It's always hard to talk about how God provides for me and for my family. I mean, where do I get the nerve, when people all around me are suffering through loss or pain or some other kind of deprivation that convinces them that God has forgotten them? My closest friend from seminary has lymphoma. How can I talk about God's Providence?
This is a normal part of what it means to believe in God and trust him as completely as you can. God asks us to pray, to enter into conversation with him, not so that we can dump a grocery list of requests at his feet, but rather so we can draw closer to his presence--close enough to hear his heartbeat and align our hearts to his. That doesn't always come with a "yes" to our petitions, but it can always come with a sense of being caught up in God's plan for his creation, and that ain't bad.
But there are times when God's hand is unmistakable in my life. This is one of those times.
As I've said already here, there are all kinds of questions about why I feel God's call in my life to make the move to London. There are so many doubts about my ability, my patience, my capacity to care about things I don't care about. All the critical tools for being a good pastor. The only way I can experience what some people call "confirmation" in this process, is to pay attention to how the obstacles to our move are, well, rolled away.
We have so much to do with our house to get it ready for our time away. We have to ration our funds and decide which work we pay someone to do, and which items we do ourselves. We need a renter to move into our house before we actually leave, so we're not paying the mortgage here out of my salary in London. Julie and I both still have jobs with plenty of work to do before the move. We need to find a mover that fits within the budget of the church we're going to--it's important not to create a bad impression before we even get there. Seriously--that's just the beginning of the list.
But over the last few days we've seen so many things happen that have eased the pressure a bit, and I'm willing to say that it's God who is helping us along, moving the stones away to clear our path. The sandblasting and stucco work at the house came in under budget, and the place looks beautiful. I painted one of the bathrooms and enjoyed it enough to look forward to painting the next one this weekend. After a $22,000 estimate to move our things to London, another bid came in at about $12,000, much closer to the budget. A family member today decided to help us hire out more of the work than we could have afforded ourselves, just so that we could better enjoy the time between now and when we leave.
And here's the kicker, the one that forced us to see that we were getting a little extra help from above. The real estate agent who will be managing our house called and left a message today. As soon as I heard his voice I expected to be scolded, nudged to get the house ready to list as available for rent. Instead he told me that there was a good chance that the house is rented already. Another client of his needs to move locally, and our house is perfect. If it works out that means we'll have no sign out front, no lockbox, no surprise visits.
Of course, most of that could be coincidence. But I think it's one of the tasks of faith to strive to see God in our daily lives, in the good and the bad, the annoying and the helpful. In the end it's not that we got all this help. That part is great, don't get me wrong, but the best part is that I spent some time this evening actually thinking about the job--about the ministry to the people of my new church. This wasn't just about receiving gifts, it was about being free to focus on the people I'm going to serve. Even though we were the recipients, it will be the people of the American Church who benefit from having a pastor who isn't looking back at all the things he left undone.
One last thing, sort of an Easter moment here in the middle of October. I've been thinking about the image of God rolling stones out of the way so that we could do and be and see the way he wants for us. That Sunday after the horrible death of Christ on the cross, what does God do? He rolls the stone away, not just to show off his power, but to let us see what he's done and wants to do in our lives. It doesn't always happen, it doesn't always work out that the obstacles get moved out of our way, but it does sometimes. It did on that first Easter morning, and it did for us this week.
We leave in 71 days.