 1 in its historical, cultural and canonical context (among others)? Absolutely we do. Yet, instead of doing the tough work…we get scared. And when we get scared and defensive, we don’t think through our answers.
Thank God that in my heart, I wasn’t scared. Nye didn’t threaten anything within me…instead, he stirred my compassion for all the “science guys” out there. Sure, he mocked Ham a few times here and there, but God has made Nye in His image with a beautiful mind. A mind that marvels at the creation (Nye actually used the word “joy” to describe his scientific discoveries), yet has absolutely missed the beauty of the Creator.
You see, God, in his merciful providence, knew that deep-thinking “talk myself in or out of anything” me would NEED a firm grasp on tools to access the truth intelligently. He knew that I would need it, and that those around me would need it too. So here I am, desiring to finish strong – for the sake of the truth, the glory of Jesus Christ – in my mind, and in my sphere of influence. He has created me for such a time as this — may I live faithfully unto His Name.
I know that may strike most of you as…well…strange. But as soon as I opened them, I was immediately reminded of the tremendous love of our Father this year. Here goes nothing.
Most of you know that 2013 marked our first full year “on support.” David left the fire department at the end of 2013 to support raise full time (for 2 ministry jobs, may I add!) while I continued as a full time graduate student. We were not allowed to withdraw any salary until we got close to 100% of our salary raised. It took us 10 months, and we are still not at our true ‘100%.’ We planned for 5-6 months, worst-case scenario.
7 months in, I got a part-time job…but still have been getting paid less than I ever did (for the same job) prior to seminary. It is not much – let’s put it this way: his W-2 from October – December was the same amount as mine from July – December. We didn’t pull a paycheck for David’s work until October.
In addition to living expenses, we have been paying off my school tuition as we go so we don’t incur any debt from it. And we have had some pretty momentous medical bills along the way.
You guys, our W-2’s were collectively $22,000. I’m pretty sure we were, by America’s standards, below the poverty line. I cannot believe that number.
Yet we never went without, in the truest sense of the word. In fact, I would say we’ve lived abundantly. We never stopped our charitable giving, even when we weren’t getting paid a cent. We have treated to meals and gifts. And minus one car repair that is still being paid off, we are out of debt. I don’t say any of this to boast, except to boast in Our Heavenly Father who is true to His word. We have been transformed by the idea of “seeking first the kingdom of God” and trusting Him for the rest. I wouldn’t run my life any other way. That was our aim, and He delivered abundantly. By all Biblical standards, I would call it a miracle.
I know the details of all this aren’t important, but hopefully they illustrate the magnitude of the God we serve. My prayer is that our testimony of this past year spurs YOU on to step out into the unknown. To seek the opportunity that brings the fullness of joy in His presence. I urge you, seek first the kingdom of God! We have a long way to go to truly doing that in the fullest sense, but God has honored our small steps in that direction. He takes the little courage and trust that we have (that He works in us!) and works miracles. Taste the joy that is waiting for you in His presence, seeing Him work modern day miracles.
Raise your support in 100 days!
We came out of the training ready, expectant. The promise (ok, my heart twisted it into a promise) made me excited. “We’ll go through half of our savings and still feel like we’re “trusting God” while maintaining a position of control. Yes, Lord, I want my faith to grow! No, Lord, I don’t want to go “too far” with this test. Don’t lead me to the point of true surrender, the point where I don’t know where the next day’s manna is going to come from.” Maybe I wasn’t saying (or thinking) these words exactly, but it is where my heart was. It was exposed on day 1.
Right after David retired from the fire department, we got his “cash out” check and it was half of what we expected. He called and after hearing the department’s reasoning, he answered everything calmly with “Well, this is very disappointing…very disappointing…” Meanwhile, I was on the opposite couch and gauging from the conversation and his body language, I knew. I didn’t know whether to scream or cry. When he got off the phone, I was angry with him, that he wasn’t more mad on the phone (Christian wife A+). They needed to know how much this hurt us. They needed to know that our well-being, our very manna, was at stake. Or so I perceived. David responded calmly, “God knew this would happen, this is not a surprise to him.” Back to the drawing board – we would have to do this in shorter time than we thought.
Again, on day 100, I got angry and…scared. First, the anger. What started as a gentle nudge, “David, how many people have you called today? Who is your accountability partner?” turned into endless questions dominating my mind’s space. I couldn’t sleep. And for those of you that know me, I sleep. A lot. I was consumed. His answers, however incomplete, gave me some sense of control. “If he contacts 10 people every day, and 50% of those return his call, and 50% of those support us, we’ll be done in 2.5 months!” I couldn’t stop my heart’s own madness. I had never struggled with anxiety more than a fleeting thought, and here I was – drowning in it.
Then, the promise in the midst of the testing.
For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
12 you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Seek first the kingdom of God, don’t be primarily concerned with manna! Every time I was faced with a tempting thought to withhold generosity: to cancel our monthly charitable giving, to make the woman we were ministering to day and night pay for her own meals, to stay at our free apartment even though we didn’t have time to do the ministry that came with it…again, “Seek first…” echoed in my mind and heart. Give it up, give it all up for His kingdom. He will take care of you.
It went something like this:
“God, the time is here! We are both getting to do what we love, and I cannot wait to fundraise. Ok, so maybe we thought it would look a little different…with us going overseas to save orphans and all. But, you have been preparing us for this for the last several years. You have come through for us in big ways! I know I will experience you in ways that I couldn’t in any other way. And that will trump every difficulty along the way. I will be so in awe of you, that my afflictions will seem light and momentary! So, let’s do it! This is an adventure…and I love adventures! I know there will be up’s and down’s, but knowing you will make it all worth it!”
Light and momentary. You can’t fault me for trying to be Biblical. But honestly, the ‘afflictions’ (3rd world problems) have been more so…’heavy and seemingly endless.’
The funny thing is, I’m not an ‘overly optimistic’ personality. I think I’ve just been given a courageous personality in a lot of ways…for better or for worse. A lot of times, when I read the Bible, I’m convinced that this is actually who God is and what He promises (I thought that was normal for everyone, but have since learned that its not). And I have taken plenty of these type of scary steps before. Steps into the unknown. But in a momentary lapse of judgment, it was as if I forgot all the struggle, all the pain, all the fighting with God, all the prayer, all the sleepless nights…that came with the other scary steps. Confident in my own wisdom, I convinced myself that God would make Himself glorious by stacking the odds against us, and then showing up big time. I thought we would be some freaky type of modern day George Mueller, praying secretly in the closet for funds to arrive…and they just…would. I was wrong.
There is a little something in me that has wanted to “hold off” on writing this series until I was in a better (more ‘spiritual’) place with this season. Everything in me knows that I will probably laugh at some of my heavy burdens once it is all over (like today’s antics leaving me stranded in Plano with nothing but a 1/8 Camel Bak of water and 3-$100 bills, don’t ask). But, I think what all of us need most is someone to be courageous enough to be honest. Really honest.
Honesty forges gaps that nothing else can. There is something so beautiful about raw honesty. It reminds us that we are not crazy, and we’re not alone. I wish I would have read some type of testimony (other than George Mueller’s…note to self, don’t read crazy “best case scenario” versions of what you’re about to go through!) of a woman that has walked this road before me. When I said that to David, he gently reminded me that testimonies were, in fact, part of the assigned reading for our fundraising bootcamp. Oops. Something tells me that they’re not putting stories like mine in those books, though. Because if they did, I doubt anyone would willingly quit their job and choose to “trust GOD!!” (insert cheerleading stunt off of the living room couch here) So, this is my non-bestselling version of some things you might expect (or may already be experiencing – God have mercy on your soul!). Stay tuned. And for the love of God, pass this along to those that are in this season, or will be in this season in the near future (or any future, for that matter). I’m on a mission to kill the false pretenses about what you’ll face and get to the nitty gritty, the good, bad and the ugly.
Glad you’re along for the ride.