In the Hand of God
The first week of February 2014 was a week where God would teach me that if He gives the dream, if it is truly His, there is nothing that will stand in your way of fulfilling it except yourself. But before I tell that story, I must take you on a journey.
The last Monday night in January 2014 around 8:00pm, I received notification of my fourth Conference of Concern from my administrator. It was the second to include central office staff. As always with these emails, I had absolutely no idea why I was being written up, and by this point I was exhausted. I had taught fourteen years and had never been written up until now, with four in five months. I was frustrated and absolutely miserable. But that night a phone call would be made and things would start to change.
The next Monday after work, I went to meet with someone, and although I felt better nothing was really different. Less than four months later I would learn that I was wrong. But for now, it all seemed the same. That Tuesday I went to the doctor and was sent home to rest due to dangerously high blood pressure readings. The doctor wrote my excuse for both Tuesday and Wednesday in case I needed it, but on Wednesday I was feeling better and went to work. I hadn't been at work longer than five minutes when I was asked to leave and practically ushered out the front door. I cried all the way home.
By lunch I had reached bottom of a pit that had been growing for a year. Not only was I miserable at work, but there was plenty of other stuff too. I had lost my grandfather who loved me like no else ever had. My mom had been diagnosed with skin cancer, I had resigned my position as a Sunday School teacher which I held for over a decade. I had resigned from directing the drive through nativity at my church which I loved. In August we had left the church I had been a member of for almost thirty years. We had just started going to a new church that I didn't really have any relationships formed that I could count on to help me, I had went from threes and fours on evaluations to ones and twos. By November my marriage was experiencing some difficulty, and the holidays were miserable with the loss of my grandfather. By the end of December, I had close family who was no longer speaking to me which I didn't really understand. And here I sat with yet another Conference of Concern the next day and stroke values for blood pressure.
So I did the only thing I knew to do. I went in my bedroom and bowed by my bed, laid my head against the mattress and cried. You know that verse about the Holy Spirit giving utterance? Well, on this Wednesday afternoon in the first week of February, I had no words. There were no words because of all the hard things I was in the midst of, the hardest was that I had lost my closeness with God.
You see in March of 2013, God had spoken to me in a dream. Not in visions and symbols, but in audible words. I didn't understand it then, but I would come to understand it. I learned about that dream in the loss of my grandfather. I learned about it in my daughter's surgery. I understood it when the evaluations came back showing that I wasn't the teacher I thought I was. I saw it fulfilled in my marriage and family relationships. When God had said to let go and jump, He meant let go of everything and I hadn't.
By October of 2013, God had spoken to me again. This time with a new calling. I was raised Baptist. I was okay with submission and my husband being the spiritual leader of the household. Although I had this secret desire to be an Esther, I had accepted being a supportive wife of a Christian man who would be a leader in his church. I had resigned myself to the fact that being an Esther was for someone else. My job was to be my husband's support and helper. But at this point my husband who had once been Sunday School teacher, Sunday School director, choir director, Vacation Bible School director, and activities director, now just wanted a church where he could blend in with no responsibilities. I understood why, but where does that leave a Jesus girl who cannot be a supportive wife of a church leader, much less an Esther? I needed a purpose. But I wasn't ready. I made the mistake one day of praying, "Here I am God. Please give me something to do for you." And He did. He gave me a calling worthy of Esther. The little girl who dreamed of helping to save her generation and be a life changing Jesus girl, grew up and she told God no. It was my turn for a calling all my own. It was my turn to be the one who would stand "for such a time as this", and I told Him no.
And so He had chosen to break me. And He had. I was about as broken as I could be. Everything I took pride in....everything I thought I was...none of it was real anymore. And here I was by my bedside with no words to speak to the God who had given me a dream. And then the words started to come....
"God, it wasn't that I wanted to say no. I just didn't know how to say yes. God, what you're asking me to do is impossible. Yes, I know nothing is impossible with You, but this has to be impossible right now. I don't understand it. I don't know anything about where you are calling me to. I don't even know where to go to learn about it. And God, that's not who I am. Those aren't my talents. And God, even if I was good at those thing, You have to know that I can't do them right now. This calling could destroy my marriage. Even if I could make my husband understand that this is truly from You....even if he himself knew I didn't come up with it alone. He would never allow it, at least not with his parents alive, especially not his mom. God, I am so sorry. Truth is that I have come to love the dream. I didn't want to love it. But I have come to love it. I think about it all the time. It's part of who I have become. It's from You and I know it. But God, I can't. There's no way."
And after about an hour, I ran out of tears. I fixed myself a snack, and at about three in the afternoon, my cell phone rang. It was a call from a different area code, and I had no intention of answering it, but something in the empty place of my heart said to answer it and I did. It was a stranger, but I recognized his name. His wife is a famous Christian author and speaker. The earthly reason he called me held nothing in comparison to the Heavenly reason. He would spend the next 75 minutes telling me everything I had just told God that I didn't understand. All that stuff I told Him that I didn't know about? All that stuff I didn't know where to look for answers? There it was in a phone call from a stranger. When I hung up the phone my hands were shaking.
"So okay God. There's part of it, but there's still that other part..." The next day was my Conference of Concern which went as well as could be expected. It would prove to be my last. That afternoon my husband would come home to tell me that his mother had been taken to the emergency room, and by eight that night we knew that her cancer was back and had spread. She would be sent home the next day on hospice. A week later she would be in Heaven.
And so here I am a year later. My father-in-law has since passed away, and my husband has come to understand that the dream is God's, but it is becoming mine. Slowly. Ever so slowly. Mine. The obstacles that I pointed out to Him a year ago are for the most part gone. This is where the rubber meets the road. The God of the Universe has led me to a place I never thought I would go. A place I am terrified of, yet excited about. His plan is not what I thought. He didn't mean for me to be a behind the scenes girl. He wants me to be part of an Esther generation. He wants me to dream His dream. It isn't a glorious dream. It is a messy dream. It is a painful, messy dream. But He wants to take the pain and give it purpose. He wants that mess to be my message. He has made me broken in places that can never heal. But it is those broken places, where He means for His light to shine through. And so, again He calls to my heart to follow this dream...to be an Esther. And this time, I tell Him yes.
"Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?" - Matthew 18:33 NKJV
The king had called in his servant to settle a debt. The servant owed far more than he could ever pay, ten thousand talents, which equaled about sixty million days wages. If every member of the man's family worked every single day and gave every bit of their wages to the king for all their lifetimes, they could never repay the debt. The king decided that the man, his wife, his children, and all that he had should be sold to repay the debt. The man was desperate and pleaded with the king to show him mercy and forgiveness. The king saw the desperation in the pleas of the man, and chose to forgive him of all the debt without any additional terms. He had been granted unmerited grace, mercy, and forgiveness. This man in turn sought out his friend who owed him a hundred denarii, about four months wages. He took him by the throat choking him, and demanded that he repay his debt immediately. The friend begged for mercy, but was thrown in jail instead.
The man had been forgiven of a massive debt. A debt that no doubt he owed. A debt that could cost him his family. Although the man knew that the debt was his and that the penalty was fair, he begged the king for mercy. The king knew that the man could never repay the debt. He heard the pleas of the man and was moved to forgive him. This man was forgiven a debt he could never repay, and his family and belongings were spared. What a gift of grace!
We too have been forgiven of a debt that we cannot repay. The wages of sin is death. Death is the penalty for us all. And yet, a merciful God showed us grace and sent His Son to serve as our redeemer, the One who would in turn pay our insurmountable debt. We talk of Him paying our debt for us. We sing about owing a debt we couldn't pay and Him paying a debt He didn't owe, but I wonder, do we really understand grace?
I personally am not always good at giving grace. Sometimes I don't want to give grace. I want to give others what they deserve. But then I am reminded of the grace that I myself was given, and I find myself being called to give the grace that I was given There is a specific area of my life where God has taught me the process of grace. He has taught me that even though some situations are grounds for me to make demands, that they are also grounds for me to forgive. He has taught me to forgive...to give grace as I myself received. I now watch someone who has been given much grace. I am watching this person be much like this servant and imprisoning the one who is in debt and yet begs for grace. I find myself much like the servants in the scripture who stand and witness the forgiven man as he fails to give the grace he was given. I too find myself running to the king and notifying him of the injustice that is being committed.
In the scripture the servants come to the king and tell him how the man who was forgiven of so great a debt is now demanding his just payment from his fellow servant. What disappointment this king must have felt. He heard the desperate pleas of the servant and granted him unmerited grace. The man was given an unconditional chance to continue his life, to keep his wife, his children, and his home. Rather than feeling an awesome sense of gratefulness, he went from debtor to collector.
This man who had made so many bad choices. This man who had made so many mistakes. This man who did not in any way, shape, or form deserve grace, mercy, or forgiveness, received it anyway in spite of the fact he couldn't make it right, even if he spent a lifetime. This man turned around and sought out another man who too had made bad choices, but not to the extent of the choices he himself had made. Yes, this man had a debt too, but it was pennies compared to his forgiven debt. This man could realistically repay his debt in less than a year. His debt was not even of the same magnitude. And yet this servant forgot the grace he himself had been shown. Maybe he didn't understand what a gift he had been given. Maybe he couldn't comprehend what grace truly was. Perhaps his whole life had been spent keeping a record of everyone else's offenses and debts. Perhaps he never had seen the ledger that held his own list of offenses and debts.
To be given grace and yet refuse to give it in return. It's hard to grasp how it can happen, and yet it does. Even when the man was brought back before the king and thrown into prison himself for his lack of mercy, I wonder if he even then understood the grace that he had been shown. I believe that rather than realize his mistake and understand the gift of grace that he had been granted, that he most likely spent his days in prison filling in a ledger of what he must have seen as injustices from the king rather than seeing the grace he had been given.
To be given a gift of unmerited grace and in turn give judgment to those who have less of a debt than you. To have had your own ledger completely forgiven, yet in turn to choke the very life from one you should grant grace. What a sad and dangerous way to chose to live life.