Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Bread and Sparrows
Jack got the bread out of the pantry and quizzically asked, "Hey Mom. What's that thing called that Dad's pay when parents get divorced? You know the money that takes care of the kids? What is that called?"
It seemed an odd question for him to ask while he was packing his lunch on this busy Wednesday morning. And now, he had my full attention. "Child support, honey." I replied surprised. "Why do you ask?"
"My friend Derek (name has been changed to protect the innocent) doesn't eat lunch on the days we have Chess Club," Jack said sadly. "His parents are divorced and his Dad doesn't pay child support. His mom doesn't have money to buy extra stuff for their cupboards so Derek can't bring his lunch and he doesn't like to wait in line on Chess Club day...he'll miss too much. So, he just doesn't eat that day. So, I've been sharing my lunch with him."
"Son, why don't you pack an extra sandwich and an apple for Derek from now on for Chess Club day? We can make sure Derek has lunch AND plays Chess," I replied. "And," I continued, let's pray that God shows Derek how precious he is in God's sight.
It was a pain I know all too well. For, I too have a biological father who refused to pay child support. As a child, I remember hearing his animosity about having to "support" us. Feeling ashamed to be just one more inconvenient expense, I remember thinking how strange it was that my Dad could afford cigarettes. A new dog. Even a sailboat. But that my needs were insignificant. Not many years later, I became a forgotten obligation as his sporadic payments stopped completely and he dropped out of my life forever. I was the same age as my son today. Lucky for me, my mother married a man who stepped into those shoes and took on the responsibilities left behind by my father. I was grateful and we never wanted for anything. The man the world calls my stepfather, but whom I know as Dad, took care of all our needs.
Still, My father's indifference over the years had taught me a very powerful lesson in self-reliance. I was a good student. And, I learned it well.
In fact, I became a master of "do it yourself".
For many years.
No matter how desperate the need... emotional, financial, physical...I refused to ask anyone for help. Not even my parents. After all, I foolishly reasoned, I wasn't worth it.
I am not sure when I started to see the holes in the lie I had chosen to believe, but I praise God that he was able to turn my eyes upward, rather than inward. At some point, in brokenness and heartache, I learned that I just could not do life alone. And little by little, I reached out for help.
I started small...
("Can I get a ride to class?")
Then I grew a bit bolder...
("Can you babysit my kids?")
And then bolder still...
("Will you pray for my need? Listen to my heart? Care about my pain?")
Now mind you, the list of those on whom I might depend is select and subject to change. But I have learned to rely on someone besides me. And more importantly, I know there is no shame in needing a hand up.
Yet, when it comes to my Heavenly Father, I think I only learned today, through the innocence of my son, what it means to be cared for by THE Father.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been struggling with an important decision, and I have been wrestling with God about our provision. As for many, finances are tight around the Arbuckle house, and we could use a little extra money. (Especially this time of year when marketers start to brainwash my children about Christmas goodies). And while I am content working part-time and being a full-time wife and mother, I was seduced for a moment by the idea of more financial security. So much so, that despite the warning in my heart, I recently interviewed for a full-time teaching job.
Filled with self-reliance, I chose to forget that it would leave me with little time for writing. And I ignored the fact that the demands of work and home would surely send me over the edge both physically and emotionally. Just like old times, I once again sought self-reliance.
So,I sent in my resume. Talked with peers. And interviewed for the position. It was the right thing to do, I reasoned. After all,I am supremely qualified and well connected. I thought long and hard and decided it made perfect sense to press on. So I did.
As I waited to hear back about the job, I ignored the siren going off in my heart. I disregarded the lump in my throat and the knots in my stomach. Instead, I kept my eyes on the worldly prize of self-sufficiency and tried to quiet my spirit with the words "I can do this."
Of course, it didn't occur to me that I was basically saying, "God, you are obviously quite busy ruling the world and all. Don't worry about me. I got this one." But, in essence, that's exactly what I was doing. Each step I took closer to accepting the position left me feeling more and more internally conflicted. That alone should have been my first clue that something was off. But, like I have said before, I am a slow learner.
So, God was forced to turn up the heat. He brought forth old insecurities that reminded me painfully of the self-reliant days of old. Truly, they were paths that nearly led to my destruction. And when I refused to acknowledge His voice, it grew louder. Finally, it was like a Father yelling to get his precious child's attention in a moment of emergency. As panic began to settle upon me, I stopped and decided I had done enough thinking. It was time to pray hard.
It was this morning when I became still and I listened to God's gentle voice as He began to speak through my God-reliant 12-year old son. It was quite clever actually, for there is no way I would ever disregard my child. And God knows that, just as He will never disregard me. In that small moment with Jack, I began to see my situation more clearly.
I thought about my son's friend. God saw Derek's need...lunch for Chess Club. And He provided. A need was seen. A need was met. And Derek didn't have to do a thing. From now on, when Derek shows up for Chess Club, lunch will be served. I saw God was personally at work for one of His own. Simultaneously, he was teaching me, his stubborn and beloved child, how to trust my Holy Father's provision.
Later in the morning, after carpool, I settled in for some quiet time with my Jesus. Devotional after devotional repeated the same simple truths. In fact, I was sent a flood of scripture to confirm God's faithfulness. All of it meant just for me on this day of reckoning.
It started with the same scripture I had seen just yesterday on a friend's Facebook status. (Another place God knew he had my undivided attention)
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:26)
I heard God whisper, "You are mine. I WILL take care of you but you must rest in me. You are my treasure. There is no need to strive."
Following that, I read another...
"My God will meet all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)
I heard his reassurance again. He sees me and knows me. His way is not "my needs, MY riches". But, "my needs, HIS riches". I sat and meditated on the words NEEDS and RICHES. The truth is, this is not a desperate situation. We are fortunate to have all that we NEED. Food. Clothing. Shelter. Check, check, check! We have seen Him PROVIDE. Over and over again, He faithfully cares for all our family's NEEDS. End of story. This is about our future, which remains unseen, but only by me. God has already walked before me. Rather than look to myself, God wants me to rely on Him...
Not my skills.
Not my reputation.
Not my finances.
He wants me to believe that He sees me.
And cares for me.
And my eyes began to see as though a veil had been lifted.
After I spent the day meditating on His promises, the knots in my stomach are gone. The lump in my throat, gone. Inner conflict...GONE. The answer was right in front of me all along. I am not to strive, but to seek. With gratitude, I just said a prayer of thanks for all that God has done and all that He continues to do, both seen and unseen. Then, as an act of obedience to demonstrate my new found trust in God alone, I took my name out of the running for the job.
I took a deep breath and opened my Bible one last time to find one last truth before me. It's a doozy, so hang onto your hat cuz my Jesus likes to "show off".
..."Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread." (Psalm 37:25 NLT)