I consider myself to be somewhat of a minimalist. I’ve learned that stuff doesn’t make me happy–at least not for very long. Perhaps this mindset was born out of necessity. Growing up one of seven children, I rarely asked for things. We were taught that even if you didn’t have the best, you could at least look your best. Clean clothes, tidy appearance, even in hand-me-downs– we learned to pull it off. I may not have had everything I wanted, but I had what I needed. I carried this mindset into adulthood, determining that as long as it looks clean and tidy, my home was something I could take pride in.
In the middle of Thanksgiving weekend, I was working on the clean and tidy bit. Sitting on a footstool eye to eye with the kitchen cupboards in my little apartment, I willed myself to get a move on. I find the best way to get through the onerous task of housework, is to combine it with one on one talk-time with God. I sighed as I considered the worn cabinet doors that hung crookedly on ageing hinges. As I scrubbed away at them, I told God that in the big scheme of things, I guessed it really wasn’t a big deal. What really mattered was what was behind the cupboard doors– food –proof of His provision. I thanked Him for what I did have, and for the contentment He provided in the seasons of not having.
With my tunes cranked I found my groove, going from one room to the next, singing along with the music with intermittent snippets of conversation with God. Within a couple of hour or so, I was finished and reasonably satisfied. My cupboards were still looking a little bedraggled, but they were clean and I was able to check off something else on my ‘to do’ list, giving me more time to enjoy the long weekend.
On the following Tuesday I was at work when my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, and since personal calls were a no-no, I quickly hit decline. Later when no one was around, I listened to my voice mail message. It was my landlady. I anticipated some type of irritation; what else could a call from ones landlord be about?
To my surprise, I heard the following:
“Monica, you are such a good woman and I want to do something for you. I’d like to send the carpenter to re-surface your cupboards; hang new doors. Bathroom vanity too. You deserve something nice. Would tomorrow be ok? Let me know; God bless!”
I just sat there smiling stupidly at my phone. I wasn’t thinking about how my landlady wanted to do something for me, but how God did. He was just using her to pull it off. Remembering my nonchalant conversation on the footstool a few days prior, I just shook my head in amazement. I hadn’t even been asking for anything, and here He was, blessing my socks off!
I have an acquaintance that would call this a wink from heaven; basically God’s way of letting us know that He’s heard our prayers. This makes me wonder how many times do we talk or pray to God, wondering–perhaps even doubting– that He’s even listening? To be honest, my “conversation” was actually more of a monologue; I don’t even recall pausing to tune in to what God wanted to say. God is always willing to talk to us; His communication style is uniquely designed to match ours– if we take the time to listen . We seem to forget (at least I do), that the One Who knitted us in our mother’s womb is always with us. Psalm 139 assures us that He has thoroughly examined us and knows our hearts (verse 1) and that He knows what we’re going to say, even before we say it. (verse 4).
I think what blessed me the most, was that I wasn’t even asking for anything; I was merely expressing gratitude for what I did have. This lead me to another nugget of wisdom. Sometimes we compare our earthly father’s ability and desire to provide to that of our heavenly Father’s. Perhaps our earthly parents couldn’t give us everything we needed or wanted, and sometimes, they just chose not to. Through that lens, we tend to see God the same way; His giving and withholding of gifts and provision are done arbitrarily.
Long ago I was asked why I never asked God for (material) things. I thought it would make me look greedy and very un-Christian-like. After all, we’re cautioned to ‘Seek His Presence, not His presents.’ Since that day I’ve learned that He actually wants us to ask for what we need and even what we want. That doesn’t make God a genie in a bottle or Santa Claus; we don’t always get what we ask for, or when we ask for it. Sometimes we get a ‘ no’, and often times it’s a ‘no, not yet.’ But Father truly does know best. He examines our motives and considers the outcome of having that particular thing/job/relationship at that particular time. I believe that when we don’t get what we pray for, it’s not just an arbitrary ‘nope’. God is much better at knowing what will bless us and what will be our downfall. As Bill Johnson (Senior Pastor of Bethel Church–Redding Ca.) says,
“God only says ‘no’ when saying ‘yes’ would violate your purpose.”
There are things for which I am still contending and waiting and it’s still a process of trusting that Father really does know best. The reality is locked up in my brain; it just has to make it the eighteen inches to my heart. But as I cook in my kitchen looking at my bright and cheerful new kitchen cabinets, the truth of His unfailing faithfulness is steadily making the journey southward.
Yes and amen.