I Need a House!
Years ago I was convinced that I wanted to be full time in my role as Kids and Associate pastor at Hope Center in Billings. I was going through a really rough season where we had lost pretty much all we owned, having to sell it all off as we tried to live on Workers Compensation payments and a small church salary as I was dealing with a back injury that kept me from working for months on end.
Against my own beliefs and desire, I was talked into pursuing a law suit against the City of Billings as my injury had occurred while at the City Water Treatment Plant. Problem was, I had waited almost two years and the Lawyer I called put me off for a couple months, just missing the two year statute of limitations mark. In the meantime I had contacted another Lawyer who suggested I sue the first lawyer for blowing it.
“Okay, whatever, maybe this is the Lord’s way of getting us set up so I can be full time ministry and not have to go back into construction our learn a new trade altogether.” As the case dragged on the Lawyer was making all kinds of promises telling me we had a really sloid case and that we should get a substantial settlement. I told him I would be happy with enough money for a good down payment on a house- “Oh, you’ll do better than that”, he promised.
Donna and I actually started looking at houses. I remember one I really liked back on Blue Creek closer in from where we had left and I told the realtor, “It’s just a matter of time, we’ll have the money”. Finally, after months of preparation the Lawyer had set up a meeting with the other Lawyer we were suing where he fully expected them to settle to avoid going to court.
I’ll never forget, it was a Tuesday, I was back to work and helping with a remodel at 1st Interstate Bank in the Heights. I was supposed to be at the meeting at 11:00 that morning and I was convinced that my life was about to radically change. At about 10:00 that morning I got a phone call from my lawyer. He asked, “Did you read the paper this morning?” No, I don’t get the paper. Long pause- “Oh, anyway, the lawyer who was just indicted for defrauding a widow in Big Timber was my partner, and he has been working on your case with me. That doesn’t bode well for us as now this case is tainted- I’ll have to drop your case- sorry.”
As I stood there on the bare concrete floor of the bank where we had pulled up the old carpet earlier I felt like the rug had indeed been pulled out from under me. So much for that grand plan. Now what am I supposed to do?!
Of mice and men
“The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.” An old saying explaining the futility everyone experiences all too often in seeing our plans go down the toilet. We all like to plan, it is in fact the very thing which gives us hope, gives us a reason, as the psalm says; the people perish for lack of vision. What is a vision but a plan for the future, something to shoot for.
The Lord wants us to plan, to have a vision but he also wants us to have a faith in him, to seek his plan for us knowing that any plan we make, even any plan that we thought was probably his, could change in a heartbeat. Bringing our desires in line with his are a key part of this. If we have his heart we don’t always need to be hearing his voice- we become one with the Lord.
I see three things we need to be asking when we are making plans, the answers to which, will determine, if the plan of our hearts are from the Lord and if they will be blessed.
- Is this God’s best plan for me, or am I just asking the Lord to bless my plan?
- Is this plan one that will benefit primarily me, or will others also be blessed in this— what is my motivation?
- Will I be okay with this plan falling through or will I be devastated and angry at the Lord for ‘letting me down’?
So many times my plans have been changed, my dreams and schemes altered or blown out of the water. I can’t even began to count. But I’m learning— learning and yearning— to follow, to discern the will of the Lord. I think the yearning part is perhaps the key. I think too often our desires get transposed I our minds as the will of God. “Boy have I got a plan for you Lord!”
That failed lawsuit and my plan to use the money to get a house came at a time when I had been praying earnestly for a house. I was convinced that the Lord needed to give me a house so that I could afford to serve full time as a Pastor. So I asked the Lord repeatedly to bless my plan. See a problem here? My plan? I had convinced myself that my plan was God’s plan. So I pestered him relentlessly about working things out so I could be all set up to stay there full time and long term.
I fasted, I prayed, I schemed and planned. I remember one day, with Jesus’ story of the persistent widow in mind, I decided that I just needed to spend a long concerted time begging the Lord for a house so I took a long walk using the time to pray over and over; “Lord, give us a house.” I don’t remember how long I walked but it was certainly long enough to repeat the request in various forms over and over probably way too many times. But guess what? –I didn’t get a house. And you know what else? I thank God that he didn’t grant my request to fulfill my plan because it would have made it very difficult for us to follow the Lord’s plan for us to come here to Red Lodge.
In fact, it wasn’t more than a few more months after this that the Lord started talking to me about going to Red Lodge. He probably figured he had better clue me in before I drove him crazy with the house thing. So in that regard, yeah, the persistent widow thing does work come to think about it.
The Lord will reveal his plan to us if we are listening and are patient enough to wait for it.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way. Psalm 37:23