Before I start, I want you to know that I hesitate to write this down because I don't want to take away anything from God glorifying Himself in these situations. But I'm just busting with the joy of Jesus so much that I can't help but share. I just have to trust that the people who know me know my heart, that this isn't about me at all. Even so, if you do comment below or send me a reply, please make it all about Him. I didn't do this; He did.
I have found myself in the habit of reading the community section on Craigslist. I live in a larger city now than I ever have before, and Craigslist is a lot more interesting, and in many cases heart breaking, than it was where we were before. Two days ago, I found a posting by a teenage mother of a 1 yr old baby girl who said she and her baby were homeless and needed some help. God placed a tremendous burden on my heart for her, and after sharing it with Kim, we both decided that we just had to help.
We met her and her baby for dinner last night. I'll call them Anna and Carly. It was wonderfully awkward in so many ways and so completely comfortable in many others. Luke and Carly played so well together. I am so proud of him for how much he enjoys sharing what he has and playing with other kids. It took some coaxing for him to warm up to them, but after a while he was having the time of his life with little Carly toddling behind him everywhere he went.
Anna has a little bit of family in the area, but things are estranged there. The people she was living with just before we met asked her to move out yesterday. She didn't even know this when we agreed to meet. Talk about the perfection of God's timing. Had He not prompted me to contact her and then worked through me, Anna and Carly may have had to spend the night on the street somewhere.
After sharing some pizza and getting to know each other a bit, we offered to let the two of them come stay with us. She was understandably hesitant, so we didn't press the issue. Instead, we rented a room for her for a week at an extended-stay hotel. We then took them both to Walmart to get some supplies for the week.
While we were checking out, this elderly lady behind me struck up a conversation with me. She was enjoying watching Luke play with his cars on the checkout floor. At one point she mentioned she was homeless, having just lost her husband of I don't know how many years back in April. After I finished paying for Anna's stuff, God prompted me to pay for hers and to pull out some cash for her. The look on her face was priceless. Between her reaction and the cashier's, I was starting to feel a bit embarrassed though because I felt like they were looking at me and not at Jesus.
But then, while I was waiting for Kim and Luke to come out of the bathroom, she came up to me to thank me and began telling me that my gift wasn't just to her, it was to her ministry as well. She started overflowing with stories of God's goodness and how glorious He is. I don't remember most of what she said, but "Shekinah" was in there somewhere, as was a "Wooo!" :) We had church right there for like five minutes. Once she got to talking about Jesus, there was no stopping her. I know someone else like that, a friend of mine from where I used to work. She knows who she is. :)
We all walked to the door together, and I told her "I'm not even going to tell you my name, because that gift wasn't from me, it was straight from God. Have a good night, sister." To which she replied, "You too, brother."
As we headed to the truck, Carly was starting to get cranky. Poor baby hadn't had a nap that day, and it was well past her bed time. We stopped by our house to pick up our pack-n-play for her to sleep in, and then took them both to the hotel for the night. As we got Anna settled, I really felt for her. She had this deer-in-the-headlights look on her face. I asked her, "Are you freaked out a little bit?" She said, "Yeah, I've never slept in a hotel by myself before." As we said our goodbyes and got in the truck, Kim remarked that it kind of felt like sending a daughter off to college, having to let her start being a grownup in big, scary world.
As if those two stories of God's goodness weren't enough, earlier in the day yesterday, I found another posting on Craigslist. A single mother had just lost her job due to a disability she has developed. Her son's 3rd birthday is this weekend, and all she was asking for was money for a cake and a present for him. Kim wanted to bake the cake, and we told her we'd get her a gift card for her to buy some decorations and a gift for her son. We'll call them Lisa and Blake.
While I was in line at Walmart, paying for Anna's things and about to have church with this other lady, I was able to read Lisa's reply to our offer. She was ecstatic and so overflowing with thankfulness. She asked me why I was doing this and wanted to repay us somehow. What better invitation to share the Gospel can anyone ask for? Much later, after we got home from dropping Anna and Carly off, I shared with her the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 and then wrote her this:
God has blessed my family with abundance, and He expects us to use that abundance to bring Him glory by blessing others. I give to you and ask nothing in return because Jesus gave everything He had to die on a cross and pay for my sins, and there is nothing I could do to pay Him back. And in this case you cannot pay God back either. This gift isn't from me and my wife, it is from Him. Everything I have belongs to Him. I'm just the servant managing His money and doing what my Lord Jesus told me to do with it.
I applaud your desire to do things on your own, but don't think of this as a handout that you have to repay. Think of it as a small token of the love that God wants to lavish on you through Jesus Christ. What He did for you, you can never repay, and you'll never have to. You only have to accept the gift.
Lisa seems to be a believer as well, and she responded with how much God has shown her about His provision for her through this tough time, and about the love of God through the hands of strangers. I look forward to meeting Lisa and bringing Luke to Blake's birthday party.
I understand the parable of the talents better now than I ever have in my life. The master praised his faithful servants for reinvesting his money in what mattered to him. God wants us to do the same. And what matters to Him is the souls of the lost and dying, of the poor and orphans and widows.
You never know how much love you are capable of in a moment because you have not even scratched the surface of depth of love God wants to show through a willing heart.
Yesterday was definitely one of the best days ever.
Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—
pressed down, shaken together, and running over—
pressed down, shaken together, and running over—
will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
One person gives freely,
yet gains more;
another withholds what is right,
only to become poor.
A generous person will be enriched,
and the one who gives a drink of water
will receive water.