CRYING IN THE LIVING ROOM
About a year ago, my wife and I sat in our living room and cried.
We couldn’t afford to send our son to preschool. My wife had quit her job so she could stay home with the kids and finish up her degree. We were getting used to our new financial situation and we crunched the numbers over and over. No matter which way we sliced it, there was no way we could afford the tuition.
We’d been so excited when we enrolled our son in preschool. We knew that it would help him socially and academically and we found a great school that loads of our friends recommended. We couldn’t wait for him to start. But as the first day of school approached, we knew we couldn’t afford it and we were pretty shattered. As a man, knowing that I couldn’t provide that for my kid was a terrible feeling.
So that night I took a long walk and I had some words with God. I didn’t have much of a filter and I’d probably be embarrassed if any of those prayers were ever repeated. They had a lot of anger and four letter words. They weren’t very nice, but they were honest. “Why are you letting this happen to us, God?” I thought. “Why are You screwing us? We’re on this hamster wheel trying to make a better life for our family and You just lead us into the ditch.”
Finally, I was broken and honest with God. I admitted that I was defeated. I knew I had nothing and that He was aware of my issues. I told Him I knew He was “big” and “powerful” and whatever, and I knew He could change all the mess if He wanted. Then I went home and told my wife I had no idea what to do. Together we prayed a simple prayer. “God, we’re begging you to bring us financial salvation. Give us a way to make the money for Lincoln’s school.” And we went to bed totally devastated.
The next day I came home from work just as my wife was opening the mail. “Here’s a letter from the preschool,” she said. As she read the letter she looked stunned. Silently she turned it over and handed to me.
“Lincoln Morrow has been awarded a full ride scholarship for the 2013-2014 school year!”
There were more tears then, but this time the good kind. We’d long forgotten that we applied for financial aid. And we figured if we got anything it would only be a little. But this was unbelievable. We couldn’t believe that God really seemed to hear our prayers and “save” us. As if He was trying to overwhelm us with a sense of divine coincidence.
Strangely enough, we’re really thankful for that experience. We’re glad that the whole thing unfolded the way it did. The sense of God’s protection and closeness we experienced far outweighed the grief we walked through to get there.
I find myself in these situations fairly often. Situations where I feel a deep sense of need and have no idea how to fix a problem. When a drunken friend calls me depressed and inconsolable and I have to talk him off the ledge. When I mentor a young guy who’s looking for guidance and I have no idea what to say. When a friend pulls me aside and says, “I need to confess something I’ve never told anyone…” In these situations I feel totally helpless. I know I can’t give people what they really need. My head spins, I admit defeat, and I beg God for courage and divine intervention.
I think God sort of likes us to get into these sticky situations, where we desperately need Him or else we’re toast. Situations where the only thing left to do is trust Him and squirm. They give us a certain hopeless feeling as we scream for God to throw us a lifeline, because anything short of that won’t cut it.
Believe me, I can’t stand feeling like God is watching me squirm. But I look through the stories of the Scriptures and that seems to be God’s mode of operation. He led the Israelites to certain death at the edge of the Red Sea. He told Abraham to leave the comforts and safety of his home and “go to the land where I will lead you.” And He allowed Jesus to get thrown under the bus by the Jews and murdered by the Romans.
God seems a little dubious if you ask me. There are times when it seems like God just does not care. Times when it seems like God is watching and not doing anything. Like every breath has the sting of anxiety and despair, and God seems completely content to let us wallow in our hopelessness. Like maybe He forgot about us. Or worse, maybe He’s the puppet master behind all the suffering.
But then the unthinkable happens. He opens up a sea for the Israelites to cross safely. (A sea!) He gives an elderly couple a baby named Isaac and builds the Jewish nation from his lineage. (An elderly couple?) And He raises Jesus from the dead (the dead!) to be the King of all creation for all time. Hopeless defeat turns into divine victory. The breath of anxiety turns into the breath of life.
In the powerless situations of life, God seems to want to reveal something important. In God’s upside-down Kingdom, the tables are turned. The infrastructure of “power” in our world is not the infrastructure of power within His Kingdom. Where we see weakness, deficiency, and powerlessness, God seems to see opportunities to reveal His strength and power. These white-knuckle moments have a way of stripping us of our self-confidence and beckoning us to trust God.
I hate this as much as anybody. I hate feeling powerless and I hate feeling like I can’t manipulate a situation to make things turn out the way I want them to. As a leader in my home and church, I like to feel confident and skilled and valuable. But more often than not, I feel defeated and inadequate. I realize that I can’t give people what they truly need, and I can’t do what God alone can do.
What if, ironically, this is the most spiritually healthy place to be? If it forces us to rely not on our own strength, but on the strength of God, could the feelings of powerlessness or inadequacy actually be a blessing?
What if we were able to react differently, next time we find ourselves in a dire situation? Instead of kicking and screaming and grasping at straws to regain control…what if we just approached God in our defeat, trusting that out of our great deficit He’s ready to do something miraculous?
May we learn how to do a good job of being weak. May we quit grasping at a false sense of power and control. May we embrace our insufficiency in the hopeless situations. May we look to God for salvation instead of ourselves. And may God continually remind us of our desperate need for Him.